1973 The Southern Oral History Program was founded with grants from the Z. Smith Reynolds and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundations, followed by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. In our early years, we launched many projects that we continue to pursue, including UNC history, southern politics, and women’s history and activism.

1979 The SOHP received a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant to study the industrial revolution in the South. We interviewed the first generation of southerners to move from farm to factory.

1987 The SOHP faculty and students wrote Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World, which was published by UNC Press. The book won an array of national prizes and is credited with doing just what we hoped it would do—make the study of the South’s working people a vibrant field of scholarship. Widely seen as a classic, Like a Family continues to inform new works and public history projects.

1994 With a major gift from the late Walter Davis, the Walter Royal Davis Oral History Fund was established. The gift launched a series of projects focusing on the tumultuous changes that have taken place in North Carolina since the Great Depression.


Jacquelyn Dowd Hall receives the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton, 1999.

1997 Another major grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation allowed us to launch Listening for a Change: North Carolina Communities in Transition. In this project, we experimented with ways to bring history to bear on current social problems and with how to improve the teaching of North Carolina history. Among other things, the project led to the publication of a new textbook on North Carolina history and a statewide institute designed to introduce teachers to the special power of oral history.

1999 The SOHP celebrated its 25th anniversary. In this year, the SOHP also merged with the Center for the Study of the American South, where it continues to reside. Founding SOHP director Jacquelyn Dowd Hall was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Bill Clinton.

2002 With aid from an anonymous donor, the SOHP launched the Long Civil Rights Movement project. This initiative put Carolina at the forefront of new approaches to the study of the Civil Rights Movement and the transformation of the South since the 1960s.


Poster for the Long Civil Rights Movement Conference, hosted by the SOHP in 2009. The LCRM project started in 2002, leads in new approaches to the study of the Civil Rights Movement and the transformation of the American South since the 1960s.

2006 The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded the SOHP and the UNC Library a $500,000 grant to digitize and publish online 500 oral history interviews. In Oral Histories of the American South, the SOHP developed cutting-edge technologies to provide convenient access to voices and stories that, taken together, reveal the everyday choices, vibrant characters, and dramatic events that make up the history of a rapidly changing region.

2008 Together with UNC Press, UNC Libraries, and the School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights, the SOHP received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement. This million-dollar project was inspired by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall’s 2004 Organization of American Historians presidential address and subsequent scholarship. The project promoted scholarly collaboration by designing new ways of creating and sharing work on the Long Civil Rights Movement.

2011 We began work on the Civil Rights History Project, funded by an act of Congress. The SOHP was selected to conduct 100 oral history interviews with civil rights leaders from across the country. The interviews are archived in the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress and will be featured in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

2013 The SOHP partnered with UNC’s Digital Innovation Lab to launch Mapping the Long Women’s Movement. This web-based, digital humanities project highlights interviews with women whose lives were shaped by the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and allows users to visualize and interact with oral histories, encouraging creativity and innovation in research. The SOHP also began work on Media and the Movement: Journalism, Civil Rights, and Black Power in the American South thanks to grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the North Carolina Humanities Council. Founding director Jacquelyn Hall retired in 2011. Della Pollock served as Interim Director, and in 2013 the SOHP welcomed Malinda Maynor Lowery as its Director.