Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Looking for a lesson plan on civil rights your students can relate to? Try “Education and Civil Rights,” Grades 6-8

Catawba County middle school teacher Susan Anauo often finds herself “sharing historical and cultural stories” with her students to help them cultivate an informed worldview. For her 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellow lesson plan “Education and Civil Rights,” she shares stories, cultural creations, and reflections on segregation in education. The goal of the lesson: to “lead students to reflect on the importance of education and access to quality education in terms of personal growth, fulfillment and equality.”

Anauo brings in a variety of material for students to explore, including songs, poems, newspaper articles, and, of course, oral histories. The first part of the lesson serves to familiarize students with what much of the Civil Rights Movement sought to remedy: educational segregation and disparity. Clips from the SOHP archives—including from civil rights activists Benjamin Chavis Muhammad on desegregating the Oxford, Mississippi public library as a middle schooler and Elijah Richardson on the difficulties he faced after being transferred to the all-white New Hanover High School in Wilmington, North Carolina following integration—introduce students to how we can “learn from listening to the people who actually did experience these times.” After these voices introduce the topic of the lesson, Anauo has students explore Mississippi Freedom School publications created by students themselves, including “Why Do They Hate Us? What Has the Negro Done?” by Florence Seymour, “Mine” by Alice Jackson, and “Isn’t it Awful” by Edith Moore. These pieces simultaneously serve to demonstrate how black students felt about education disparities in the 1960s, while also highlighting their empowerment through writing for Freedom School newspapers.  

On the second day, oral history clips from Margaret Walker on how education made her “rich” and Aaron Henry on the desegregation of education even after the dissolution of Jim Crow finish the lesson. Students are left understanding the hope and richness that access to education can provide—as well as the tenuous nature of education equality today.

Access the lesson plan and the accompanying PowerPoint.

Access this timely and inspiring lesson plan on “The Fight for Voting Rights,” Grades 8-12

“Do you think it’s important to vote? Why or Why not?” This is the first question 8th grade Wayne County teacher Jesi Knowles-Brock asks students in her lesson plan The Fight for Voting Rights. Throughout her lesson, which she created as a 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellow, she continues to draw students personally into the history of the voting in the United States, with a focus on voter disenfranchisement and the African-American struggle to gain access to this fundamental right.

At the center of the lesson is the fight for civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The voices of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist John Lewis, first African-American NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye, and North Carolinian and voting rights activist Rosanell Eaton illuminate this segment. From these voices out of the SOHP archive, students learn about the rarity of black elected officials prior to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the mission of SNCC’s Mississippi Freedom Summer, the Selma to Montgomery March, and the on-the-ground obstacles that kept black people off the voter rolls.

However, Knowles-Block uses the framing of this lesson on the African-American struggle for voting rights to teach students about other important, related themes as well. A segment on historical and contemporary voting requirements, for example, sets the stage for students; a discussion on the definition of oral history grounds them in methodology; and a portion on the 1965 Voting Rights Act gets them to conduct in-depth textual analysis. By ending this two-day lesson with student-created skits on the importance of voting today, students are able to connect what they learned about the past to their own lives.

Access the lesson plan and the accompanying PowerPoint.

Listen to the “Unsung Women of the Civil Rights Movement” through this lesson plan for Grades 8-12

As a 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellow, 8th grade teacher at Pilot Mountain Middle School Beth Lowry was moved by the voices of female civil rights activists—and by the fact that she hadn’t heard of most of these women before. So, she dedicated her lesson plan to highlighting these women and their role in the civil rights movement for her students. Focusing on individual women as examples, Lowry demonstrates to her students “that, without women, the Civil Rights Movement could not have been as successful.”

The questions that guide Lowry’s lesson plan encourage students to consider both how women contributed “to political and social action and change during the Civil Rights Movement” and why these women have “often been overshadowed throughout history.” To get students to grapple with these questions, she fills this lesson with interview clips from the SOHP archives. Students hear from interviews with and about female civil rights activists including Septima Clark, Ella Baker, Daisy Bates, and Fannie Lou Hamer. To get students analyzing these voices, Lowry offers a number of activities in which students work in pairs, across stations, or as a whole class. Questions such as “What words/phrases would you use to describe the women you learned about today?” and “What is ‘activism’ and in what ways were these women activists?” facilitate a discussion that allows students to appreciate not only these women’s’ existence in the movement but also how taking them into account affects our understanding of “activism” itself.

So, when students close the lesson by writing an ode that “celebrates the activism and achievements of women in the Movement,” they will be more than prepared.

Access the lesson plan and the accompanying PowerPoint for your own classroom!


Explore gender and race through a local lens with “Pauli Murray: Civil & Women’s Rights Trailblazer” lesson, Grades 9-12

After working in journalism in New York City for four years, Henderson Native and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate Davis Harper moved back to North Carolina to become a teacher in the Durham Public Schools system. There, he works to “cast a spotlight on those narratives from history that not only enliven their time and place, but also help students better understand where they stand in the broader historical context.” Through a series of stimulating clips of an interview with Murray herself from the SOHP archive, Harper’s lesson plan on Durham native Pauli Murray certainly accomplishes this goal.

This lesson plan—created during the 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellowship—covers some of the most powerful and difficult experiences Murray faced during her lifetime. Clip topics include, but are not limited to, growing up in Durham and the city’s racial climate, applying to UNC in 1938, and her role in the Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision. Harper highlights her many accomplishments and contributions to not only teach students about this influential local figure, but also to get them to think about selective public memory and why someone like Murray—compared to Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr.—isn’t more widely celebrated and remembered.

Harper also brings the conversation home for today’s students by including an optional discussion on what we can learn from Murray’s experiences about inequality in higher education today. With a guided oral history listening guide, numerous interview clips, and discussion-provoking questions for the classroom, this lesson plan is an invaluable tool for teaching about race, gender, inequality, and historical memory.

Download the lesson plan and the accompanying PowerPoint to use in your own classroom.

Expand students’ understanding of NC’s cultural history through this “African Americans in Appalachia” lesson, Grade 8

When deciding on the topic of for her lesson plan, 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellow Jesse Wharton sought to fill in some major gaps she saw in how her students understood their own community. Wharton teaches 7th and 8th grade at Evergreen Community Charter School in the Appalachian city of Asheville, North Carolina. Many—even most North Carolinians—picture the region’s inhabitants as impoverished, “folk,” and, most specifically, white. However, Wharton believes that students should learn about all of those who make up the rich culture and history of Appalachia, including the oft-forgotten African-American community. Her lesson on “Affrilachia,” a term created by black Appalachian poet Frank X. Walter, explores the Appalachian African-American community’s cultural influences and day to day lives.

Wharton filled her lesson with rich primary source material for students to learn from and analyze. She dug deep into the SOHP’s archives to find voices from African Americans living in the North Carolina mountains who could tell their own stories about their communities. Among these voices are Appalachian homemaker and caretaker Geraldine Ray, civil rights activist and pastor Dr. Thomas Kilgore, and Federal Judge Richard Erwin.

But these are not the only auditory components of this lesson. Students also hear from the all-black bluegrass band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a performance of a poem by Frank X Walker, Poet Laureate of Kentucky, and other Affrilachian artists. Through these myriad voices, Wharton gets students to consider the value of oral history and music as historical documents, to learn about how those in Affrilachia contributed to the broader civil rights movement in the South, and, ultimately, to reflect on the culminating question of the lesson: “In what ways are African Americans crucial to the history and culture of Appalachia?”

Download the lesson plan and PowerPoint for this lesson to use in your classroom.

The finalists of our Sonic South audio competition

Innovative and archival are not two words you regularly hear together, but with the sound experiments and powerful audio stories presented in our inaugural Sonic South audio experience, that was exactly the genre of the evening. While the sky had darkened to produce a drizzly and blustery evening, this made the Studio at CURRENT where we gathered for the Sonic South only more intimate and created a perfect atmosphere to sit down, settle in, and listen.

Held on May 10th, the live-listening event was a chance to listen to the five works selected from our Sonic South audio competition. For this contest, we invited audio producers of all levels to engage with our interview archive in a new way by asking them to create short stories (three to five minutes) focusing in the theme of persistence—as the artist interprets for themselves—and using the voices of Southern women.

The five finalists were selected by judges Malinda Maynor Lowery, director for the Center for the Study of the American South and former SOHP director; John Biewen, audio program director at the Center for Documentary Studies and host of the Center’s audio documentary podcast, Scene on the Radio; and Leoneda Inge,  WUNC’s Race and Southern Culture reporter, who also served as our host for the evening.

Below you can listen to the five pieces selected and their respective producers.

1964–Do Something! by Rebekah Smith

How do you get around a law intended to end segregation? You declare that your establishment is a private club and hope that those pesky protesters give up and go home. 1964 – Do Something! blends two interviews that were done as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that took place in 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It tells the story of how businesses and even state entities tried to get around the Public Accommodations Act by declaring themselves to be “private clubs.” As such, they would be exempt from the new law that said that service could not be denied based on race, color, religion, or national origin. SNCC members protested at the Arkansas State Capitol cafeteria where blacks were refused service.


Ms. Smith and Ms. Brooks of the Pine Room, Pt. I by Rebekah Smith

This audio montage combines images from four different interviews and gives an impression of some of the issues that surrounded the 1969 Food Workers’ Strike at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We meet the leaders of the strike, Ms. Mary Smith and Ms. Elizabeth Brooks, as the women repeatedly try to get the attention of management that makes promises they never keep. The two persist until they are granted a very simple request.

Rebekah Smith is the creator of QuOTeD – The Question of the Day Podcast – where she makes audio montages using stories that are sparked by a single question.  For twenty-five years she has been interviewing regular people using this “one good question” method where conversations emerge naturally.  In addition to being a platform for sharing her work, the podcast has inspired events that put people in the same room to talk.

Lead with What We Have by Sydney Lopez

Lead with What We Have intends to illustrate the intersectional experience of Southern women’s persistence. Kim Pevia’s story in particular highlights how female strength has evolved and grown through generations of Lumbee women.

Sydney Lopez is a sophomore at UNC originally from Boca Raton, Florida. She is double majoring in exercise and sports science and sociology. She found a love for oral history’s bottom-up approach in Dr. Rachel Seidman’s class her first year at Carolina. Since then, she has developed her audio editing skills through a summer internship at the SOHP where she co-produced an audio documentary and digital exhibit exploring the UNC Foodworkers’ Strikes of 1969.

Listen to Sydney Lopez’s commentary on her piece here:

Beyond Me by Spivey Knapik
Is persistence a series of self-directed actions or is it a response of openness to something bigger passing through you? This piece explores the liminal space of creation asking what it means both for an individual and for the concept of “art” to persist through a spectrum of time and place.

Spivey Knapik is an artist, independent producer, and native Floridian currently living and working in Des Moines, Iowa. She is interested in stories, death, and identity.

Listen to her commentary on her piece here:

Untitled by Jen Nathan Orris (Winner of the 2018 Sonic South Competition)
Reverend Sophia East speaks about the realities of being a woman of color in the South during the 1970s. The Georgia Sea Island Singers sing “Let Me Fly” in a 1960 recording as Reverend East describes her daily struggles and hopes for a more equitable future.

Jen Nathan Orris is an audio producer and writer based in Asheville, North Carolina. She studied at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and has worked as a reporter and audio producer for fifteen years. Her work has aired on the BBC and NPR, as well as WFAE and WUNC in North Carolina. She is also the editor of Edible Asheville magazine and produces a podcast for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project called Growing Local.

Listen to her commentary on her piece here:

These works remind us not only of the many histories and stories that each person holds inside of them, but the importance of preserving those stories as they provide us information to understand where we are, where we came from, and even provide insight as to how to be the people, communities, and society we want to become. When gathered together to listen to these stories collectively, it is undeniable that history echoes.

We are currently developing the competition and live listening room for The Sonic South 2019. Stay tuned for more information!

UNC Humanities for the Public Good Initiative awards SOHP $10,000

UNC’s new Humanities for the Public Good Initiative has awarded SOHP $10,000 from the Critical Issues Project Fund for Stories to Save Lives: Using Oral History to Improve Health and Medical Care in North Carolina.


Learn more about this award and its impact on our blog and at the Humanities for the Public Good Initiative.

UNC Humanities for the Public Good Initiative awards SOHP $10,000

We are thrilled to announce that UNC’s new Humanities for the Public Good Initiative has awarded SOHP $10,000 from the Critical Issues Project Fund for Stories to Save Lives: Using Oral History to Improve Health and Medical Care in North Carolina.

This award will help fund our pilot summer of research, providing summer research grants for undergraduate and graduate students to travel to Warrenton and Dunn, North Carolina to gather forty interviews focused on residents’ attitudes and beliefs about the health care system, their analyses of why health care challenges exist in their own communities, and how that has changed over time.

In Warrenton we are partnering with Reverend William Kearney, Associate Minister & Health Ministry Coordinator at Coley Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Warrenton, NC and President of United Shiloh Missionary Baptist Association Church Union, Warrenton, NC.  He is an active volunteer in community activities and a community organizer, who has worked extensively with UNC’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and has consulted across the state and nationally.

In Dunn, we are partnering with Lisa McKeithan, MS, CRC, Director of the Positive Life Program & NC Reach at CommWell Health. CommWell Health, formerly Tri-County Community Health Center, started in 1977 as a health clinic for migrant farm workers, and focuses on holistic, innovative approaches to health care in rural North Carolina.

Staff Pick: Kathrine Robinson Everett

SOHP intern Kimberly Oliver is a junior undergraduate student double majoring in History and Anthropology and minoring in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, she grew up visiting endless museums and historic sites, developing a love of history that she now plans to turn into a career in public history. 

As a history major, I am well acquainted with the issue of representation and the incompleteness of the historical record. Oral history has proven to be an important tool in filling silences for one of my recent projects.

This semester I am conducting an extensive research project into the suffrage movement at North Carolina’s State Normal and Industrial School (what would later become the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). This college, founded in 1891 as an institution to train North Carolina’s women to be public school teachers, became a place where young women learned how to be leaders. Teaching and advocacy for the interests of public schools provided an entrance into political and public life, and lead naturally to students demanding participation in those spheres by being able to vote. While researching a movement built on the idea of creating a space for women’s voices to be heard, I knew it was imperative that my project be centered on the voices of students, and oral history provided this gateway.

Several interviews with graduates of the Normal School can be found in the SOHP archives, and I found two interviews with Kathrine Robinson Everett to be particularly compelling. Everett graduated from the Normal School in 1913, before attending Columbia University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the 1920s she became one of the first women to graduate from UNC’s law school, and went on to have a successful career as a lawyer and local politician. Everett’s life was notable for what interviewer Pamela Dean describes as its “unusual route,” yet she doesn’t think of herself as a pioneer. She says “You just do what comes and what you believe in. You don’t stop and think whether you are a pioneer … I had several firsts but they were just because I happened to be there at the right time.” Reading about Everett’s accomplishments on their own, it would easy for a historian to automatically assign the label of “pioneer” to her and to imagine that she thought of herself as a trailblazer for other women. Yet, doing so is imposing one’s interpretation of a person’s experience onto their history. Oral history allows Everett to share her own story and give an accurate portrayal of how she interprets the retrospect meaning of her experience.

In a project investigating a movement resulting from the demands of women that their voices be heard, oral histories allow these women to continue to speak for themselves. This field acknowledges the agency of a wider group of historical actors in a way that written sources often cannot. Kathrine Everett noted that the Normal School “nurtured independent thought” in its students, and using oral histories allows my research to capture those independent thoughts of students, both in content and in methodology.

Two of Kathrine Robinson Everett’s oral history interviews are archived in the SOHP’s Notable North Carolinians project. They were conducted in 1985 and 1986 by Pamela Dean.

Black Communities Conference

The SOHP is one of the sponsors of the Black Communities Conference which will take place in Durham April 23-25th, 2018. The multi-disciplinary conference will connect academic researchers and Black Communities across North America.