Southern Oral History Program collection, 1973-2008 (general abstract).

Creator: Southern Oral History Program.
Collection number: 4007
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Abstract: In 1973, the History Dept. of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill established an oral history program devoted to the study of the southern region of the United States. The Southern Oral History Program collects interviews with southerners who have made significant contributions to various fields of human endeavor. In addition, the Program undertakes special projects with the purpose of rendering historically visible those whose experience is not reflected in traditional written sources. Interviews are conducted by Program staff, graduate students, faculty members, and consultants. The Program also serves as a collecting agency, accepting donations of tapes and transcripts of interviews conducted by other researchers. Sound recordings of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Southern Oral History Program or by other researchers, who donated their recordings to the Program. Also included are transcripts of most interviews, abstracts or tape indexes of many interviews, introductory biographical sketches for some interviews, and photographs of a few interviewees. The contents of each series of interviews is described in separate catalog records.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights

Several projects in the SOHP highlight African Americans from various walks of life. Many of these interviews can be found online at the Oral Histories of The American South portal, which is part of the Documenting The American South website.

Collection Highlights: Includes oral history interviews with African-American politicians, businessmen, civic leaders, activists, high school principals, college teachers, students, historians, journalists, workers, and other categories of people. Collection consists of audio tapes and transcripts. Prominent African Americans interviewed include Georgia legislator and civil rights leader Julian Bond; clergyman, civil rights leader, and later ambassador, Congressman, and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young; Douglas Wilder, who was later governor of Virginia; director of Soul City, Warren County Commission chairperson, and later U.S. Representative from North Carolina Eva Clayton; environmental activist Dollie Burwell; historian John Hope Franklin; author, lawyer, and Episcopal priest Pauli Murray; Communist Party member and labor organizer Hosea Hudson; and attorney, civil rights leader, and business executive Floyd McKissick.

Of particular relevance are the following interview series:

  • A. Southern Politics. Includes interviews conducted by Jack Bass and Walter DeVries in 1973-1975 about southern politics and by John Egerton in 1990-1991 about southern liberalism. Bass and DeVries conducted about 300 interviews with political leaders, journalists, political scientists, union officials, civil rights activists, and others in eleven Southern states. African-American interviewees include Julian Bond, Andrew Young, and Douglas Wilder. Egerton conducted 32 interviews focusing on opportunities for positive action on civil rights in the post-World War II period, especially on the respondents’ activities between 1945 and 1950. African Americans interviewed by Egerton include publisher and Arkansas NAACP president Daisy Bates, Kentucky teacher Lyman Johnson, author and activist Margaret Walker, economist and sociologist Hylan Lewis, and Mississippi journalist William Gordon. Additionally, as part of a series on North Carolina politics since 1965, interviews have been conducted with notable African-American political leaders including Rep. Eva Clayton, Rep. Melvin Watt, Dr. Reginald Hawkins, state supreme court justice Hon. Henry Frye, state Rep. Mickey Michaux, state senator William Martin, and former state senator Howard Lee.


  • B. Individual Biographies. Includes 70 tapes of interviews with Hosea Hudson and interviews with a few other African Americans. Also here are interviews with scholars Arthur Raper, Guy B. Johnson, and Rupert B. Vance, who studied African Americans and race relations; with white civil rights activists Frank Porter Graham, Paul Green, Howard Kester, and Marion Allen Wright; with staff members of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the Southern Regional Council; and with Laurie Pritchett, chief of police in Albany, Georgia, in the 1960s.


  • C. Notable North Carolinians. Includes interviews with prominent African Americans in North Carolina, including North Carolina Mutual executives and Durham, North Carolina, civic leaders Asa T. Spaulding and William Clement; Durham City School Board chair and Durham County Commissioner Josephine Dobbs Clement; Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt; and Supreme Court Justice Henry E. Frye; and with both black and white civil rights leaders. Also included are interviews with African- American residents of Raleigh, who were interviewed as part of the Raleigh Roots Project; interviews with members of the Pearsall Committee about North Carolina’s school desegregation plan; and an interview with James McMillan, the U.S. District Court judge who ruled on school desegregation cases in Charlotte, North Carolina.


  • E. Labor. Includes interviews conducted in 1974-1979 with food workers, members of the Black Student Organizing Committee, and others about the University of North Carolina food workers’ strikes in 1969. Most of the striking workers were African-American women.


  • F. Fellowship of Southern Churchmen. Interviews, 1983-1985, with members of this interracial, interdenominational organization of clergymen. The Fellowship first met in 1934. It worked closely with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith to improve social conditions in the South.


  • G. Southern Women. Includes interviews with black and white women who were involved in the civil rights movement, and interviews with grassroots activists, as well as with other southern women. A considerable number of the women interviewed were affiliated with the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare, or the Young Women’s Christian Association. Among African-American women interviewed were Daisy Bates; Pauli Murray; teacher and activist Septima Poinsette Clark; environmental activist Dollie Burwell; and funeral home operators Lorena Barnum Sabbs and Thelma Barnum.


  • K. Communities. Includes interviews with Goshen community members working to preserve African- American-owned farmland and Goshen’s cemetery. Interviewed were Hattie Loftin Brown, Elvira Williams, Cornelius Jordon, Austin Smith, William Kinsey, Leora Murray, and Iris Billahunt Brown. There are many other projects that discuss the African American community, including K.2.9, “Listening for a Change: Tobacco, History, and Memory: Storytelling and Cultural Grieving in Eastern North Carolina”, that discusses changes in the tobacco industry since World War II.


  • L. University of North Carolina History. Includes interviews with Floyd McKissick; journalism professor Blyden Jackson; and Karen Stevenson, track athlete at UNC and the first African-American woman Rhodes Scholar. Also includes interviews with Edwin Lee Caldwell Sr., public housing advocate and career employee of DKE fraternity, and Edwin Lee Caldwell Jr., chemist, political leader, and state personnel officer. The Caldwell family has been connected with the University since the 1790s.


  • M. Black High School Principals. Includes interviews, 1990-1991, with current and former black high school principals about the influence of societal change on their perceptions of their work roles. A specific topic of discussion was the effects of school desegregation on role perceptions.


  • O. Foundation History. Includes interviews, 1995, about the work of the North Carolina Fund, an antipoverty program funded by the Ford Foundation, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, the Office of Economic Opportunity, and the U.S. Department of Labor. Those interviewed include student volunteers, foundation officers, policy makers, and residents of communities where the Fund operated.


  • P. The Press and the Civil Rights Movement. Approximately 50 interviews with prominent editors and reporters who covered the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The interviews explore the ways in which the news media covered the story and how the movement and the media were changed as a result.


  • R. Special Projects: Interviews conducted for research projects unrelated to other SOHP series, many done by researchers who received SOHP stipends. Included are projects about integration and health care in North Carolina, with an emphasis on the training and experiences of African American doctors; the African American working class, especially workers in sawmills and lumbering, 1930s-1950s; the Gateway Transitional Families Program for families in public housing in Charlotte, N.C.; contemporary funeral customs in the Gullah community in Saint Helena, S.C.


  • V: The Hayti Spectrum. The Hayti Spectrum oral history project, conducted by interviewer Brenda L. Williams, explores life in the Hayti Community of Durham, N.C., from the 1920s to the 1960s. Also included are 37 folders of introductory materials compiled by the interviewer. These materials include newspaper clippings, church and funeral programs, photographs, and items related to some of the interviewees in the collection.