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Posts from the ‘undergraduate involvement’ Category

UNC Foodworkers’ Strikes of 1969

In 1969, on University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus, one of the largest instances of collective action occurred over the course of the year. Hundreds of foodworkers, in collaboration with the Black Student Movement, protested the oppressive labor policies of UNC’s dining halls through a strike lasting nearly sixty days in total. Through exploration of the Southern Oral History Program’s database and the Wilson Library archives, the SOHP summer interns created a digital exhibit and audio documentary to construct a narrative of this event through the voices and letters of those that lived and sustained it.

There are events that stand out as hallmarks of University history: its founding, Union troops occupying campus in the Civil War, every national basketball title. And there are events that influence the course of campus and even state history, but get overshadowed or lost in our collective memory. The Lenoir Foodworkers’ Strikes of 1969 is one of those stories.

Produced and narrated by UNC Chapel Hill undergraduates Liv Linn and Sydney Lopez, and with music from Harmonyx, the a capella group affiliated with UNC’s Black Student Movement, “The Ladies in the Pine Room” tells the story of the strikes through the voices of the people who lived them: BSM members Preston Dobbins and Ashley Davis, and foodworkers Elizabeth Brooks and Mary Smith. The documentary and digital exhibit were created to complement each other. While the exhibit provides the physical record of these events, the documentary populates them, offering the strikes voice and heart.

In 1969, the strikers were asking questions that ring strikingly relevant on campus today. What is the meaning of activism? How do we as a University community confront or fail to confront racism on campus? And which stories get preserved in our collective memory? So listen up, UNC: it’s time we (re)learned our history.

The Audio Documentary

Narrated by undergraduates at UNC Chapel Hill, Liv Linn and Sydney Lopez, the audio documentary tells the story of the foodworkers’ strikes through the voices of the strikes and students whom sustained it. Rather than listing dates and documents associated with the strike, the documentary attempts to unearth and humanize the strikes to enhance the understanding of the complex nature of activism–and more broadly, history.

Listen to the audio documentary here.


The Digital Exhibit

Incorporating letters, videos, and pictures from Wilson Library archives and clips from the Southern Oral History Database, this interactive map and timeline constructs an accessible medium to visualize the strikes’ multifaceted narrative. Offering a deeper look at the other organizations and groups involved in the strikes, the exhibit attempts to illustrate how far reaching the strike’s impact was on campus and in the state. As a note on the best way to delve into the exhibit, the left side includes narrative text, documents, and archive clips. By scrolling completely past the narrative text, readers can take advantage of the archival documents and clips provided. The right side will include any variation of interactive maps, archive documents, and videos.

Check out the exhibit here.


Lumbee History Service-Learning Research Projects

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During the Spring 2015 semester, students in SOHP director Malinda Maynor Lowery’s HIST234: Lumbee History course completed four service-learning research projects in collaboration with partners and mentors on- and off-campus, including SOHP staff. We’re excited to share their finished products here:

Other collaborative partners include the Southeast American Indian Studies Program at UNC Pembroke and the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library.

Work on Desegregation

This blog post was written by intern Samantha Gregg

“I didn’t care about wanting it for the mix, but I wanted it for equal rights. I wanted my children to have equal rights. If they would give me equal rights over here, I wouldn’t think about going over there.” – Vennie Moore on the integration of schools in Davidson, North Carolina.

As a “mining the archives” intern for the SOHP, I’ve spent hours this semester listening to first-hand accounts of the desegregation of North Carolina schools. I have heard the voices of students, teachers, athletic coaches, administrators, parents, community members, and church leaders as they relive their past, describing their views, involvement, and experiences with integration. I’ve come to especially appreciate the quote above by Vennie Moore because I feel it has captured much of what I have learned through these interviews: though the previous policy had been separate but equal, African American educational opportunities and facilities were nothing close to equal; not everyone was in support of integration for the same reasons, if they were in support at all; there was hesitation and fear by all involved; there was a fear by African Americans that their heritage and traditions would be covered, not combined, by the history of previously white schools.

Why? The reasons for integration were many: Brown v. Board of Education’s overturning of the separate but equal policy, a desire to correct the unfair institution that had defined the North Carolina school systems, like the rest of the United States, for far too long, or, like Vennie Moore, the knowledge that this was the only way African Americans would be able to truly have an equal opportunity for education.

How? Turbulence; outstanding individuals; understanding; danger; compromise; a driving sense of morality: these are just a few words that describe the integration of North Carolina schools. Though morally correct, the process of integration was difficult to navigate for everyone involved, having little precedent to follow. It was only through the excellence of understanding students, teachers, administration, and community members, the unifying power of athletics, and inspiring people’s refusal to settle for anything other than equal conditions any longer that made integration possible.

These are the reasons that I have come to love oral history as an intern with SOHP. The larger historical story of desegregation brushes over the different reasons integration was desired, the different ways in which it was achieved, and all the problems that continued to arise during and after integration, continuing today. As the SOHP’s mantra states, “you don’t have to be famous for your life to be history.” Though the interviews I’ve spent this semester listening to are not with celebrities, I have learned more about different viewpoints, experiences, reasoning, a

nd minority experiences than any textbook or major publication could present me with. This is what I have come to understand the value of oral history as in my time here: a way to preserve the differing experiences of all types of people in order to gain a full understanding of historical event.


Samantha Gregg

SOHP Mining the Archives Intern

Class of 2015

Moxie Project – Summer 2013 Interviews Now Online!

These interviews are now online in the Long Women’s Movement series in our database. They were conducted during summer 2013 as part of an undergraduate course combining internships throughout the community with oral history and other coursework, under the direction of Dr. Rachell Seidman and Joey Fink. For quick access, you can also search the database for interview numbers U-1002 through U-1010. For more about the Moxie Project, click here.

First Annual NC Women’s Summit Connects Oral History to Policy Challenges

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SOHP founding Director Jacquelyn Hall (on far left) moderated and Field Scholars Brittany Chavez (third from left) and Joey Fink (second from right) participated on panel addressing “How We Can Create a Fair Economy for Women.” Picture credit: Megapixie

150 women from all over the state of North Carolina rose from their seats to applaud six UNC undergraduates, the first cohort of Moxie Scholars. The Moxies, as they are affectionately known, had just finished their original performance, “Every Time I Move, I Make a Women’s Movement.” Based on the oral histories they had collected as part of the Moxie Project: Women and Leadership for Social Change, the performance represents a collective reflection on feminist history and activism. The students’ passion, creativity and talent brought the entire audience of the First Annual North Carolina Women’s Summit to their feet—and tears to many of their eyes.

The Moxie Scholars performance was just one highlight among many at the summit, titled “Ms. Behaving: How North Carolina Women Make History. Rachel Seidman, Southern Oral History Program Associate Director, originally conceived of the summit and planned it in cooperation with Women AdvaNCe. The goal of the summit was to translate knowledge into action by putting oral history and other types of academic research in dialogue with practitioners. This dialogue educated, empowered and inspired the North Carolina women in the audience to take specific steps to address the challenges facing them and their families. Three panels addressed major questions that formed the basis for an overarching call to action: “How Do We Ensure Women’s Health?” “How Can We Protect Public Education?” and “How Do We Create a Fair Economy for Women?”

Drawing on historical evidence, panelists discussed striking changes in the role of women in North Carolina. Panelists explained how, dating back to the early 20th century, the state was once a national leader in protecting citizens’ health, providing public education, and investing in the public good. But over the last three decades, state-level policy changes have eroded the prospects of women and children. We now rank 47th in the country in key indicators of women’s health; teachers’ salaries have dropped from 24th in the nation to 48th; and currently half of single mothers in North Carolina live in poverty.

Panelists and moderators, including SOHP Founding Director Jacquelyn Hall and Field Scholars Joey Fink and Brittany Chavez, also provided specific recommendations for making progress. When asked who in the state was representing the interests of Latinas, Brittany directed the audience to the exciting and important work being done by youth-led organizations including Southerners on New Ground. She also encouraged the audience to explore the work being done by SOHP partner Hannah Gill, Director of the Latino Migration Project at UNC, and the program she oversees called Building Integrated Communities, a statewide initiative whose mission is to help “North Carolina local governments successfully engage with immigrants and refugee populations in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication, and improve relationships.“ Audience members were encouraged to write letters to the editor, register voters, and volunteer for organizations. When a single mother of three children, struggling to make ends meet, asked how she could get involved with only two hours a week to spare, she was encouraged to realize what “a gift” two hours per week would be to organizations that desperately need her help.

Audience members came from around the state, including Charlotte, Robeson County, and Greensboro, and many said they got just what they were looking for from the event. Joey Fink reported, “From what I saw, the day served many, many of the women present so well, and will be an important first step in new networks and organizing efforts.” Danielle Koonce from Raleigh tweeted: “WomenAdvaNCe’s Summit has me pumped up. Going to use my pen as my sword. Ignorance is killing us.” Deborah Locklear posted on Women Advance’s Facebook page, “Thank You for the opportunity to attend such an empowering event. The knowledge and friendships will be utilized and cherished! Awesome group of Women!!!”

Lux et libertas! Thoughts on oral history, the university, and the state from SOHP Intern Charlotte Fryar

Charlotte Fryar served as an SOHP undergraduate intern in Spring 2013 and authored the following post. Charlotte is unsure of where she is native of, but has decided that North Carolina is a good enough answer. She will graduate in May 2013 with a degree in American Studies, and plans to pursue her love of state and oral history in graduate school.

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SOHP Intern Charlotte Fryar, SOHP intern, interviewing John Greenbacker for the Speaker Ban Project.

For the month of March, I was deep in the oral histories I conducted with two men, John Greenbacker of South Boston, Virginia, and the other with Bland Simpson of Chapel Hill. Both attended the University in the late sixties, witnessing pivotal moments for the University that changed them.

Both men, however similar in college, are decidedly quite different now, evident in their retrospective look at their time at Carolina and their opinions on the University’s tie to the state. Both men did agree that the history and legacy that is the life of the University is dictated by her students, past and present. These were moments in both interviews when they seemed to be speaking as if they were playing instruments, their words struck such a chord with me.

Falling into an oral history interview is more than the conducting and transcribing, but listening to the audio again and again, their silences and pauses, the nuances of speech becoming clearer in repetition. For a month, I have been trying to understand, together and separately, what the University means for these two men, and consequently, as I near graduation, what the University means to me. It is one of those things that, I believe, is different for everyone, but only slightly. Carolina is a research institution, giving infinite resources in health care and the sciences back to the state. It is a liberal arts school, providing a space for long and thorough thought within the academy. It is the resources, the libraries, the varied and sophisticated faculty, and the place within the Triangle. It is the best public education in North Carolina.

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Speaker Ban protests at the McCorkle Place wall; Photograph Copyright Jock Lauterer

But increasingly, as I find myself with more overdue library notices from the North Carolina Collection Library than ever before, the University is, to me, the old brick of the buildings and walkways, the Corinthian columns of Wilson (rolled down planks through Polk Place to their new home at the base of the quad), the stone wall on Franklin Street that separates the University from the rest of the state, the monuments to this and that, our brave Confederate soldiers and our brave Speaker Ban radicals, the Chapel Hill gravel winding through the hidden parts of campus, the afternoon drizzle on the tall and once small trees of the arboretum, and those students and faculty who are North Carolinians, who come back to this flagship university for a myriad of reasons. But one reason, sometimes lurking and subtle, sometimes loud and declarative, is that the wide and deep history of the University affects what the University means to everyone on the campus and everyone who has left her greenery and brick, whether they admire her facilities, her resources, or her teachers.

Working at the Southern Oral History Program, the doors have been opened wide to the incredible history of the University and the state, but the real excitement has come for me in where those two spheres intersect. I think it does everyone a wealth of good to read the University’s mission statement, and for many, I imagine it will be the first time:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, serves North Carolina, the United States and the world through teaching, research and public service. We embrace an unwavering commitment to excellence as one of the world’s great research universities.

Our mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship and creativity and to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate and professional students to become the next generation of leaders. Through the efforts of our exceptional faculty and staff, and with generous support from North Carolina’s citizens, we invest our knowledge and resources to enhance access to learning and to foster the success and prosperity of each rising generation. We also extend knowledge-based services and other resources of the University to the citizens of North Carolina and their institutions to enhance the quality of life for all people in the State.

With lux, libertas — light and liberty — as its founding principles, the University has charted a bold course of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.

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Charlotte with fellow intern Alexa Lytle, en route to conduct an interview for the SOHP.

Lux et libertas to the people of the state. Former UNC President Frank Porter Graham put it well: “…the cause of North Carolina is the cause of the University and the cause of the University is the cause of North Carolina.” And my cause is both the cause of the University and the cause of North Carolina. Working at the SOHP, talking with people who know intimately and individually what the University and what the state means to them, has taught me this. Certainly it was a combination of things that brought these questions to the front of my mind–impending graduation foremost among them–but the SOHP has tapped into a dedication I was unsure I even had. Oral history has the power to accomplish many things, but the power it holds in explaining a love and sense of place is what I take away from my time at the SOHP.



Oral History Internships

Our interns have become an essential part of what we do here at the Southern Oral History Program. Learn more at our internships page.

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