Since 1971, the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage at University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg has been collecting oral histories from people who were on the front lines of the civil rights and voting rights movements. The university recently received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize the oral histories and make them available to the public. At the present time, many of the oral histories are on reel-to-reel or cassette tapes.
Previously about 450 of the university’s oral histories have been digitized. With the new funding the university is expected to double the number of oral histories that will be available online at the Center’s website and through the Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive. The new funding will allow the university to digitally preserve an additional 332 audio interviews, index 160 interviews that were previously not transcribed, and publish 443 interviews to the university’s digital collections. The first oral histories that will be added to the digital archive are those involving Fannie Lou Hamer.
Steven R. Moser, dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Southern Mississippi, said that “the extraordinary research conducted by the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage is not only important to Southern Miss, making us a leading institution of preserving oral history and the study of the civil rights movement, but it is also important to the state of Mississippi and throughout the nation.”