40 Years of the Southern Oral History Program

Jacquelyn Hall interviewing Guy and Guion Johnson

SOHP founder Jacquelyn Dowd hall interviewing Guy and Guion Johnson, 1974.

From its founding in 1973, the Southern Oral History Program has explored the history and culture of the American South by talking to its people: activists, politicians, educators, laborers, innovators, business leaders, and more. The South in our oral histories is a diverse place where communities push for or confront change; where unlikely coalitions form; where histories need telling. Over the past four decades, the SOHP has expanded in exciting, unpredictable ways, but our core mission has not changed: research, teaching, and community engagement.

As we reflect on forty years of work, we also look to the future and to the ways that digital innovation, along with the energy of our undergraduate and graduate students and the creativity of our community partners, will continue to propel the study of the South forward. Our archive now boasts over 5,300 oral histories. Our mission remains to learn about the South from people who lived it and to capture history from the bottom up so that it can’t be forgotten. Some of the SOHP’s earliest oral histories documented southern women activists and southern politicians, and these two projects reflect what we are still aiming to capture—both the voices of leaders and innovators who have a wide public audience and those who work to make a difference in their communities without the spotlight.

This exhibit explores the Southern Oral History Program’s rich history and showcases the ways in which we have always been, and continue to be, on the cutting edge of research, teaching, and community engagement. Join us as we continue to make scholarship relevant, accessible, and essential for understanding the world in which we live.