Director’s Message: An Invitation to Support SPOHP!

Thanks to your continued support, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program continues to impact the lives of more students and members of the general public than ever. Our just-concluded national African American Oral History Symposium, where we unveiled the Joel Buchanan Archive of African American Oral History, attracted more than three hundred individuals from all walks of life. Even as I write this, SPOHP is gearing up for our annual Mississippi Freedom Trip. Former students continue to contact us to share how this trip changed their lives. Alumni of MFP are now lawyers, labor organizers, doctors—among other professions—and they cite their time interviewing civil rights veterans as being a defining moment in their decision to dedicate their lives to social justice and equity. Your generosity allows this program to thrive and to grow. Stop by and visit us anytime.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the Proctor Program and to oral history!

Sincerely Yours,

Paul Ortiz

About the Program

The award-winning Samuel Proctor Oral History Program has served as the oral history program of the University of Florida since 1967. Our mission today is to gather, preserve, and promote living histories of individuals from all walks of life. Oral history puts students in direct dialogue with people who have changed the world. SPOHP emphasizes rigorous collaborative research, civic engagement, and digital technology that makes history accessible, democratic, and fun. In the last 50 years, we have conducted over 8,000 interviews. SPOHP is committed to engaging in the scholarly and educational life of the University of Florida and our state, as well as the broader world through public history programs, academic conferences, and scholarly collaborations.

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Introducing the Joel Buchanan Archive

The recently-announced Joel Buchanan archive includes all of the African American oral history interviews archived at SPOHP. The interviews in the collection span from the early 1970s through to the present, and include the voices of hundreds of African American elders and community members from throughout Florida—including counties such as Alachua, Marion, St. Johns, Levy, Gadsden, Taylor, Leon, Jefferson, Jackson, Lee, Miami-Dade, Bradford, Hamilton, Putnam, and Columbia—as well as in the wider United States. The archive also holds the 300+ interviews collected on our annual Mississippi Freedom Project trip, spanning not only the Delta region but also parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. Over 700 of these interviews are currently available online at online below.

We named the collection after the intrepid Gainesville historian and community activist Joel Buchanan because these interviews emerge from his legacy, and we saw the need to honor him as we follow in his footsteps.

Recapping Our Symposium

We live-streamed this symposium for all of our SPOHP supporters unable to join us in person and those hoping to re-watch our excellent panels and screenings. We invite you to click below to select and watch any portion of this symposium you'd like! Continue scrolling for a written recap of each day of this conference.

Day 1

On March 21st, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program hosted the 2019 symposium, From Segregation to Black Lives Matter, with over 300 people in attendance and many more live streaming the day’s panels and discussions.

University of Florida President, Kent Fuchs; University Provost, Joe Glover; Reda Buchanan; Director of the African American Studies Program at the University of Florida, Sharon Austin; and Director of SPOHP Paul Ortiz were on hand to open the symposium and the Joel Buchanan archive.

During the day, symposium participants had the opportunity to attend various sessions, including: Conducting the Oral Histories: Challenges, Impacts, and Legacies; The Difference History Makes: Veterans, Classrooms, Community, and Museum & Virtually. There was also a screening of “Gator Tales” – an original play focusing on the experience of the first generations of African American students at UF.

We ended the day with a presentation by Professor Curtis Austin from the University of Oregon who gave an enlightening keynote address on the real history of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense using oral histories.

“Dr. Austin’s presentation was eye-opening. As a student in the College of Journalism at UF, it was sobering to learn what a crucial role the media played in demonizing the Black Panther Party by conspiring with the FBI to discredit the labor of the Black Power Movement.”

-Aliya Miranda

Day 2

The second day of the symposium began with a welcoming address by Florida State Representative Clovis Watson (District 20). College of Liberal Arts and Science Dean David Richardson followed with the exciting announcement that UF has authorized four new faculty searches in African American Studies in the upcoming year!

Next was a panel of friends and colleagues of Joel Buchanan’s who shared their memories of him and their reflections on his legacy. Some of the memories were of Joel personally, while others recalled his efforts more publicly as a historian, an archivist, and a community activist. Panelists included Evelyn Foxx, Rodney Long, Bernie Machen, Judith Russell, Steve Noll, Marna Weston, Faye Williams, and Sam Taylor. Afterwards, Dean Russell, Stephanie Birch, and Laurie Taylor of the UF Libraries officially unveiled the online collections.

Three students from Columbia University’s Oral History Master’s Program traveled to Gainesville to participate in the symposium. Benji de la Piedra shared his thoughts on the second day of the symposium:

“As I am now approaching my fourth year of work on African American oral history in Little Rock, and preparing to take up the mantle of oral history education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) in Spring 2020, I have been asking myself incessantly since the symposium started: How can we replicate this model, documenting the life and community histories of African American elders, in Arkansas? And how might a project in Arkansas learn from, or even partner directly with, SPOHP’s fieldwork activities in Florida and the Mississippi Delta?”

Day 3

The third day of the symposium was held in the A. Quinn Jones Center auditorium, which was the auditorium of the original Lincoln High School.

A panel from Ocoee started the program, featuring Kathleen Crown, Nichole Dawkins, Mayor Rusty Johnson, and William E. Maxwell, with Edward Gonzalez-Tennant moderating. Following their presentation, symposium attendees enjoyed Delia’s Catering, and then a presentation by Albert White describing the legacy and significance of Lincoln High School.

Julian Chambliss shared the story of the documentary film in progress on the remarkable history of Oscar Mack, previously presumed to be a 1922 lynching victim in Kissimmee, but who we now know survived and escaped to the north, where he lived under an assumed name for the rest of his life. The presentation closed with Oscar Mack’s descendants: Vanessa Bonner sang, and her brother James Brown gave an address on racial unity that was rooted in the legacy of his family’s struggle.

Lastly, Marna Weston, the founding graduate student of SPOHP’s African American History Project, introduced the final speaker, Larry Rivers, who showcased his oratorical skills in delivering the closing remarks.

What’s Next for the Joel Buchanan Archive?

We are currently working with the UF Libraries to digitize the older Black history collections at SPOHP. In addition, we are currently arranging to conduct new interviews in different parts of North Florida; create short documentaries on topics such as the Civil Rights Movement, wild plant harvesting, and individuals like Barbara Higgins and Oscar Mack; and produce lesson plans so the Buchanan Archive materials are usable and accessible to K-12 teachers—to give just a few examples of our plans for next steps.

Upcoming SPOHP Social Justice Internships

SUMMER C 2019 Internship in Social Justice: Truth, Reconciliation and the Archive

(AFA 4940, 7D50)

This internship takes an analytical look at truth and reconciliation processes while conducting interviews that may play a role in current truth and reconciliation efforts in Alachua County. Both the County of Alachua and the City of Newberry seek to redress their enduring historical legacies of anti-Black violence, and interns will help to add the voices of African American elders to the archives speaking about their memories, experiences, and their hopes for the future.

Fall 2019 Internship in Social Justice

(AFA 4940, 01B4)

This internship will focus on social movements, activism, and organizing in Florida. Students can choose to focus on the US Civil Rights Movement, farmworker organizing, the Dream Defenders and/or the Black Lives Matter movement, and immigrant rights organizing. This is a methods-driven internship that draws on scholarship from Ethnic Studies, oral history, and decolonizing ethnography.

Fall 2019 Veterans History Project Internship

(HIS 4944)

This internship will focus on US military veterans and homefront experiences in different eras, from World War II to currently-enlisted personnel.

If you are interested in working or volunteering with us, please visit us in Pugh Hall or call the office during business hours at (352) 392-7168.

Mississippi Freedom Summer Trip

In August 2019, a team of student researchers will be traveling throughout the Mississippi Delta for the 12th annual Mississippi Freedom Project (MFP). MFP is an award-winning fieldwork initiative focused on interviewing Civil Rights Movement veterans and contemporary activists. Students will also have the opportunity to learn about the efforts of educators, labor organizers, and students to apply the lessons of the freedom movement in Mississippi to grassroots movements today. MFP weaves together experiential learning and digital humanities production as tools for research and individual growth. For example, one of the stops for this year’s trip is Montgomery, Alabama, where students will have the chance to visit the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum, “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration”, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. MFP is a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to form relationships with individuals and groups whose civil rights work has changed the course of history.

If you are interested in applying, applications will be due by June 23rd, 2019 at 11:59 PM and can be found via the link below:

Classroom Collaborations

In Spring 2019, our Poarch Creek Project coordinator Grace Chun conducted a workshop with Dr. Ingrid Kleespies’ “The Culture of the Cold War” class, and some of the students conducted interviews that became part of the SPOHP archives. Latinx Diaspora in the Americas Project (LDAP) coordinator Juanita Duque and Digital Humanities Coordinator Deborah Hendrix collaborated with Dr. Victor Jordán’s Culture and their Civilization of Spanish America course to translate and create abstracts for interviews with Spanish-speaking narrators in the LDAP collection.

SPOHP Project Updates

Asian American History Project

Annie Otto contributed an interview to the Asian American History project (ASAH) with sansei (3rd generation-Japanese American) Rodger Nogaki, an accomplished author and a survivor of the WWII-era Japanese concentration camps created through Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, in which the US forced Japanese-American citizens to leave their homes and live in substandard, isolated barracks.

PUNK Project

For our PUNK project, Aliya Miranda and Ryan Morini interviewed Celia Pérez, author of the acclaimed young adult novel The First Rule of Punk. Celia was kind enough to share some of her memories of growing up in South Florida, and becoming involved in Gainesville’s punk scene when she attended UF, among other topics.

Jews in El Salvador Project

The Jews in El Salvador Project presented a documentary at the Center for Latin American Studies 68th Annual Conference titled The History of the Jewish Community in El Salvador.

Poarch Creek Project

Since the start of 2019, the Poarch Creek Project Team has digitized around 400 tapes and transcribed over 50 audio files for the Poarch Creek Archives. We will be digitizing another 400 tapes and continuing to transcribe audio files to help archive the history surrounding the Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ federal recognition process in 1984.

Art of Aging Project

Dr. Mallory Otto, the Program Director of Geriatric Education at the UF College of Medicine has presented research at medical conferences showing that SPOHP’s Art of Aging program has substantially lessened ageism among medical students who interview elders about their life histories. We are training another group of medical students to interview area residents later this month.

Celebrating Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simons

This month we are celebrating the retirement of SPOHP friend and supporter, the wonderful Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, and hope to see even more of her in her soon-to-be copious free time! A former Fulbright fellow to Jordan who is fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, and a scholar with a research focus on Islamic law and its impact on Muslim women, Dr. Simmons is an amazing role model for young scholars. In addition, Dr. Simmons is a longtime civil rights activist and former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She spent 7 years working full-time on voter registration and desegregation in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama during the height of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Despite her many accomplishments, students find her to be very approachable, and have raved about getting to know Dr. Simmons, during the Mississippi Freedom fieldwork trip SPOHP organizes every summer.

Shout-out to Our Staff and Volunteers

From Segregation to Black Lives Matter involved over a year and a half of planning, meetings, tons of transcribing, phone calls, travel arrangements, hotel reservations, film production--and tasks too numerous to mention. SPOHP is grateful to Provost Joe Glover and the Office of the Provost for providing the resources to make this national symposium possible. Individuals traveled from New York, Michigan, Texas, Oregon and other places to join us.

The team of Columbia University Oral History Program scholars who joined us for all three days called the conference “a momentous occasion.” Benji de la Piedra, likened SPOHP’s approach to oral history as movement building: “This movement, I believe, is predicated on the idea that one Black community’s historical distinctiveness, when told in its fullness, can reveal truths that cut across lines of time, place, and demographics—the truths of an entire nation.”

The phenomenal success of the symposium was made possible by the dedication and enthusiasm of SPOHP students, staff, and volunteers.

Thank you to all who contributed time in helping with outreach, graphic design, day-of support for visitors, cleanup, parking assistance, food (and dessert!) preparation, photography, transportation, and for making the symposium a welcoming place for all.

The generosity of numerous colleges, centers and departments at UF made it possible for us to provide free parking, shuttle service as well as delicious food during the events.

The unveiling of the Joel Buchanan African American Oral History Archive was a success, but we could not have done it without our SPOHP Familia pulling together to make it happen!

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