USM's Oral History and Cultural Heritage host launch of NEH project

USM's Oral History and Cultural Heritage host launch of NEH project

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi. 

One of the most important collections of oral histories based on the civil rights movement is housed in The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage (COHCH). Because of its significance, the Center was awarded a grant from the National Endowment of Humanities (NEH) in 2014 to digitize more than 425 of the interviews that spotlight a transformational period in Mississippi and American history.

On Tuesday, April 12 the COHCH will formally launch the NEH project "The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi: Providing Access at the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer." The event is set for 5 p.m. at the African-American Military History Museum, located at 305 E. Sixth St. in downtown Hattiesburg, and will be hosted by the COHCH along with the Department of History, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and the Center for the Study of the Gulf South.

The COHCH received the funding in May 2014 to make digitally available audio and text of the interviews that bring the voices of Mississippi's Civil Rights workers' struggle for racial justice to life. The College of Arts and Letters, Southern Miss Libraries, Department of History and USM's iTech will be recognized at the event for their efforts to support the project.

Hayden McDaniel, a doctoral student in history at Southern Miss from Dothan, Ala. who serves as manager for the project, says she believes it can serve as a model for similar collections.

"Oral histories were once relegated to tapes and transcripts in the back rooms of archives, hopeful that someone retained a cassette or reel-to-reel player in order to access the original content," McDaniel said.

"But now, digital humanities and technological advances are altering that landscape, and those methods help us to make our collections accessible, driving traffic to and emphasizing the importance of the COHCH," she said. "Hopefully, the rest of our collection of over 4,000 interviews will one day be available online."

The Southern Miss COHCH's overall collection, which began in 1971, is considered one of the largest in the South with interviews on a wide range of topics. It is managed by the Department of History and is a resource for academic researchers and the general public alike. Interviews from its collection can be heard on Mississippi Public Broadcasting's radio program "Mississippi Moments." Mississippi Moments is also a podcast available for download anytime from the Center's website, by visiting its podcast page at, or liking the Center's Facebook page.

"In keeping with the mission of the NEH, next week's project launch will only be the beginning of an ongoing mission to continue making our collections easily accessible and available to all who want to learn about our state and beyond," said Dr. Kevin Greene, who along with Dr. Heather Stur serves as co-director of the COCH. "The Center is honored to be a part of such great work."  Both Greene and Stur are members of the USM Department of History faculty.

"Our civil rights collections are a gold mine for anyone interested not only in the ways in which the movement played out in Mississippi, but also the impact of Mississippi civil rights activism on national and even international movements for civil and human rights," said Dr. Stur. "The NEH grant has allowed our staff to make these crucial voices more easily available to the public and researchers throughout the world."

For more information on this event, contact McDaniel Learn more about the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage by clicking here.