April 2014
Former Chapel Hill Mayor Howard Lee and Founding Director of the SOHP Jacquelyn Hall share a laugh with Betty McCain, former Secretary of Cultural Resources and member of UNC's Board of Governors,  and Lila Friday, sister-in-law of the late William Friday, at our 40th anniversary celebration
Field Notes
Stories from the Southern Oral History Program

Director's Note

Happy Spring! The SOHP staff has just returned from the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Atlanta, GA. SOHP alumni LuAnn Jones and Cliff Kuhn, members of the OAH's Committee on Public History, invited us to present a four-hour workshop on the method and practice of oral history. LuAnn and  Cliff  gave the workshop attendees a warm welcome on behalf of OAH and their proud affiliations with SOHP. The workshop received such an enthusiastic response that we are considering hosting a longer, more in-depth version here at UNC in a future summer, when historians and teachers from a variety of backgrounds could come and participate.

 

The 40th Anniversary celebration on Friday April 4 was an outstanding event. It truly reflected the practice of engagement that has been Jacquelyn Hall's transformative contribution to scholarship. Everyone had a role to play, from field scholars to interviewees to interns to staff, past and present. The members of the community who have felt the impact of oral history on their lives also praised the program for its deep and lasting commitment to making history matter. There were many poignant examples of this, but one insight offered by former Chapel Hill mayor, educator and activist Howard N. Lee has stuck with everyone. Mr. Lee articulated that listening to someone's life experiences prepares you to empathize with that person's point of view in a way that reading their words (whether in a transcript, a memoir, or another primary source) does not. And empathy is the first step to addressing a conflict, whether it took place in the past or is happening now. According to Howard Lee, SOHP's body of research impacts not only him but the public at large when those voices can "come alive in the minds of the listener in years to come."

 

Mr. Lee describes an almost ethereal connection between the past and the present that unfolds in the interviewing process, but on the ground here at CSAS, the SOHP team is actively engaged in ensuring that the empathy that arises from historical knowledge is also of practical use to UNC's students and faculty, and to scholars and communities beyond the campus. We work consistently on multiple fronts to teach and engage with the people who lived history, to preserve their knowledge for future generations, and to create opportunities for people inside and outside the academy to activate that knowledge in ways that are useful to them. Our next few months will be spent not sitting on our laurels but working in the field to bring that empathy to civic discussion in our society.

 

--Malinda Maynor Lowery

 

Scenes from the 40th Anniversary Celebration
Jaycie Vos and Rachel Seidman enjoy showing Jacquelyn Hall the exhibit about the history of the SOHP. The exhibit will be up in Wilson Library through May 9th, and then will be turned into a virtual exhibit that will be available on our website.  

The panel discussion featuring interviewees Howard Lee and Valeria Lee along with Jacquelyn Hall and SOHP alum Jessie Wilkerson and chaired by Bill Chafe featured many powerful moments about the importance and lasting legacies of oral history.  
A highlight of the event was the performance piece by former SOHP interns based on interviews with participants in the Speaker Ban controversy of the 1960s.  
 
You can see more coverage of the event

Interns' Walking Tour a Grand Success
Field Scholar Katie Womble's original drawings for the audio tour map

A major highlight of the 40th anniversary was the chance to join one of the audio walking tours designed by intern Aaron Hayworth with help from all the others.  The following is an excerpt from Aaron's blog post about creating the tour.

 

The tour features interviews dating back to the SOHP's founding in the 1970s with a clip from interviewer Genna Rae McNeil and up until the present with a clip from recent undergraduate interviewer Charlotte Fryar. Playing these clips in places intimately related to the interviewee conveys the reality of the interviewee's life and situates the audience in a space to reflect on how the interviewee's past differs from the present. Normally the deck of Spencer Dormitory is a peaceful spot to sit in a rocking chair and enjoy a nice day, but the space is transformed when you hear Sharon Rose Powell's story about living in Spencer during the time of in loco parentis rules, when a woman could be expelled for having a guest or violating a dress code. Suddenly, the audience is reminded of how the University is not always a safe space and hearing Powell's story is an intimation of what it was like to be a female UNC student during the '60s. It is my hope that projects like the walking tour will shape the way scholars and friends of the SOHP relate to and use oral history. The SOHP has printed maps of the walking tour available to guests of the Center for the Study of the American South, which feature QR codes linking to the SoundCloud clips for guests to take a self-guided audio tour of campus. In the coming months the SOHP is also working to turn this tour into a podcast for people around the world to experience, making oral history more accessible than ever before! 

 

--Aaron Hayworth

 

If you want an armchair tour, you can listen to the clips from the walking tour here

Field Scholar Spotlight:  Katie Womble

Katie discovered her love of libraries and library science while taking a freshman seminar course taught by Laura Clark Brown of Wilson Library. After four years here at UNC, Katie graduated in the spring of 2013 and entered UNC's School for Information and Library Science. Currently in her first year of graduate school, Katie studies digital humanities, including interactive exhibits and audio editing. It was Brown who suggested Katie apply for the position of field scholar at the Southern Oral History Program.

 

As a field scholar at the SOHP, Katie works on small technology projects, including the compilation of a list of all publications that rely on SOHP interviews. She believes this project restored her faith in oral histories, as it was reassuring to see universities and publishers from around the world using our oral histories. In addition, Katie enjoys working with the other undergraduate interns in a mentorship role.

 

Katie is multi-talented, and designed the visuals for the audio walking tour, the semester-long project of undergraduate intern Aaron Hayworth. Using her artistic and digital skills, Katie drew and traced the places visited by tourists on our interactive map, including the Chapel of the Cross and the Speaker Ban plaque.  In addition, Katie included QR codes on the maps, allowing future visitors to scan the codes using their smart phones to take the audio tour on their own.

 

Katie is excited for the future of the audio tour and oral history in general. Though she was always interested in oral history-and has always planned to interview her grandparents about their Southern roots-she never believed she would get the opportunity to work within the field. At the recent 40th anniversary celebration, the words of interviewee Howard Lee struck Katie as particularly profound. Lee discussed the importance of an audio record, allowing researchers to hear emotion in an interviewee's voice that would never be available on a written transcript. Katie says this message sent home the importance of oral histories for her. She hopes that future UNC visitors will use the walking tour she helped create to gain a better understanding of UNC's history through the voices of its past. With her digital editing skills and passion for oral history around, we know the future of oral history is safe in Katie's hands. 

  
--Katie Crook, SOHP Communications Intern
Stories from the SOHP
We've been collecting people's stories about their experiences with oral history.  See one example below.  Send us your memories of either collecting interviews, being interviewed, working with interviews for research, or listening to interviews as a community member!  Share your stories here.

My best and worst interviewing experiences happened in the same project, which was also my first foray into interviewing: the work on Koinonia Farm for my dissertation/first book. The worst: one of my first interviews in the project took place at a truck stop in western NC. I put in the tape, recorded some of the interview, turned the tape over, recorded more stories, turned the tape over again....and learned that audiocassette tapes only have two sides. The best: two of the Koinonia families had bought land together in West Virginia. They invited me to stay a weekend during the peak of fall colors to interview each member of both families. What hospitality. I guess I should add my really best experience in oral history: meeting my husband when he attended an oral history workshop I was giving!

Tracy K'Meyer
University of Louisville

News from our Friends (send in yours!)
Pat Devine, who worked for the SOHP in its early days and is a retired judge, shares that New York Times bestselling author William Cohan has written and published his new book,  The Price of Silence:  The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, The Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of our Great Universities.  Devine conducted thirty interviews with Mike Nifong, the prosecutor in the case and six interviews with one of his attorneys, Ann Petersen. Devine made these interviews available to Cohan as he wrote his book, and he will be donating transcripts of these interviews to the Southern Oral History Program. The book came out on April 8. Cohan will be reading at the Regulator Bookstore in Durham TODAY, Thursday, April 17th, at 7:00 p.m.  Click here for more information about the event.

 

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Southern Oral History Program, Center for the Study of the American South, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, CB 9127,  410 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-9127