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Meet Our 2018 Fall Interns

Now with the new academic year in full swing, we are excited to introduce the interns working with us for the fall semester. They are pictured here with SOHP Project Manager, Sara Wood, who leads the weekly intern seminar.

Mitra Norowzi, Sara Wood, Caroline Taheri, Ellie Little

Mitra Norowzi is a junior from Raleigh, North Carolina who is studying journalism and Southern studies. Aside from working with us at the SOHP, she is also in her third year of working as an editorial assistant for our friends down the hall, the award-winning quarterly publication Southern Cultures. Mitra brings her desire to combine traditional news reporting and oral history to tell honest, diverse stories of the American South to her work here at the SOHP.

Caroline Taheri is a senior from Fairfax, Virginia who is studying psychology and minoring in medical anthropology. This past summer Caroline interned on Capitol Hill where she attended hearings and briefings and learned more about the legislative process. She brings her interest in health disparities, community outreach, and ethnographic research to her work at the SOHP. Caroline hopes to go on and earn a Masters of Public Health after graduation.

Ellie Little is a junior from Greensboro, North Carolina who is studying advertising and American Studies with a minor in Hispanic studies. She is interested in studying the role of media in how public school students receive and interpret stories. Outside of academics, she is the Vice President of the UNC Women’s Rugby Football Club.

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.

“Disfranchisement in the American South” Through Voices of Those Who’ve Lived It, Grades 9-12

High school Civics and Economics, Current Events, and US History teacher Brantley Barrow sees history, especially the history of our government and how it functions, as “an incredible weapon against corruption and the status quo political gridlock of Raleigh and Washington.” Thus, for him, it’s crucial that his students understand that the right to vote—and the power that this right can hold—wasn’t always available to everyone. In the lesson he created as a 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellow, Understanding Disenfranchisement in the American South, Barrow takes students all the way back to end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 15th amendment and all the way forward to methods of disenfranchisement today.

In this lesson, students travel around to different stations, each focused on a different historical method of voter disenfranchisement: 1) the Grandfather Clause 2) Literacy Tests 3) Poll Taxes, and 4) Intimidation. Beginning at station 2, students learn about how these disenfranchisement tactics functioned and impacted people on the ground through voices from the SOHP archive. To start, Executive Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Andrew Young discusses how registrars used the guise of literacy tests to keep even the most educated African American applicants—such as his younger brother, a graduate of Ohio University—from successfully registering to vote. Next, students hear from black South Carolina farm worker Larry H. Gooden, who describes how his father tried to convince other African-Americans to vote despite threats of poll taxes and loss of their land. Finally, Birmingham lawyer Glennon Threatt explains the intimidation techniques meant to keep African-Americans from even attempting to register to vote. Accompanying these interviews with photographs, poll tax receipts, and video clips, Barrow equips students with a variety of historical evidence for a guided class discussion after each station.

To complete the lesson, students create a Public Service Announcement on the importance of registering to vote and voting today. Students are required to use their newly acquired historical knowledge on disfranchisement to convince people to exercise their right to vote today. Recognizing that this still isn’t a right accessible to everyone, Barrow also provided materials for an optional discussion on racially motivated voter disenfranchisement today, including how photo-ID requirements reduce the number of black voters.


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.

“The Influence & Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities on the Civil Rights Movement,” Gr. 8-12

“It is important for me to challenge my students as they grow into young adults,” explained Wake County Public School teacher and 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellow Iris Robinson. Her lesson on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their role in the Civil Rights Movement is a perfect example of how teachers can accomplish this in their classrooms. Taking students from the end of the Civil War to the present day, Robinson highlights the role of HBCU alumni in sparking and carrying out the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In doing so, she specifically highlights how these institutions gave these future activists “the opportunity to be affirmed, be yourself, [and] exist in an unapologetic black space.”

In this lesson, students start by learning why HBCU’s were established to begin with. To initiate this discussion on historical discrimination and segregation in higher education, Robinson uses a clip from the SOHP’s interview with Pauli Murray, who was rejected from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1938 on the basis of her race. “While this excerpt highlights the importance of fighting for equal access to all educational institutions,” students are asked, “how does Pauli Murray’s struggle also highlight the important of HBCUs?”

Once equipped with necessary background information on the need for and value of HBCU’s, students conduct their own research on the influence of these institutions during the Civil Rights Movement. Among other primary and secondary sources, SOHP interview clips from Julian Bond and Ella Baker guide students through their exploration of how these institutions brought young civil rights activists together. In a manner consistent with her aim to challenge students, Robinson has created a lesson that thoroughly exposes students to the culture of change and resistance fostered at HBCUs.

Read the full lesson plan and download it for yourself here.

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.