Interviews and Associated Materials, 1881-2004, bulk 1993-1995

Scope and content:

In the summers of 1993, 1994, and 1995, and from 1996-2004, Behind the Veil (BTV) project staff and others conducted over 1300 unique oral history interviews with African Americans throughout the Southern U.S. and in a few other regions. The bulk of the interviews were carried out from 1993 to 1995. Earlier dates represent historical images associated with certain interviewees. Dates after 1995 represent additional interviews contributed to the project chiefly through college students taking oral history classes taught by Robert Korstad and Paul Ortiz. Originally recorded by BTV staff on audiocassettes, the interviews have been digitized and are available as audio files. All other interview-related materials will also be digitized. Please note that digitization is ongoing as of summer 2022, and some portions of the collection are not yet available in digital format or may be closed to use. These oral histories document the Black experience during the Jim Crow era, roughly from the 1890s to the 1950s. Frequently discussed topics include family histories and genealogy, child rearing, neighborhood life, education, work, religious life, black-owned businesses, local political activities, civic organizations, segregation and racism, violence against Black people, women's experiences, and local cultures. Administrative files accompany almost all the interviews and can include detailed biographical data forms, interview notes and summaries, and sometimes a few pieces of donated family papers and memorabilia. An administrative folder can represent either a group of persons or a single individual. A smaller subset of approximately 300 interviews in this collection also come with full or partial transcripts created by Behind the Veil staff, available as digital files. Finally, some interviewees and/or their families donated historic photographs, photograph albums, documents, print materials, and other items to be imaged by Behind the Veil photographers at the interview sites. The original materials were then returned to the donor. If there are slides associated with an interview, they are listed with their associated interview entry in this collection guide. Altogether, 1691 slide images are available in this interviews series. Most of the interview sessions were conducted by one or two Behind the Veil staff in a private residence with one person or two people, often a married couple or two siblings; there are also interview recordings in which one can hear additional people in the room making side comments. There are about a dozen larger group interviews usually associated with a family or local club; these were often held in schools, libraries, and community centers. The entry for each person associated with an interview also offers biographical data recorded by BTV interviewers that may include date of birth, place of birth, residence, and present and past occupations, when known. The interviews typically lasted at least one or two hours, but could also last much longer and were sometimes conducted over several days. They were recorded on audiocassettes which have been digitized. The over 600 color photographs in slide (694) and photo print (156) format listed at the end of some regional series were taken by Behind the Veil staff in the locales where the interviews were being conducted. The largest groups tend to be from 1993-1995, and include areas in Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and a later group is from Kentucky. Negatives are often present, and have been housed separately for preservation purposes. There are many snapshots of the interviewees, often in their homes and with family members and BTV staff. Other images were taken by staff during walking tours with informants and interviewers; these offer views of historic and contemporary sites significant to the informants, such as African American cemeteries, churches, schools, and community centers. Captions are lacking with a few exceptions.


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Collection restrictions:

Access note. Collection contains audiovisual formats that may need to be reformatted before use. Contact Research Services for access.

Access note. Some materials in this collection are electronic records that require special equipment. Contact Research Services with questions.

Access note. Collection contains fragile materials such as film negatives that may require extra assistance from staff. Contact Research Services for access.

Use & permissions:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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