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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:


Staff Pick: Bringing History to Life in the Classroom

Abigail Nover, an SOHP field scholar, is a graduate student in folklore. Her MA thesis is a music-based interactive web application for fourth grade classrooms, designed to supplement the NC Common Core Social Studies Standards for teaching North Carolina’s history and cultural heritage.

The history textbooks I read in middle and high school were not particularly memorable. What I do vividly remember from social studies and history classes, however, are the guest speakers who visited, the interviews we listened to, the documentaries we watched, and the debates we had as a class. Those moments most likely stick out in my mind because the history in the textbook that seemed distant and detached became personal and immediate through hearing and discussing peoples’ firsthand experiences. Now, as I focus on K-12 educational materials in my graduate studies and as a field scholar here at the SOHP, I am excited by the incredible potential of oral history to bring history to life in the classroom.

Last summer, the SOHP partnered with Carolina K-12 to host The Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellows program. Middle and high school teachers from across North Carolina gathered here at UNC-Chapel Hill for a three-day seminar, which focused on oral history and the Civil Rights Movement. The teachers then returned home, worked on creating lesson plans using oral history clips from our archive, and several weeks later, returned to Chapel Hill to share their work with one another.

The lesson plans that resulted from the program creatively delve into complex topics relating to the Civil Rights Movement like voting rights, education, and disenfranchisement, just to name a few. Each lesson weaves multiple voices together in oral history-based classroom activities, providing students with the opportunity to examine primary sources, evaluate historical events from diverse perspectives, and extend their critical thinking. Oral history as a pedagogical tool is unique in its ability to convey the impact of historical events on personal and community levels, garnering deeper understanding and empathy among student listeners.

I have been working with Christie Norris, the Director of K-12 Outreach for the NC Civic Education Consortium, to edit the lesson plans and make them available to teachers as a free resources online via the SOHP’s and Carolina K-12’s websites. As I read through the lessons and listened to the accompanying interview clips over the past weeks, I was absorbed by the materials. Listening to Pauli Murray, for example, describe her many trailblazing accomplishments, I was floored by her persistence and powerful outlook on civil rights and citizenship as well as how little I had known about her previously. It is easy to become engrossed in listening to someone tell their story, and I am excited for students to experience the lessons I have been reading in the classroom. These lessons will be memorable, I am sure.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the North Carolina Council for the Social Studies’ annual conference in Greensboro where I was able to broaden my understanding of social studies instruction. In the sessions I attended, I heard educators describe the challenges and triumphs of engaging students in current events and history, helping students to understand multiple perspectives on key issues, integrate research techniques and primary sources into classroom activities, and work towards public engagement projects. It was incredible to hear teachers share their innovations. As I listened, I recognized many facets of the lesson plans I had edited. I am honored to support teachers as they share their ideas and work towards integrating oral history into their lesson plans.

Find more information about the Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellows program, and access the lesson plans here. You can also listen to the clips features in the material by visiting the SoundCloud playlist.

Staff Pick: Dr. Claude Barnes

This spring, the SOHP staff is selecting interviews from the archive that celebrate or challenge the practice of oral history, and serve as teachable moments. SOHP field scholar Isabell Moore is a PhD student in UNC’s Department of History. She found her interview, and the lessons it brought forth, by sheer accident.

I recently stumbled on an interview with Dr. Claude Barnes, a black leader from Greensboro, North Carolina, my hometown and the place I now live. What I heard brought up illuminating and uncomfortable questions about the practices of oral history in our current moment.

It started when I was asked to search for stories in SOHP’s archive about University of North Carolina’s Morehead Planetarium. I expected to find stories of stargazing and celestial events. Instead, I came across an interview with Dr. Claude Barnes, a well-known civil rights and black power activist and professor in Greensboro. Reading about his cohort of activists in the 1960s and 1970s as an undergraduate in New York in the late-1990s was part of what inspired me to move home to North Carolina. For almost fifteen years, I have been in and out of social justice meetings and events with Dr. Barnes. The story he told about the planetarium (click to hear the audio) had nothing to do with shooting stars.

Morehead Planetarium at UNC. Image courtesy of

Claude Barnes: And I’ll tell you this incident, too. I’m going to write this up one of these days. I was in third grade, and I’ll never forget it. We went to Chapel Hill, to the Planetarium, to see an Easter show. All right? I’m in third grade—Ms. Gregg’s third grade class. And I’m a little third grader. But anyway, in the middle of the program, I had to use the boy’s room. So I ran out, straight into what I considered to be the bathroom. I didn’t take time to look and understand there was a colored bathroom and a white bathroom. So I went in the white bathroom by mistake—I didn’t mean it, though. They stopped the show, put us back on the bus. I got a beating by my third grade teacher with a rick-rack. I got a beating when I got home. And I still feel bad about that, [laughter]

Angela Hornsby: So someone found that you were in the wrong bathroom?

Claude Barnes: Mmm-hmm, yeah. I was drug out of there.

Angela Hornsby: Oh, Lord. Who drug you out?

Claude Barnes: One of the officials. Some other person was in the bathroom, said “There’s a black kid in there,” or something. And they stopped the show. They literally pulled the plug on the show. The lights came on; everybody was mad at me. [laughter] But that’s the absurdity of that. Anyway, that incident stuck in my mind from the third grade. I guess that might have something to do with why I was so rebellious as time went on.

Dr. Claude Barnes. Photo courtesy of Carolina Peacemaker.

Hearing Dr. Barnes’ story brought together many threads from what I am learning as a field scholar at the SOHP, in UNC’s oral history course (History 670) with Joey Fink (a former SOHP field scholar), and in a digital history course at UNC Greensboro with Anne Whisnant.

The interview with Dr. Barnes was conducted by Angela Hornsby in 2002. It’s part of the SOHP project, Remembering Black Main Streets. Hornsby’s questions focus on Dr. Barnes’ life growing up in Greensboro, and his memories of East Market Street, the road that runs through the historically African American area of Greensboro.  Dr. Barnes’ story about a field trip to the planetarium in Chapel Hill surfaced when Hornsby asked about his childhood.

Oral history practice often stimulates the recall of memories that may not be on topic, and add to our understanding of the past in unexpected ways. Interviews often reveal meanings that we cannot glean from visiting the place itself. Dr. Barnes began with, “I’m going to write this up one of these days.” Most of us have those urges about significant moments in our lives, but few of us actually find the time to write down those stories. Oral history makes sure these recollections are not lost to history.

Dr. Barnes’ words teach us about the quotidienne system of racial segregation: Dr. Barnes’ use of the “whites only” bathroom was treated as an emergency. A presumably white official dragged him out. Black school children could be in the planetarium’s seats but not in the bathroom. Dr. Barnes’ teachers and parents punished him and in the process participated in enforcing segregation, surely out of a desire to keep him safe in the future. Dr. Barnes understood this incident as a root of his own willingness to stand up to power. Through the interview and archival practices of oral history, we can access and learn from Dr. Barnes’ memories.

Aside from what we can learn from the story itself, Dr. Barnes’ interview and the way I came across it raise issues that oral historians grapple with in the digital age.

As Michael Frisch discusses in his essay “From A Shared Authority to the Digital Kitchen, and Back,” in Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World, the increasing digital searchability of oral history audio and transcripts creates opportunities but also potential problems.

Had I pulled out this one story from the much longer interview, I would be left only with information about the oppression and abuse that young black people suffered under segregation. In the rest of the interview, Dr. Barnes discusses his efforts as a high school then college and post-college activist, his involvement with the Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP) (click to hear the audio), and the ways their activism won better housing, wages and influence in city government.

Claude Barnes: But GAPP is the key. And GAPP not only organized around redevelopment. It was the cafeteria workers, the blind workers. Skilled-craft blind workers, they called a boycott at Christmas one year. Because the blind workers—I think they were making something like two dollars an hour or less than that, I can’t remember. It was just some horrible wage. And their working conditions were terrible—we’re talking about blind people. So we organized a strike in behalf of the blind workers and boycotted Christmas one year. And won them a lot of concessions. And so successes like that fueled other successes. There were rent strikes, I remember. GAPP organized one of the longest rent strikes in the history of Greensboro against a big slumlord. Kay Agapion, Triple A Realty. Big slum lord in Greensboro—houses all over the place. I think we took people out on strike for about six months or something like that. And were successful in improving their living conditions, improving the housing conditions, and enforcing some regulations, and that kind of thing.

And we had built this coalition between the A&T students, Dudley students, and Greensboro residents especially. It was a broad coalition, and it was a multi-class coalition. Because there were blacks from the middle upper, and blacks from the lower lower. Now they didn’t agree on everything, but there were lots of issues that people did agree on. Now redevelopment was one of the issues that they did not agree on. But some of these other things I just mentioned to you—like the Cafeteria Workers’ Strike– [Tape ends].

Dr. Barnes understands his own life experience as shaped by both empowerment and collective action, on the one hand, and oppression on the other.  A search for key terms in the transcript could encourage us to examine a few minutes of tape or a few stansas of transcript outside of the context of the rest of the interview.  Examining only these moments of the interview would give us quite a different view.

The interview with Dr. Barnes raises additional questions oral historians often grapple with: Dr. Barnes laughs numerous times while telling the story about the Planetarium. What can we make of this? What is the role of affect in oral history? How should we ethically interpret and assign meaning to displays of emotion? Yes, Dr. Barnes freely shared his personal and painful story in an oral history interview he knew would  be archived. However, is there a voyeuristic element to listening to stories like these, especially if they are used for the learning of white scholars like myself? Are Dr. Barnes’ current collaborators in Greensboro aware of this interview?  How might his interview — from the planetarium incident to his retelling of decades of activism — be useful to campus and community activists engaged with racial and economic justice today?  Are we doing enough to make the stories in our archives available beyond the academy? How can those of us engaged in oral history ethically think about how to use interviews in ways that are helpful in our present moment?

Whenever I pass Morehead Planetarium as I walk through campus, I will now think about Dr. Barnes’ story. And after listening to and reflecting on his interview, I will approach the practice of oral history interviewing and archiving with new questions and concerns.

Dr. Barnes was interviewed by Angela Hornsby in 2002 for the SOHP Project, Remember Black Main Streets. His 2014 oral history recorded by B. Bernetiae Reed is part of the project, Moral Mondays and Community Activism, 2014-2015.  He asked us to include his contact information: and

Staff Pick: Ruth Dial Woods

SOHP intern Blake Hite.

We’ve asked the SOHP staff to select an interview from the archive that celebrates or challenges the practice of oral history, along with interviews that serve as teachable moments. This week SOHP intern Blake Hite shares his reflections on Dr. Ruth Dial Woods’s interview from 1992. 

In his book, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, Dr. Thomas King says that “once you hear a story, you can never un-hear it.” Growing up, I was always told stories about my family and my people, the Lumbee, so that I would know myself as an individual. One of my favorite stories is how my family left the Cherokee Nation a few years after Indian Territory became Oklahoma, and about the struggles they faced before they ended up in Robeson County, North Carolina. This story makes me proud of who I am as a person and my people. Stories are very powerful in shaping people’s identity but they are also very influential in initiating change in society, and that is what Dr. Ruth Dial Woods hoped she would be able to do.

Woods was a member of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, and the Director of Indian Education. She was also a professor at Fayetteville State University. Throughout her life, she held multiple titles and positions where she was able to influence the next generation. She was heavily involved in the Civil Rights and feminist movements and their purpose: to ensure that she leaves behind a world that is better than the one she experienced. She wants to make sure that Native people are represented in all sectors of society, and she believes that by telling stories, individuals can profoundly affect society.

From her interviews, Woods wants us to know what it is like to be a Native woman and the obstacles that she faced and how she overcame them. She wants us to know why she had to lie on her marriage license, saying that she was white and not Native. She wants us to know how her people, the Lumbee, were discriminated against by whites in Robeson County and how Natives are disadvantaged when they apply to colleges, and the difficulties they face trying to afford attendance. Woods wants us to know what it is like to be a Native person who comes from a tribe that avoided Removal, and what being “Indian” means to her. Most of all, she wants us to know how she “made off the reservation,” and how she succeeded in a Non-Native world.

Stories are very powerful. They can alter the lives of individuals and help in changing society. Dr. Woods started the change but it is up to us to finish what she began and take up the Mantle of Responsibility, and share our own stories.

Woods’ oral history interview was conducted in 1992 by Anne Mitchell Coe and Laura Jane Moore for SOHP’s University of North Carolina: Individual Biographies project, focusing on notable North Carolinians connected to UNC.

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.

2018 Summer Undergraduate Research Assistantship Awards

Three competitive research assistantship awards are open to UNC undergraduates. Research Assistants will conduct oral history fieldwork for Health, Illness and Medical Care in the South, or Southern MixDeadline is Friday, March 23, 2018.




You can visit this site for more information and to apply.

Fall 2018 Undergraduate Internship

The SOHP is now accepting applications for our fall 2018 internship. Applications are due Friday, March 23, 2018 by 5PM EST.







For more information and to apply, go here.

Spring 2018 Workshops

SOHP is excited to offer three workshops this semester on February 19, 2018; March 6, 2018; April 4, 2018.

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall Summer Fellowship

Applications are now being accepted for our Summer Graduate Research Fellowship made possible by the Jacquelyn Dowd Hall Fund, in honor of the founding director of the SOHP. Deadline for applications is Monday, March 5, 2018.

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.