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Indexing Oral History Interviews of Black Women in Lexington

November 11, 2014 in Oral history, Social history

Recently, Randolph Hollingsworth asked if I would be interested in indexing a collection of oral history interviews from the “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project.” The interviews selected for Randolph’s project focus on women in the community from a variety of different backgrounds, and many discuss conditions in Lexington before and after the Civil Rights Movement. One of the goals of the project is to provide greater access to the stories these women have to tell; stories that were often overlooked by traditional mainstream media sources. (For more information on this project, check out Randolph’s blog post here.)

Indexing is the process of making an oral history interview more accessible to users through the addition of searchable keywords, subjects, summaries, and other information. This enables users to locate points of interest within an interview, saving them the time it would take to listen to the interview in its entirety. Indexers use OHMS, the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, a system which allows textual information to be assigned to audio or video recordings at a fraction of the cost of creating transcripts. (For more information on the OHMS system please visit www.OralHistoryOnline.org.)

Screenshot 2014-11-10 16.27.08

 

To index an interview, an indexer listens to the interview, breaking it down into 5-10 minute segments based on common topics. Each segment is given a title based on the topics covered. Within these segments keywords and subjects are chosen based upon the topics covered in the segment and upon the interviewee’s own words. The indexer writes a summary for each segment, informing the users of the content of each section. Additional information, such as GPS coordinates, links to other websites, and partial transcripts may also be added, depending on the needs of the project.

Screenshot 2014-11-10 16.21.46

Beginning to index a new oral history project is usually the most difficult part. It takes time to learn and understand the purpose, tone, and topic of the project. Sometimes the best place to start is by listening to an interview to get a feel for the types of questions asked, the main subjects of the interviews, and the pace or structure of the interview. Though these can vary between interviews within the same collection, the interviews generally follow a similar pattern and it can be useful to listen to one interview to get a feel for the entire collection. While listening to the interview I like to write down important words or phrases that the interviewee uses, the main topics of the interview, and any keywords or subjects that I think may repeat throughout the collection. From this list I can begin creating my keywords thesaurus and my subjects thesaurus. The keywords thesaurus is generally less formal and is made up of names, places, and other topics mentioned in the interview. The subjects thesaurus is made up of Library of Congress approved subject headings. These are generally more broad and cover the overarching topics within the interview. As I listen to more interviews within the collection I add the new keywords and subjects for each interview to the list, while also checking each interview’s content against the existing list. This ensures that I am using the same version of a word throughout all interviews within a collection, maintaining consistency for users.

For the Blacks in Lexington project I also added GPS coordinates to many of the segments. These coordinates allow users to see a map of the locations mentioned within the segment, for instance the Lyric Theater, or the Charles Young Community Center. This gives users a better sense of the community discussed within the interview. This collection in particular has been challenging in regard to locations due to the fact that the landscape of Lexington, especially the East End area, has changed greatly over the years. In a future post here I will be chronicling these challenges and my efforts to find maps depicting the streets of Lexington from the 1940s to the present.

As this project progresses I am learning more about my hometown of Lexington as well as some of the people who have lived and made history here and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with everyone at the KYWCRH.

 

Award winning website: resource on Anne Braden

October 20, 2014 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Oral history, Political history

In April 2012 at Kentucky’s District 3 finals for National History Day, Katy Campbell and Nick Tehrani from the Academy for Individual Excellence in Louisville won first place for their website: “Anne Braden: Advocate, Radical, and Revolutionary.”

The website opens with a slideshow and a recording of “Anne Braden” by the Flobots, an American rock and hip hop musical group from Colorado (the Flobots online radio segment “White Flag Warrior” is available free at Jango) – you can see the powerful lines of the song at AZ Lyrics.

Anne Braden

Click image above to go to the students’ award-winning website on Anne Braden

The website contains the following segments:

  • Young Life
  • Escape Route
  • The Wade Case
  • Continued Activism
  • Legacy
  • Media
  • Credits

This is a terrific resource for young readers and highly recommended by Dr. Cate Fosl, director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research in Louisville.

New Project in the Works – Indexing Oral History Interviews of Black Women in Lexington

July 25, 2014 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Economic history, Oral history, Political history, Primary source, Religious history, Social history

SPOKEdb logoGood news alert! The Kentucky Oral History Commission of the Kentucky Historical Society has awarded us funding for a project to index the oral history interviews from the “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project.” The interviews will be placed in the Oral History Metadata Synchonizer (OHMS) of the Oral History Collection Management System here at the University of Kentucky. After the interviews are indexed in OHMS, geo-tagging linked to the digitized segments of the oral histories will provide an important digital humanities geo-spatial component to these resources. They will be viewable via the ExploreUK Kentucky Digital Library.

About the interviews

The women who contributed their voices to the collection of “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project” come from all walks of life. Their ages and backgrounds are highly diverse, providing a sort of prototype for a good micro-history of Kentucky in the twentieth century. The interviewers for this whole collection are highly regarded educators and oral historians whose work in the 1970s and ‘80s even up to the present day. The oral historians, Ann Grundy, Edward Owens, Emily Parker, Gerald Smith, and George C. Wright are respected local community activists, scholars and authors. The resulting interviews are nuanced in ways that evoke strong passion for the role of place and community in history, and the questions based in a strong historiographical methodology worth raising up for others to learn from them.

Similar to other twentieth century local history collections, this series has a wide scope of perspectives and serves as a good sampling of the many different types of backgrounds and occupations of the interviewees. However, Lexington’s history has traditionally been written from the perspective of its men – or at least a male-dominated political history. This project will use selected interviews from this collection to provide access to a unique and valuable overview of twentieth century Lexington from a female perspective. Most all of the women in this collection were wage earners and a solid majority of the interview time is voiced by women professionals: educators, clerks, administrators and managers, librarians, nurses and dentists, social workers and politicians. Several women represent the entrepreneurs and technical workers that fuel a thriving local economy: beauticians, cooks, housekeepers, and even a “Dorm mother” at a residence hall at UK. A few well-to-do women are identified as homemakers and a couple of women explain their views on Lexington from their work as a pastor’s wife.

This collection of interviews is an important component of statewide documentation of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Interviewees in this collection are typically older than those women whose interviews are archived at the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) and made accessible by the Online Media Database and the Kentucky Educational Television website. By providing greater access to these interviews from Lexingtonians, a more balanced narrative (not just highly publicized events in Louisville) could expand the scope of the evidence presented in published scholarly monographs such as the highly useful book Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky, edited by Catherine Fosl and Tracy K’Meyer (University Press of Kentucky, 2009).

Out of 189 oral history interviews (a total of 194.25 interview hours) in the UK Oral History collection, “Blacks in Lexington Oral History Project,” only 56 were of women. Those interviews, while less than a third of the total collection however, made up nearly half of the total interview time (almost 64 hours or 3,832 interview minutes). The interviews average 68 minutes (from one as short as 10 minutes to one as long as 180 minutes). Only 9 of the interviews’ audio are in poor condition.

Women Interviewees, Occupation

Viola Greene, Teacher
Marilyn Gaye, Civil rights activist
Virginia McDonald, Librarian
Alvinia Newell, Dentist
Ann Miller, Teacher
Kay and Reverend Lamont Jones, Pastor’s wife
Ella Bosley, unknown
Abby Marlatt, Professor
Lulla Riffe, unknown
Faustina Cruise, unknown
Roberta Laine, Teacher
Estelle Tatman, Community activist
Mattie Jackson, Teacher
Mary D. Muir, Laundress
Mary Jones, Pastor’s wife
Mary Porter, unknown
Grace Cooper, Community Center Director
Laura Wendell Moore and Clara Wendell Stitt, Homemakers
Lillie Yates, unknown
Anna McCann, unknown
Helen Noble, Teacher
Sadie Reid Brown, Homemaker
Dorothy Pumphrey, Teacher
Bettye Simpson, Social worker
Loretta Nickens, Teacher
Wilhelmina Hunter, unknown
Mattie Johnson Gray, unknown
Elizabeth R. Harris, unknown
Patricia R. Spencer Laine, Beautician
Joanna Offutt Childress, Teacher
Laura Wendell Moore, unknown
Mrs. Charles Chenault Jones, Teacher
Grace Potter Carter, Cook
Virginia Hawkins Anderson, Housekeeper
Jennie Bibbs Didlick, Principal
Grace Grevious Coleman, Teacher
Florence Young, unknown
Verna Bales Williams Clark, Teacher
Frances A. Smallwood, Nurse
Dorothy McCoy Cooper, Principal
Ann Brewer Black, Teacher
Edythe Larcena Jones Hayes, Teacher
Delores Vinegar Oderinde, unknown
Cordie Wilkerson Briggs, Hotel Laundry Manager
Charlie Mae Brooks, Switchboard operator
Edna Unson Carr, Dorm mother at UK
Ruby Ragsdale Morris Benberry, Teacher
Sophia Dotson Smith, Teacher
Susie E. White, Beautician
Georgia Montgomery Powers, Politician
Helen Route Smith, Housekeeper
Elizabeth Parker Thomas, Teacher
Daisy Carolyn Bishop, Notary Public
Virginia Case Shelby, Housekeeper
Katherine Hardin Rollins, Teacher
Mary Edna Page Berry, Dental assistant
Additions to the collection since 1990:
Evelyn Livisay
Madeline C. Jones
Harriet B. Haskins
Elizabeth Beatty
Ann Hunter
Elenora L. Smith
Annie B. Coleman
Lillian B. Gentry
Alice J. Alexander
Martha L. Edwards
Eula Tatman
Sandra Richardson
Lilia Garrison
Mrs. Sidney Bell Johnson

What’s Happening Next?

I’m partnering with the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History to get the digitization and indexing done, and I am glad to bring Danielle Gabbard on board as the indexer. Ms. Gabbard will be blogging here about her work as she goes, so you can follow along too as the work progresses.

Midway Woman’s Club records – an update

March 19, 2014 in Oral history, Research methods

Photo of the home to the Midway Woman's Club

Midway Woman’s Club

 

With gratitude to Reinette Jones of the UK Libraries and hearty congratulations to my former UK History students Angelia Pulley, Kyle Shaw, and Brad Wexler, I am proud to announce that the finding aid for Midway Woman’s Club records they helped to collect during their service learning project now is available for viewing on ExploreUK.

You can view their project, “Midway Woman’s Club and the ‘Better Community’ Project,” including original oral history interviews and images from their work on the Club’s archives at http://www.kywcrh.org/voices/midway.

Angelia Pulley, Kyle Shaw, Brad Wexler

(l-r) Angelia, Kyle, Brad presented their findings on the Midway Woman’s Club at their winter holiday meeting, Dec 2010

 

AAUW Community Action Grant proposal features KYWCRH.org Open Knowledge Initiative

January 23, 2014 in 1960s-1970s, Oral history, Research methods

AAUW logoAfter several weeks of planning and creating new partnerships here in central Kentucky, I submitted an AAUW Community Action Grant for 2014 that features our KYWCRH.org initiative. The title of the proposal nearly tells the whole story (it’s long enough, anyway):

Empowering Girls in Central KY with Digital Humanities and Writing Wikipedia Code: Women’s History and the 1964 March on Frankfort for Civil Rights

Here’s the list of partners who wrote letters in support of the proposal:

When the project moves forward, it is exciting to know that it is likely that there will be many more organizations and people involved.

The aim of this proposal is to engage women and girls in researching, collecting and recording women’s civil rights history in Kentucky. In support of the Fayette County Race, Community & Child Welfare initiative, the proposal builds on the commemoration of the 1964 March on Frankfort by spotlighting the work of Kentucky women in that event – before and after. The target audience is 10 families whose teenaged girls are/were part of the Fayette Co. child welfare system. The partner organizations will recruit those who are African-American/Black or Hispanic/Latino or mixed race to work together on oral history and multi-media projects. The girls, together with one or more family member, will partner with University of Kentucky undergraduate female students to learn about their community’s leaders and strategies undertaken by politically active citizens and organizations to improve the quality of life for all.  In brief, the proposed program will rely on collaboration among the above partners in these four major components:

  1. Learning about Kentucky women’s history in the context of the 1964 March on Frankfort (for desegregation of public accommodations and the implementation of fair housing laws) through a series featuring Kentucky civil rights activists and oral history projects.
  2. Orientation and training in appropriate use of research resources and digital media for creative digital storytelling and for the development of general knowledge articles on women in Wikipedia. Learning how to find and use community resources and government documents crucial for our citizens to use in life-long learning and for self-empowerment.
  3. Training in and applying skills in basic coding languages used commonly in creating webpages and social media – HyperText Markup Language (HTML) – for the KYWCRH.org site and the markup coding used in creating effective Wikipedia pages. A Kentucky WikiMeetup will allow for the teams to work with experienced Wikipedia editors.
  4. Developing skills in civic leadership and college/career readiness modeled by local community members in partnership with higher education students and faculty.

CKCPJ and the Lexington-Fayette NAACP branch will collaborate to offer a series of community-based lectures, films and neighborhood walks on KY civil rights history and women’s roles. The Project Director will work with the UK Nunn Center to prepare and train project members in how to conduct oral history interviews (to be digitally archived in the OHMS database) and with MATRIX staff at MSU to teach UK undergraduates and their partner teams to create multimedia projects showcased in a redesigned KYWCRH.org Open Knowledge Initiative. The celebratory showcase will not only celebrate the project teams’ work but also increase the visibility of AAUW-KY’s contributions toward achieving educational opportunities and equitable resources for women and girls.

The proposed timeline is for the program to begin in Summer 2014 and conclude by the end of the school year in Spring 2015:

Summer 2014: 10 girls aged 13-17 selected from a pool of applicants recruited from the Fayette Co. RCCW target audience. Lexington NAACP and CKCPJ plan a community-based series (lectures, films, neighborhood-walks) by experts in civil rights activism, history and racism in the U.S.  The series is recorded and posted on KYWCRH.org – which will be updated and redesigned courtesy of MATRIX at Michigan State. The families involved in the project will be encouraged to ask for reimbursements to reoup costs for childcare and food costs to attend project-related activities as well as transportation to conduct oral history interviews, to work with the UK undergraduate students while research or working on multimedia projects at the University, or other required meetings with the project director.

Fall 2014: UK offers EXP396 (Experiential Education) and faculty oversee learning contracts for each of the 10 undergraduate females recruited. UK students will be trained in the use of the oral history interviewing equipment available from the UK Libraries Oral History Department. Also in the UK Libraries for students are the PresentationU and Media Depot @ the Hub which support the students and community partners as they build their Wikipedia articles and multimedia projects showcased on KYWCRH.org Open Knowledge Initiative. The educational series and training meetings with the project teams will take place at The Plantory (in Lexington’s East End neighborhood) or Imani Family Center (north of Lexington) during the Fall and Spring. The project partners will also journey to the Kentucky State Capital to visit the Kentucky Commission on Women offices and to view the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit. The families and their undergraduate mentors will take the free School of Open course (either self-paced or live webinar sessions) on Wikipedia. Basic training in coding and publishing in Wikipedia will accompany skillbuilding exercises in how to find and analyze general resources in the community and government documents crucial for citizens to use for self-empowerment.

Spring 2015: The oral history interview digital files are processed by the Nunn Oral History Center staff and indexed for use by the project teams and community in the OMHS data repository. A Wiki-Meetup allows the teams to work on their entries in a face-to-face setting with experienced Wikipedia editors. The project teams are invited by the UK Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education to present their digital media projects in April at the UK Undergraduate Research Showcase. The AAUW Bluegrass Central Branch hosts a celebratory showcase event and highlights specific projects via social media.

 

 

Wrapping up the Semester

April 30, 2013 in Oral history, Social history

Picture of Suzy Post

Suzy Post

As the semester comes to an end, I can’t believe all of the work I have done and the knowledge I have gained. To look back and see the wonderful pieces that my classmates and I have accomplished, is incredible. I have truly learned so much about the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky and the women who participated in it. Finding out about what the women that were apart of this Movement did and how influential they were, was something I wouldn’t have gained anywhere else.

My partner and I are finishing up our final project on Suzy Post, and are working hard on making sure that all of the details are there. After being able to interview Ms. Post, we wanted to make sure that we covered all of the major points in her life, the organizations she was apart of, and the great significance that she made towards the Movement in Louisville. She was a truly remarkable woman.

In order to do this, we are putting the final touches on our webpage that focuses on the important organizations that she contributed to as well as other aspects of her life. We have pages dedicated to her Civil Rights activism, work with the women’s movement, involvement in the anti-war movement, and her family life. We are so excited to get all of the information out and allow everyone to see how wonderful a woman she truly is.

 

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“Civil Rights Movement.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Apr. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_rights_movement. 30 Apr. 2013.

“Suzy Post.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Feb. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzy_Post. 30 Apr. 2013.

“Suzy Post, Hall of Fame 2007.” Kentucky: Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. http://kchr.ky.gov/hof/halloffame2007.htm?&pageOrder=0&selectedPic=10. 30 Apr. 2013.

The Work is Far From Over

April 28, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history, Oral history, Social history

The end of the semester has finally arrived and our final project on Audrey Grevious has been posted (http://www.kywcrh.org/projects/kchr-hall-of-fame/grevious). Without question, I thought rather pessimistically about our contributions to this project for most of the semester. Consistently, I thought in terms of quantity rather than quality in consideration of how much (or rather how little) information we were able to gather about Grevious. While our investigations and connections seemed less than successful at times, I have come to realize that our work has indeed been significant. I have learned SO much about Audrey Grevious and the movement in its entirety throughout this process and also hope that I have helped illuminate her life for others conducting similar research.

After utilizing the internet, texts, and most importantly, oral history interviews, I have observed the transformation of history and its record in just a period of 50 short years. The work my class has done this semester has been incredible – listening to the experiences of brave women, reading and analyzing literature about their lives, and even meeting them personally to record new history. I have never been more impressed with the success of a class.

Something I found very interesting from one of Audrey Grevious’ interviews that I studied closely was the following quote:

“And I feel like the generation now have lost out on that sort of thing. There’s not that closeness. There’s not that interweaving of cultures, of friendships, of anything.”

While this may be true from her perspective, from what I’ve gathered through all our research, today’s generation is better connected and more intertwined than ever. In examining the stories and backgrounds of students in our class alone, the sensitivity of our generation is ever increasing thus constantly embracing cultural difference and promoting friendships every day.

Nearing the End

April 22, 2013 in 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Oral history, Primary source, Social history

Viola Davis Brown at graduation in 1959

As the semester winds down rapidly, I am working vigorously on two projects regarding amazing women of Kentucky. The first, my article on Viola Davis Brown, has been published to Wikipedia. Fortunately, unlike many of my classmates, I have had the wonderful opportunity to share my work with Mrs. Brown herself and request feedback from her. Mrs. Brown was extremely enthusiastic to review my article and was very appreciative of the work my class is doing. Mrs. Brown’s unique achievements in the field of medical education in Lexington, Kentucky deserve recognition and thus I was extremely proud to share her story with the Wikipedia community. Although members of the community will continue to review and edit my contribution, I am also working with Mrs. Brown to clarify any details crucial to her life and accomplishments. Mrs. Brown has sent me small facts to change or incorporate as additional information. Furthermore, Mrs. Brown gave me permission to add a photo to the article, which further strengthens its credibility and value in the Wikipedia community.

View the Wikipedia article I published on Viola Davis Brown here.

                My second project, a web project on the life and work of 2012 Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame inductee Audrey Grevious, is progressing very well. My partner and I have been compiling the research we have gathered throughout the semester to provide a guide to the life and accomplishments of Audrey Grevious. Because we have not been able to gather significant amounts of new, original information about Grevious, we are organizing all the resources available on the web and in print that feature her. Many of these resources include oral history interviews which serve as perhaps the best resource for individuals looking to gain a perspective on the civil rights movement in Kentucky. While the resources are crucial, we are struggling to group the information appropriately on project pages because it is all very interrelated. We are building context around Grevious’ work via locations and events addressed in oral history interviews but also want to incorporate what already exists about her life.

Meeting Suzy Post

April 22, 2013 in Oral history, Primary source, Social history

Picture of Suzy Post

Suzy Post

For the project that I am doing for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, my partner and I wanted to do an oral history interview with Suzy Post, who are project is focused on. After contacting her, we set up a time to interview and began anticipating what to expect for the interview. However, my partner and I got much more than just an oral history interview. We ended up hanging out with Ms. Post and truly seeing how passionate she was about the issues that she is known so well for fighting for.

When we went to interview Ms. Post, she told us that she had several things to do and asked if we would like to come along with her. We agreed and were able to experience many things that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. We first went to a memorial service for Ruth Booker Bryant, a woman who worked with Ms. Post during the Civil Rights Movement. While at the service, we were able to meet many other people who worked during the Civil Rights Movement, see their enthusiasm towards the project that we are doing and the influence that the Movement had on so many people. It was amazing to be able to see how alive the movement still is and how involved so many people are in it.

After the service, Ms. Post, my partner, and I all went out to dinner. Here we were able to talk to Ms. Post outside of the context of an oral history interview. We were able to see her views on current and past issues, how she was still involved in working to end these issues, her advice to younger activists, and able to simply just get to know her. It was incredible to see her point of view and how passionate she is about everything that she has and is fighting for. Finally we returned to her home and she showed us some newspaper clippings, letters, pamphlets, and brochures that she wrote or was mentioned in. It was extraordinary how involved she was in the community and how many people she was able to affect by her actions.

It was absolutely fantastic being able to get to know such an incredible woman, who has done so much for the community of Louisville and for all of the movements that she was involved in. She is a remarkable person who has so much to offer. I can definitely say that I learned far more than what I ever bargained for and wouldn’t change that experience for anything. Suzy Post is a truly outstanding woman who I had the honor of spending an entire day with.

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“Civil Rights Movement.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

“Hall of Fame 2007.” Kentucky: Kentucky Commission on Human Rights -. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

“Kentucky: Kentucky Commission on Human Rights – Home.” Kentucky: Kentucky Commission on Human Rights – Home. N.p., n.d.          Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

“Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.” Notable Kentucky African Americans. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

“Suzy Post.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

An Unsung Hero

April 22, 2013 in 1950s-1960s, Oral history, Social history

Recently, granestrella and I finished reading transcripts for two oral histories from Audrey Grevious. We have already found information about her on various websites, a few old newspaper articles from the Herald–Leader, and some books we have been reading for class. Thus far, we haven’t had much luck finding pictures of Ms. Grevious, but I was able to get in contact with the archivist for the old Dunbar High School, who gave me an old freshman year yearbook photo. Now, we are working on indexing her oral histories to make it easier to find specific topics and gathering our information to put on the webpage.

This whole semester, it has been a struggle to find more information from Audrey’s childhood. A lot of the information we found was more recent, talking about how the Herald-Leader apologized for not covering the civil rights movement while it was going on. I think this made it difficult to get details because there was little coverage of the civil rights in Lexington. Grevious did work for a local African American newspaper called the Town Crier, but we were unable to find old issues.

I believe that Audrey Grevious’s obscurity and the difficulty in finding information about her further deepens the need for her recognition. By creating this webpage, we hope to create a mechanism for which people desiring to learn more about civil rights in Lexington can use for further insight. It could also create a forum for those who did not have a place to talk about their experiences during the civil rights in Lexington. The webpage can help to create ties within the community, while providing knowledge about an unsung hero who deserves all the attention we can give her.