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This project’s name was inspired by Hugo Slim and Paul Thompson’s Listening for a Change: Oral History and Community Development. This influential volume emphasizes oral history’s power to make possible participatory documentary projects that are enriched by active community involvement. The SOHP’s “Listening” initiative reflects this spirit.

The “Listening for a Change” initiative encompassed eleven sub-series, including one overview examination of North Carolina in the post-World War II era, and various thematic, community-based projects exploring such themes as race, the environment, demographic change, and the many impacts of a changing global economy. The SOHP-affiliated historians and folklorists coordinating these projects worked closely with community groups to identify interview candidates, and to develop and present outreach events and materials to share research results with the communities in which the work has been completed.

The statewide project sought to generate a fresh understanding of twentieth-century North Carolina history. “We’re in a moment of such rapid change,” said Jacquelyn Hall as she kicked off the effort. “We’re moving into the new millennium, and the old industries and ways in which the economy has worked are beginning to disappear. Unless we document the stories of people who have lived through this history, we’re likely, within another generation, to have lost a whole piece of our history. We see ‘Listening for a Change’ as the kind of project for which we’ll continue to seek funding so that we can build on this important work in years ahead.”

The project was launched with a $150,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, which provided an additional $75,000 in 1999 to fund “Listening’s” second year. The hundreds of interviews generated through “Listening for a Change” have been deposited in UNC-CH’s Southern Historical Collection.


Race and Desegregation: West Charlotte High School

Race and Desegregation: Asheville’s Stephens-Lee High School

Tobacco, History, and Memory: Storytelling and Cultural Grieving in Eastern North Carolina

Environmentalism: Forests and Communities in Western North Carolina

New Immigrants and Labor: The Case Farms Strike in Morganton

New Immigrants and Neighborhood Change: Northeast Central Durham

Voices after the Deluge: Oral History Investigations and the Great North Carolina Flood

Whole Lives: The Durham HIV Life Review Project

The Brown Creek Correctional Institute Life Review Performance Project

Chatham County at the Crossroads