Greetings from the Southern Oral History Program! I hope this newsletter finds you in good spirits and good health, surrounded by those who mean the most to you.
In this newsletter, you'll learn more about the
boundless creativity and energy
of SOHP staff and students. I'm so lucky to be collaborating with these people every day.
This semester I had the great fortune to teach an honors seminar,
Oral History and Women's Activism in the South to a wonderful group of UNC undergraduates. For their final projects, students chose a topic they were interested in and created digital exhibits drawing from our archives, primary documents, and photographs from Wilson Library.
I'm particularly proud of our ongoing and newly unfolding collaborations across campus. We are learning so much from our work with Dr. Ross Simpson of UNC's School of Medicine and head of the
. With the help of a FIRE Grant from UNC, we have been mining our archive for instances in which interviewees talk about health and medical care. We are exploring what we can learn about issues like social and medical isolation from oral histories in our collection. For example, James Anderson, a black farmer from Lexington, Mississippi, was interviewed as part of the
Breaking New Ground
project with black landowners:
"People weren't like they are now. Say, for instance, a farmer got sick or his wife got sick and he wasn't able to go to the field because he had to see to his wife. Those farmers would come together, the whole community. They'd break his land and plant it in one day, there'd be that many of them. People cooperated; they worked together. If you got sick, you had a sick person in your house, they sat up with you all night. . . People acted like they loved one another back then. You got the feeling that people actually cared for one another. I can remember my mama being sick, and I'd go to bed. I'd wake up and the people who were there when I went to sleep would be still sitting there."
We have found wonderfully evocative examples like Anderson's, but that has only created a greater need for us to pursue this research further. We are working with colleagues across campus, in the Gillings School of Public Health, the college's program in health and humanities, and the School of Medicine, to design a new collecting initiative around health, medical care and illness in the South, which we plan to launch this summer.
We are also collaborating on a variety of other initiatives large and small. We are working with the Jackson Center for Saving and Making History to make sure that residents of Chapel Hill's historically black Northside neighborhood know about and have access to any interview in our collection that touches on the life of that community. Fourteen new interviews are being deposited in the Southern Mix project on Asian and Asian American voices in the South thanks to Professor Ji-Yeon Oh Jo, her teaching assistant Mary Williams, and especially the students in her class on the Asian American Experience.
I hope you'll be inspired by these projects and those you'll find below. Please consider making an end-of-year gift to the Southern Oral History Program to help us continue to collect, preserve, and share the amazing stories of people in the South.
All my best,