Field Notes
Summer 2017
Rachel F. Seidman to Direct SOHP
I have the great honor to announce that Rachel F. Seidman will be assuming the role of full-time Director of the SOHP, starting July 1! 

 As you know, Rachel has been SOHP's Associate Director since 2012, and oversaw the program's continued growth and excellence through three other Directors (Della Pollock, myself, and Renee Alexander Craft). Rachel herself served as Acting Director in Fall of 2016, when I was on leave, and her leadership has been extraordinary. Her innovation as a researcher and administrator have made a marked impact on SOHP's sustainability and national and international reputation as a leader in the field.
 
Rachel's special contributions to the program are too many to name, but I want to highlight the ones that I have admired the most, and that have sustained and transformed the Program. She created the Moxie Project, which has transformed into a very successful undergraduate internship program on women's leadership for social change; she has overseen research projects and collaborations of every variety, from women's history to the history of the rural South; she has mentored over two dozen graduate students since her time began at SOHP; she secured our first ever University History field scholar; she has served the national Oral History Association in critical capacities, including as Co-Chair of the Program Committee for this year's meeting; she has led statewide gatherings that directly serve the public; she has taught innovative and transformative courses at UNC and beyond; she is nationally recognized as a scholar and activist who is a creative, thoughtful bridge-builder. Most recently, Rachel launched SOHP's new K-12 teachers' institute with Carolina Public Humanities; it was an unqualified success and we are well on our way to making the institute an annual event. As the Program's first full-time Director, Rachel is poised to make an even greater impact. She recently helped secured a FIRE (Fostering Interdisciplinary Research Explorations) grant from UNC-Chapel Hill, to explore the relationship between oral history and health care, with the School of Medicine's department of cardiology. This grant positions us very well to explore the cutting-edge field of oral history and health care.
 
In a state and a region known more for its division than its unity--more for its "us or them" than its "all y'all"--Rachel walks her talk and continues to make SOHP a force for good. As she steps into this role, I step into the role of Director of the Center for the Study of the American South. I feel so fortunate to have Rachel as a partner in the Center. She has participated actively in the creation of CSAS's strategic plan over the last nine months; due in part to her contributions, CSAS has a new mission statement: "nurturing rigorous scholarship, critical conversation, and creative expression for a diverse and changing South." All of us are so grateful for Rachel's commitment to SOHP and to CSAS. Thank you Rachel!
 

--Malinda Maynor Lowery
 

Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellows Program Energizes and Engages K12 Teachers from across the State



This past week we launched our new collaboration with  Carolina K12 , the Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellows program, an intensive summer learning experience for North Carolina's secondary school teachers.  

It was, by all accounts, a smashing success. Teachers told us on their evaluations " I had NO idea such a remarkable resource (SOHP's digital archive) was right at my fingertips!"  "I felt deeply appreciated, celebrated, and treated like a professional and an expert."   "This has been the best professional development I have ever been to."

21 teachers from East, Central and Western North Carolina joined us on campus for three days of intensive workshops about Civil Rights history and using oral history in the classroom.  Scholars including SOHP founding director Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, CSAS Director Malinda Mayor Lowery, and William Sturkey from UNC's history department, as well as Watson Jennison from UNC Greensboro, and keynote speaker Michelle Lanier, Executive Director of the  NC African American Heritage Commission, provided teachers with new ways of thinking about Civil Rights history.   Mary D. Williams mesmerized the audience with her presentation on using music to teach about the movement. Former SOHP Acting Director Della Pollock and the  Marion Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History hosted a discussion about oral history and community organizing, and the teachers enjoyed an oral history-based walking tour of the Northside Neighborhood, as well as an inspiring conversation with Reverend Albert Williams and Ms. Gwen Atwater, who herself was a teacher for 35 years. SOHP staff, including Rachel Seidman and Bland Fellow Jennifer Standish provided guidance on how to make use of SOHP's collections and Christie Norris, of Carolina K12, led interactive teaching workshops to provide them with exciting ideas about potential lesson plans and activities.  And of course we enjoyed a BBQ dinner on the porch of the Love House and Hutchins Forum.  

Over the next three weeks, the teachers have a homework assignment to do research in the SOHP collection, find "teaching gems," create their own playlists of clips, and develop a lesson plan.  They will then return to campus on July 26 to share these new resources with each other.  Their playlists and lesson plans will be made available to other teachers via SOHP and Carolina K12, thereby increasing the ability of the SOHP to support K12 educators around the state.  

We are grateful to Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities Terry Rhodes, UNC's Graduate School, the North Caroliniana Society, and the   North Carolina Humanities Council for supporting this new endeavor. Our goal is develop this into an ongoing, annual program, with different topics over the years, that will help us build a cohort of teachers around the state who can share the love of oral history with their students.  SOHP looks forward to contributing in this way to the education of our youngest citizens and to the mission of the University to serve North Carolina's people. 
SOHP Wins UNC "FIRE" Grant for new collaboration with the medical school 

Cardiologist Ross Simpson approached us with a question: Could oral history help him prevent Sudden Death Syndrome in rural North Carolina?

Sudden death is rapid, unexpected death in people between 18 and 64 years of age, who die outside of the hospital, often without known preexisting conditions. As many as 10% of deaths occur in such inexplicable circumstances. Preliminary research suggests a disproportionate number of these deaths occur among rural and socially isolated individuals, and are related to commonly found and preventable causes. For example, in Wake County over the past 2 years, most of these deaths are associated with hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases as well as coronary artery disease.   Mental illness, substance abuse (including alcoholism), underuse of appropriate medications and seemingly poorly-coordinated medical care are the patterns we see in victims. Many of these people often do not seek out medical help, and doctors need new sources of information about how to help prevent these deaths.

Of course we were eager to find out whether the SOHP could contribute to saving lives, and with the Fostering Interdisciplinary Research Explorations Grant from UNC's Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, we are launching an exciting new collaboration.  

" Stories to Save Lives: Using Oral History to Understand the Social Context for Sudden Death" is a collaborative project between Dr. Simpson and his SUDDEN project, the SOHP, and the Odum Institute.  We will explore  what oral history as a method, and life narratives as a data source, can and cannot tell us about individuals' health-related habits, beliefs, and decision-making. 

The new grant will fund our first phase, in which there are two primary goals: first, conduct a qualitative study and complete a report about the SOHP collection to reveal the context in which people discuss health, medicine, and their social lives in oral history interviews; second, develop an interview guide that will help direct training for interviewers who will ultimately collect more data in rural North Carolina counties during phase 2 of the project.   


Stay tuned as we begin to explore this new way of tapping into the power of oral history.
Lauren, Sydney and Liv
New Faces in the Love House

This summer we have new additions to the SOHP staff. We have three undergraduate interns, Sydney Lopez, Liv Linn, and Lauren McCoppin, and one graduate  Bland Fellow , Jennifer Standish. 

Sydney is a rising sophomore majoring in Exercise and Sports Science, with an Athletic Training specialization, and minoring in Social and Economic Justice. She is passionate about interesting other students in oral history and is working on projects to foster that interest. She also has a love for the intersections between oral history and social justice and hopes to use oral history to inform her social activism work. 

Liv is a rising senior, majoring in Women's and Gender Studies with a passion for podcasts. She believes in the value of stories, both in their own right and for what they can teach. This summer, Liv and Sydney will bring their passions for oral history and social justice to produce an audio documentary project on the history of campus activism at UNC, spotlighting the Lenoir Foodworker's Strike of 1969 .  The project will incorporate oral histories from the archives in the hopes of engaging more undergraduate students with SOHP. 

You may recognize Lauren, a rising sophomore majoring in English and Education, as she was one of our Spring 2017 undergraduate interns. Lauren returns to the SOHP this summer to help with our Teaching Fellows conference, and share her knowledge gained from the internship about student activism at UNC to helping Sydney and Liv with their podcast.
Jennifer Standish

Our other new addition this summer is Jennifer Standish. Jennifer will be a second year in the History Ph.D. program. Her research is on the Civil Rights Movement, and interracial labor organizing in the Deep South carried out by former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Jennifer brings her expertise on the Movement to assisting with the Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellows program this summer.
 

Lauren McCoppin and Olivia Linn, along with Sydney Lopez (not pictured) research the Foodworkers' Strike of 1969 for a new podcast and digital exhibit about student activism.
Summer Interns Discover the Thrill of Research

"When [Mr. White, the supervisor,] opened the door at 4:00, it looked like there were about three or four hundred students outside. And they all came in, and they lined up around the counter and they took trays as they come in, and they just began to bang on the counter.... [I]t almost frightened [Mr. White] to death." 

So opens one account of the 1969 UNC Foodworkers' Strike given by one of its leaders, Elizabeth Brooks. Brooks' interview is one of more than 30 regarding the strike housed in the SOHP archives, and we believe it could be the key to engaging our   peers in the oral history collection.

We were first introduced to the SOHP in Rachel Seidman's undergraduate class on the history of women's activism in the South, where we realized both the richness of the archives as a tool for understanding history and the scarcity of undergraduate interactions with this resource. We hope to address this by incorporating oral histories into the medium of the moment-podcasting-to tell the stories of activism on UNC's campus in the past and connect them to present-day student concerns. The first episode--coming in mid-July--will spotlight the Foodworkers' Strike, which was largely sustained by the activist work of the Black Student Movement, and will be accompanied by a digital exhibit. Our goal is to maintain student interest in the archives by returning to the same question for each episode: what can this historical event teach us about student activism today?

As we research for this project, we have begun digging deep into the SOHP and Wilson Library's archives to pair historical documents with clips from oral histories of the strike's leaders. We spent an afternoon in Wilson Library with a box containing newspaper clippings and letters surrounding the strike, which not only contextualized events described in the oral histories, but also felt like finding the key to your sibling's diary: slightly nosy but undoubtedly exhilarating. Unlike your sibling's diary, however, this information is open to the public: the SOHP and Wilson archives offer us an intimate window into our own history, and the opportunity to snoop without actually putting our noses somewhere they shouldn't be. This excitement inspired us to create a project that encouraged other undergraduate students to snoop without consequence, both for their own curiosity and as a unique academic resource.

Still, the greater lesson we hope to both learn and impart is how to draw parallels between historical student activism and the activism we see on campus today. Through our research, we hope to identify historically successful strategies for change and explore what these stories can offer modern student activism. To us, UNC has a cheat-sheet for social change sitting in the SOHP and Wilson archives that has the potential to foster collaboration between historical and modern-day student leaders . We aim to improve the accessibility of those lessons through the podcast and digital exhibit, illustrating to present students that the wheel does not have to be reinvented every four years, just revamped.

--Sydney Lopez, Olivia Linn, and Lauren McCoppin

Southern Oral History Program  |  Center for the Study of the American South 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  |  410 E. Franklin Street  |  Chapel Hill, NC 27514
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