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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. 

Apply for the 2018 Carolina K-12 Teaching Fellows Program

SOHP, in collaboration with Carolina K-12, is excited to announce and solicit applications for its second summer of the Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellows in Civil Rights.


Registration Still Open: The Black Communities Conference will Inspire Future-Oriented Collaborations


The SOHP is one of the sponsors of the upcoming 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. According to the website, “by creating new collaborations, the conference will help to document, safeguard and enhance the life of these communities.”

Screen shot of Black communities Conference title page, includes date and description

Black Communities Conference co-chair Dr. Mark Little, Executive Director of UNC’s Kenan Institute and Director of NCGrowth, says conference attendees can expect a spirit that is “practical, optimistic, forward-thinking” throughout the gathering. Taking place April 23-25, 2018 in Durham NC, it will foreground success stories and is structured to inspire new collaborations. Little and his co-chair, Dr. Karla Slocum, UNC Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of Institute of African American Research, hope attendees will emerge with new relationships that lead to programs and research to improve the life of Black communities. Registration is still open and  travel and registration scholarships are available for those attending but not presenting.

Little hopes much more than traditional conference-style teaching and learning will happen at BCC. “If that is all that happens,” he says, “It will not have been a success. Instead, we hope people leave with new connections that are directly relevant to their lives and work.” The format of the conference reflects this desire; morning sessions focus on “absorbing” new information and will include panels and presentations, while afternoon sessions provide opportunities for dialogue and will include workshops, working group discussions and community tours.

Screenshot of part of the conference schedule

The conference comes at a time of heightened interest and attention to Black communities, though Little points out that conference topics have been relevant for many decades. Little and Slocum expected to get 80-100 proposals, but instead received 300. Half of the presentations will be by community members and half by scholars, and include presenters who hail from all around North America, including Canada and Mexico. The three-day jam-packed conference agenda includes presentations by elected officials, scholars from a variety of disciplines, and community activists and educators. Attendees can enjoy panels, workshops, tours, film screenings and performances on a variety of topics, from education to cultural tourism, Black elected officials, police accountability, and more.

The conference builds on a 2015 convening of historically Black towns and settlements and the work of the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA) since that time. “This conference is open to a much larger group [than the 2015 gathering],” Little explains. “Members of the HBTSA will also attend this conference, plus it will also include leaders from other urban communities and neighborhoods that emerged as a result of the Great Migration and are also geographically defined, as well as Black communities that are not geographically defined.”

About the origins of the conference, Little explains, “We originally wanted to create a clearinghouse where scholars and community leaders could find each other to work on collaborative efforts. We decided on a conference format, and it has now blossomed to be much more than that original vision. Not only will scholars and community members be able to network with each other — people within each of these groups will be able to network amongst each other around areas of shared interest.”

To register and find out more about travel funding, click here:


Meet SOHP’s Spring 2018 Interns

We’ve made it past midterms and our hard-working interns and field scholars are enjoying spring break this week. S0 while it’s quiet in the SOHP office, we wanted to take a moment and let you meet our spring 2018 undergraduate interns. We assigned our intern Lily Lou with the task of interviewing our interns. This semester they’re focusing on Native American activism at UNC. Read more about our interns below, and keep up with them throughout the semester by following them on Twitter @sohpinterns.


Name: Kimberly Oliver
Year: Junior
Major: History and Anthropology
Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina

Kimberly’s first exposure to history was listening to her grandparents tell her stories about their childhoods. She chose to apply to the internship because, “It’s a combination of all of my fields. I’m a history major, so I wanted to learn more about oral history as a method, and I’m really interested in Native American culture and life,” she said. She’s also working at the Ancient World Mapping Center through the history department—where she maps historical and cultural sites in the Middle East to add them to no strike lists—and The Marching Tar Heels, where she plays clarinet (an instrument she’s played since 6th grade). Outside of her extracurriculars, she likes to read books. She’s currently reading Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain.


Name: Blake Hite
Year: Sophomore
Major: Anthropology and American Indian & Indigenous Studies
Hometown: Pembroke, North Carolina

Blake is a member of the Lumbee tribe and a descendant of the Cherokee Nation who came to UNC intending to major in chemistry and go to pharmacy school. But, after his first semester at UNC, he changed his mind and realized that he loved taking anthropology classes. There, he found mentors in the department like Dr. Valerie Lambert, who he took Anthropology 102: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology with. Through his internship at the SOHP, he hopes to amplify the voices of student activists and to change the false narrative of American Indians being people of the past. He is also a research ambassador for the American Indian Center, the historian for Carolina Indian Circle, and the secretary for Phi Sigma Nu Fraternity. In his free time, he likes to read, play video games, draw, and hang out with friends.


Name: Mina Yakubu
Year: Freshman
Major: Political Science and African, African American, and Diaspora Studies
Hometown: Wilmington, North Carolina

Mina applied to the SOHP internship program after taking an oral history class about women’s activism in the South with Dr. Rachel Seidman. Being an AAAD and Political science double major, she’s interested in how politics and history shapes African countries, especially Ghana, the country where her heritage is. At UNC, she’s also involved in the Southern Poverty Law Center, Black Student Movement, OASIS, and the International Justice Mission. Outside of school, she likes free writing, taking walks, and watching African movies. “Most of them have an overall message to them, and whether they’re historical or really current or funny, it just helps me connect to that part of my culture.”


Name: Lily Lou
Year: Sophomore
Major: American Studies and Computer Science
Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina

As an American Studies and Computer Science double major, Lily is interested in exploring technology and its cultural, social, and economic implications. Lily learned about the SOHP through an American Studies class she took during her first semester sophomore year, and knew she had to apply. As an intern, she hopes learn more about Native American activism and to contribute to the SOHP’s mission of amplifying underrepresented voices. Outside of the internship, she is involved in the NC Fellows program, Carolina Advocates for Gender Equity, the AAPI Working Group at UNC Chapel Hill, and Triangle-Area Asian American Student Conference.

Introducing Daniel Anderson

Straight out of Bakersfield, California is Daniel Anderson, SOHP’s new research assistant from UNC’s School of Information and Library Sciences (SILS). Daniel started the SILS program in Fall 2017, arriving at SOHP to assist with its many archival adventures, including the processing and depositing of oral history interviews into the Wilson Library. Daniel earned his MA at California State University, Bakersfield in 2013, where he also volunteered in the university archives, along with the archives of Bakersfield College, and Kern County Museum. He’s passionate about finding ways to make archives inclusive, and loves working with the public. Daniel’s focus here in the SILS program is digital archives and community engagement. He says he’s drawn to oral history because it allows people to “hear someone’s voice, hear their cadence and how they talk, bringing so much more context to a historical event or collection.” We look forward to watching Daniel’s growth here at SOHP.

November Staff Picks

Danielle Dulken

Happy November! Here at SOHP we are thankful for all of our amazing narrators, supporters, interns, and of course staff! This month, Danielle Dulken is sharing her staff picks. Danielle is a second year PhD student in American Studies. Her research interests are reproductive justice and race in southern Appalachia.

For her oral history pick, she chose just one interview. The interview is with narrator Loretta Ross, a leader of the reproductive justice movement, and interviewer Cynthia Greenlee-Donnell, an independent scholar who researches and advocates for reproductive justice.* This interview stuck out to Danielle for a few reasons. First, she has a shared interest in the topic. She found hearing the movement leader talk about her reproductive justice experiences more illuminating than many of the books or articles she had read on the topic. For Danielle, this oral history felt like a testament to the reproductive justice movement.

Loretta Ross

Another reason Danielle was drawn to this interview is the relationship created the between narrator and interviewer. As an interviewer herself, she was struck by how Cynthia facilitated a dynamic that encouraged and supported Loretta’s experience with difficult topics, like sexual assault and rape. In fact, the rapport they share makes the listener feel as though they’re witnessing a conversation between great friends. This interview could help oral historians think about how to frame questions on sexual assault, abortion, rape, and similarly difficult subjects as well as how to respond to comments about sexual assault and rape. It makes one ask: How can oral historians create an environment in which the narrator feels comfortable sharing a difficult past? And how can they support narrators through thoughtful responses but also through archival skills to ensure their story gets the attention and care it deserves?

Cynthia Greenlee-Donnell

This interview is lengthy at almost three hours long, but it demonstrates the way oral history not only informs but also creates personal connections between the oral history and audience. During the interview, Danielle laughed, cried, and even revisited some of her own work. We at SOHP hope the interview can help you learn about reproductive justice as well as help you grow in your practice as an oral historian.

*We would like to let those that are interested in this interview know that this interview includes detailed conversations about rape and sexual assault.

Along with an oral history pick, Danielle has included some recommendations for oral history-related readings.

Read more