About the Digital Collection
The Behind the Veil Oral History Project was undertaken by Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies from 1993 to 1995. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the primary purpose of this documentary project was to record and preserve the living memory of African American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to the 1950s. Over the span of three summers, teams of researchers conducted oral history interviews with more than one thousand elderly black southerners who remembered that period of legal segregation. The tapes and selected transcripts of the interviews in this collection capture the vivid personalities, poignant personal stories, and behind-the-scenes decision-making that bring to life the African American experience in the South during the late-19th to mid-20th century. It is the largest single collection of Jim Crow oral histories in the world.
Over three hundred of the interviews in the digital collection were conducted with North Carolina residents. The Charlotte and Enfield regions of North Carolina are especially represented in the collection; there are also many recordings from the Durham, James City, New Bern and Wilmington regions. The North Carolina recordings were all digitized as part of the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s project “Content, Context and Capacity: A Collaborative Large-Scale Digitization Project on the Long Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina.” Other collections from that project are also accessible as Duke digital collections.
The original interviews were recorded on audio-cassettes and the entire collection is housed in the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University. See Inventory of the Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South Records, 1940-1997 and undated (bulk 1993-1997).
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This digital collection comprises selected materials from the following archival collection at David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library:
Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South interviews, photographs, and project records circa 1864-2011, bulk 1990-1999
Collection #RL.00170 | 87 Linear Feet; 122 boxes; 4 oversize folders
The Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South project was undertaken by Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies from 1990-2005. Its goal was to record and preserve African American experiences in the American South from the 1890s to the 1950s. Materials in the Behind the Veil project collection date from about 1864 to 2011, with the bulk dating from the 1990s; earlier dates represent original image content rather than the reproduction date. The collection comprises over 1200 oral history interviews with associated transcripts and administrative files, several thousand historic and contemporary photographs, and project records, which include paper and electronic administrative files and audiovisual recordings. Oral histories were conducted in 19 locations, chiefly in the South; topics represented in these recordings include childhood, religion, education, politics, celebrations and other events, family histories, work histories and military service, and details about segregation and the effects of racism in the South. Acquired as part of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African American History and Culture at Duke University.
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