Since 1973, the Southern Oral History Program has worked to preserve the voices of the southern past. We have collected more than 5,000 interviews with people from all walks of life—from mill workers to civil rights leaders to future presidents of the United States. Made available through UNC’s renowned Southern Historical Collection online, these interviews capture the vivid personalities, poignant personal stories, and behind-the-scenes decision-making that bring history to life.
New Episode of Press Record! Episode 16: Confederate Monuments
This month we are discussing Confederate Monuments. In this episode of Press Record, we are focusing on a confederate monument on UNC’s campus called Silent Sam. For decades he’s been a source controversy, and currently students and local activists are calling for his removal. We hope that by exploring the issues surrounding Silent Sam and what he means to generations of North Carolinians, we can help unpack the wider issues. We’ll hear from John Sellars, an African American student activist who attended UNC in the 1960s, during the early years of the university’s integration, Mistyre Bonds, a current African American student activist, and Dr. William Sturkey, a history professor here at UNC. Listen here!
Election Season: Annie Brown Kennedy, Black Voting Rights and Black Elected Officials
In many locations around the US, municipalities held local primary elections at the beginning of October and general elections will take place in early November. This year there is an increased interest in local politics. A wave of younger candidates, including many Black people, women and LGBTQ people, are running for office. This wave of underrepresented candidates builds on the contentious history of Black voting rights, and Black elected officials from the Reconstruction era, from after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and up to to the present. Historically, the issue of Black voting rights has been tied up with Black political power, Black landownership, and the possibilities for Black communities. Black elected officials have played key roles in shaping Black communities both in all-Black towns and cities and in multi-racial and white-dominated locations. The upcoming Black Communities Conference, sponsored by the Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) and several other entities at UNC, will examine these and other issues.
Many interviews related to Black voting rights and Black elected officials are available in the SOHP archive . Here, we highlight an interview with Annie Brown Kennedy, the first Black woman to serve in the North Carolina General Assembly. Read more about Annie Brown Kennedy on our blog.
SOHP Interviews featured in New Exhibit About Housing Inequality in Durham
In preparation for Durham’s sesquicentennial in 2019, a group of historians and community members formed the Bull City 150 project to document and interrogate the city’s past. An exhibit based on their research, titled “Uneven Ground: The Foundations of Housing Inequality in Durham, NC,” recently opened to broad acclaim. It documents Black Durham and the history of shifting manifestations of race and class inequalities and features several interviews from UNC’s Southern Oral History Project (SOHP) archive. The Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) is a co-sponsor of Black Communities: A Conference for Collaboration, which will take place at the Carolina Theater in Durham, NC, also known as the “Bull City,” in April 2018. From its early days just after the Civil War to the present, Durham’s Black communities have had a rich history of organizing and resilience in the face of inequality, oppression and white supremacy. Read more about the exhibit and find links to the relevant SOHP interviews on our blog.
Two New Exhibits on the 1969 Foodworker’s Strike:
With current protests on campus, it is poignant to look to the past and see the different issues student activism has focused on, and especially how it relates to issues today. In 1969, UNC food workers participated in work strikes that showed the intersection of labor rights, women’s rights, and African American rights. Check out this interactive map and this audio documentary made by our SOHP undergrad summer interns, Sydney Lopez and Liv Linn, to learn more about the history of food workers rights on campus. You can read Sydney’s reflection on creating the projects on our blog.
New Episode of Press Record:Summer Mini-Series on Environmental Racism and Oral History: Conclusion
In Part II, you’ll hear more about specific moments from the oral histories they collected, how Danielle and Pavithra showcased their oral histories to the public, and how they continue to press forward in research and activism amidst bleak realities of environmental racism. Listen to the complete mini-series here. Don’t forget to subscribe, like us, and comment on iTunes!
New Blog Post: “Deciding the Future Course of Our North Carolina Rivers” by Rob Shapard, PhD
Check out former Field Scholar and recent PhD, Rob Shapard’s, post about his interview with Matthew Starr, “a Raleigh native, Army veteran, and self-described ‘North Carolina environmental nerd’ who monitors the health of the Upper Neuse River.” Rob writes about how we all are tied to the fate of North Carolina’s rivers.
New Episode of Press Record! Summer Mini-Series on Environment Racism and Oral History: Part 1
After a brief summer hiatus, we are thrilled to bring you Part I of Press Record’s first mini-series. The series will focus on environmental racism in the South through the lens of oral history and storytelling. A few months ago, Carol Prince sat down with two scholars doing research on environmental racism using oral history, Danielle Purifoy and Pavithra Vasudevan. What you will hear in this episode is the first excerpt from their two and a half hour conversation. Listen and subscribe and rate us on iTunes!
Rachel Seidman Appointed SOHP Director!
We’re thrilled to announce that Rachel Seidman, former Associate Director of the SOHP, is our new Director! Our former Director, Malinda Lowery, is the new Director for the Center for the Study of the American South. We’re excited to see where Rachel’s leadership takes us! Congrats, Rachel and Malinda!
New Episode of Press Record Episode 13: New Roots/Nuevas Raíces
This month, Press Record dives into an ongoing project about oral history and immigration in North Carolina. In the following episode, Carol sits down with Maria Ramírez and Laura Villa who both worked on the New Roots/Nuevas Raíces Project. New Roots/ Nuevas Raíces is a bilingual digital archive that contains oral histories from Latin American migrants in North Carolina as well as North Carolinians who have worked closely with migrants in the state. In the half hour, you’ll hear oral history clips, conversations about what went into making a bilingual digital archive, and how New Roots has moved beyond the walls of academia. You can listen to the episode below through SoundCloud and please subscribe and rate us on iTunes here!
Press Record: Episode 12: Revisiting Backways
This month, we revisit questions about silence, rural segregation, and research. This episode features a conversation between Carol Price and Rachel Cotterman, field scholars here at the SOHP. Rachel is a geography PhD student currently working on Backways and in this episode offers her reflections on the evolution of her research, what silences in the archives and in interviews mean to her, and her own personal connection to this project. We hope this episode gives you an inside look at some of the research going on here at the SOHP and the questions our field scholars are navigating in the process of doing oral history.
New Field Notes post on University History and Oral History
Check out Field Scholar, Charlotte Fryar’s, blog post on her recent interviews: “The unusual thing about interviewing students and alumni of UNC-Chapel Hill as a student and alumna of the same institution, is just that—you are always connected in some way to the stories that people share about their time at Carolina…”
Read the full post here.
Press Record Episode 11: Oral History and the Equal Rights Amendment
For our first episode of 2017, we continue our discussion of women and politics in the South by focusing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). While we were putting together last month’s episode, we noticed many women organizers and political leaders mentioned battles over the ERA in their interviews. As we dug deeper, we realized we had more than enough material to make an entirely new episode.
Listen here and don’t forget to rate us and subscribe on iTunes!
New Digital Exhibit: Rural Electrification
Check out the new digital exhibit about rural electrification, featuring a newly-released collection of interviews conducted by the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives that describes how the advent of electricity transformed rural life.
Backways Update in Field Notes
Read Field Scholar Rachel Cotterman’s blog post on Harvey’s Chapel, an AME church outside of Hillsborough that was forced to move after the road on which it was located fell into a state of disrepair. Learn more about the Back Ways Project on racial segregation in the rural South here.
SOHP and The Process Series Collaboration on The Black Pioneers
Over the past year, Southern Oral History Program interns interviewed members of the “Black Pioneers”—the earliest African American students who attended UNC between 1952 and 1972. Using the personal accounts recorded from their interviews and told through performance, remarkable stories emerge of lasting change at UNC and beyond.
Read the article from the Indy Weekly here!