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Our Research

The Long Women’s Movement in the American South

The Southern Oral History Program has begun work on the next phase of our ongoing Long Civil Rights Movement Initiative: the long women’s movement. Our fieldworkers have focused on east Tennessee, a rural region where poverty challenged black and white women to band together to pursue labor rights, reproductive health services, environmental cleanup, and economic justice. Collectively, these interviews show how the modern American women’s movement was widespread, engaged women on various fronts, and occurred throughout the rural and urban South. Moreover, many women expressed how they evolved in personal ways within their families and marriages, the resistance they encountered as they began to critique the gendered inequalities in American society, and how the women’s movement continues to influence their decisions and perspectives of everyday life. Read more about the project here. And, explore the interviews here.

Media and the Movement

The Southern Oral History Program’s “Media and the Movement,” will interview roughly fifty local journalists who covered, debated, and even shaped how civil rights struggles transformed the South by the 1970s. This study will be the first research project that examines a civil rights-era local southern media ecosystem in its entirety. In addition to publishing recordings (video and audio) and transcripts of interviews online, project collaborators will produce referenced, interpretive commentaries. Thus, this project will provide both scholars and students with accessible provocative, and illuminating historical analysis on an overlooked dimension of the civil rights movement and its long-term impact on southern life. Read more about it at the project blog.

The Civil Rights History Project

The Civil Rights History Project, mandated by an Act of Congress in 2009, is a joint undertaking of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. The project began with a nationwide survey of oral history collections (check it out here) and will culminate in a broad series of oral history interviews with civil rights movement veterans from coast to coast. Read more here.

Service to the State of North Carolina: The Legacy of William C. Friday

In the spring of 2012, the Southern Oral History Program celebrated the remarkable life and achievements of William C. Friday, President Emeritus of UNC, and the conclusion of our oral history project dedicated to documenting that life and legacy.  The “Service to the State of North Carolina: The Legacy of William C. Friday” project constitutes a remarkable resource for information and insight into the lasting importance of Mr. Friday, who, although he passed away in the fall of 2012, left behind a remarkable vision for UNC and for the state of North Carolina.

African American Credit Unions

We are exploring a project that would recover and preserve the history of early credit unions in North Carolina, in particular those established by and primarily for African-Americans as alternative means of saving and borrowing money during the Jim Crow era, when their fair access to credit was limited. The Self-Help Credit Union in Durham raised this idea with SOHP, pointing out the value of these early credit unions in their communities and the fact that their history is fading as many of the founders and early members pass away. The first credit union in North Carolina was founded in 1916 in a rural community in Durham County, most likely for white farmers, while the first credit union established by black North Carolinians was founded two years later in Rowan County. Black citizens had set up another eight credit unions by 1920.

Read about more past projects here.