After moving to Atlanta, Southern Oral History Program founding director Jacquelyn Dowd Hall began work with the Southern Regional Council, an organization that promotes racial justice in the South. While there, she started an oral history project in partnership with civil rights activists from the Institute for Southern Studies, based out of Durham, NC, to document the stories of southern radicals in the 1930s-40s.
In 1973, Hall came to UNC to direct the brand-new SOHP, initially housed in the history department, and brought many of these histories with her. In 1978, the program received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to collect stories of Southern labor history. For UNC's bicentennial in 1989, the program added over 300 histories of the college's population, including students, chancellors, and service workers. As support for the SOHP grew, so did its collection; the program now houses over 6,500 recordings from a diverse spread of Southerners.
To learn more about the Southern Oral History Program’s background, read “Case Study: The Southern Oral History Program” (available through Google Books, pages 409-416), published in The Oxford Handbook of Oral History by Oxford University Press in 2011 and edited by Donald A. Ritchie.
We have over 5,300 (and growing!) interviews in our collection, and our research projects are vast and varied. We recommend searching our database by keyword (you can do exact-phrase searching using quotes in the advanced search option. Another good route is to browse by project or to skim the finding aid, and you can use the find function (ctrl+f) for specific terms. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for or would like further assistance, please contact the reference staff at Wilson Library by phone at (919) 962-3765, or by email at email@example.com.
Part of the SOHP’s mission is to promote oral history teaching and research and to engage the public. We offer numerous different resources about conducting oral history, including an extensive bibliography, the Oral History Association’s Best Practices, and access to different procedures and essays through our website in the Resources page.
The SOHP presents workshops on various aspects of oral history projects; see below.
The SOHP also provides a detailed manual upon request. This manual contains tips on designing an oral history; notes on preparing, conducting, and processing interviews; equipment suggestions; interview forms and sample documents; guidelines for transcribers; and additional resources. Contact us using our web form to tell us what you are working on, and we will send you the manual.
We are happy to encourage oral history research and to work with the public through workshops. Our workshops are contingent on staff availability and fees, and we encourage you to contact us using our web form to discuss the possibility for a customized workshop for your group. See our Resources page for more details.
The SOHP has historically gained many valuable oral histories from outside researchers. We determine if we will accept donations based on several factors, including:
- How well the interviews fit within our mission and research goals
- How well the interviews are documented and the level and quality of accompanying description
- The format of interview materials
- Presence of proper legal release forms
- Inclusion of transcript, or funds dedicated to transcriptions
These decisions typically require a closer look at the interview, as well as discussions with you, the donor. If you are interested in donating your materials, please contact us using our web form to begin this conversation.
We are happy to help others use oral history around the UNC community. We currently have a student guide to oral history on our website, and our detailed manual for general oral history practice is available upon request. We host occasional workshops for students, and we can sometimes visit classes to offer workshops geared toward specific courses.
We also recommend browsing our Resources page to find more information about designing oral history projects, methodology, finding equipment, etc.
If you are interested in depositing these interviews into our collection, which is housed at Wilson Library (both physically and digitally), we encourage you to contact us early in your planning process. This way, we can assist with training (upon request), coordinating the proper paperwork, and disseminating our guidelines, policies, and expectations for materials in our collection. Please contact us using our web form to begin this conversation.