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Back Ways

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Patten, Walter, 1880-1947. “Negro Churches and Sunday Schools, Orange County, North Carolina : A Field Study.” 1916, 1916. Web.

In the spring of 2014, the Southern Oral History Program began planning for the launch of a research project that seeks to foster better understandings of race and segregation in rural parts of the United States South. One aspect of the SOHP Back Ways Project is an attempt to locate, through archival work, certain rural geographic features. Generally, these are roads in predominately African American communities that faced disinvestment following Reconstruction and during the twentieth century Jim Crow era.  Another aspect of the project is collecting oral histories that contain stories regarding the times of struggle and moments of congregation that occurred via the presence of such roads, or back ways.

A major goal of this endeavor involves the creation of a digital project, which may present archived maps that locate long-gone physical structures, such as churches, that existed along the back ways, with recorded oral histories that share stories of living around and moving along the geographic features of particular back ways before, during, and after their demise. Please visit the project blog.