History, Humanities, Community, and Justice in Alabama

Joaquin Holloway sits for an interview with Jada Jones and Ryan Morini.  National Endowment for the Humanities Seal


" The value of oral history lies largely in the way it helps to place people’s experiences within a larger social and historical context. The interview becomes a record useful for documenting past events, individual or collective experiences, and understandings of the ways that history is constructed."

 Oral History Association
“OHA Core Principles”
adopted October 2018

Our vision

In 2021 the McCall Library was awarded National Endowment for the Humanities funding for this project to address pandemic backlogs in the archives and to build archives infrastructure and capacity to sustain a program of Community Oral History, especially in under-represented communities in Mobile. This purpose resonates strongly with our mission to collect and preserve recorded evidence of the history of the people of South Alabama and to promote its use for original research. The McCall Library strives for inclusive representation of all segments of the population and actively pursues community partnerships to this end.

Co-Project Directors are: Dr. Kathy Cooke, Department of History and Deborah Gurt, Interim Director of the McCall Library. The McCall Library oral history team includes: Rachel Hines, in the Center for Archeological Studies; Dr. Kern Jackson, Director of the Program in African American Studies; Jada Jones, Library Technical Assistant II; and Dr. Ryan Morini, Director of Community Oral History Collections, Alisha Palmer with the Center for Archeological Studies, as well as numerous student interns.

Over the course of the project year we have reached several milestones in building oral history program infrastructure including:

Project milestones

  • Produced a Style Guide for the transcription of oral history interviews and mentored students in the art of interview transcription.
  • Created a standard Creative Commons release form for use with McCall Library community oral history projects
  • Organized a lending program for equipment: digital audio recorders, microphones, hard drives, accessories, transcription pedals and software for transcription and editing, all available to the campus community
  • Produced a start-up guide for new oral history projects 
  • Developed detailed information and support for faculty who wish to implement oral history components to classes

The Need

Prior to receiving this funding,  many of our collections were functionally inaccessible. The impact of this was exacerbated by the COVID pandemic closure. Over the course of the grant period, we have completed the digitization of our entire backlog of interviews.  All of these can now be utilized on site and many of these will soon become web accessible through our digital repository JagWorks.

These newly digitized collections include:

  1. MOWA Choctaw interviews recorded 1975-2001.
  2. Most Pure Heart of Mary collection documenting this center of the Civil Rights leadership and activism in Mobile.
  3. John L. LeFlore interview collections relating to this Mobile Civil Rights giant.
  4. Martha Mercer War Brides collection on the experiences of women who came to Mobile as "war brides" 1945-1993.

In addition we are growing entirely new collections including:

  1. Down the Bay Oral History Project - now our largest collection, this project focuses on the neighborhood that was heavily impacted by the construction of I-10 as well as the program of Urban Renewal in the 1960-80s.  All work on this project is collaborative with a team from the Center for Archaeological Studies and equipment was partially funded by them.
  2. Excelsior Band Oral History Project - This collection features interviews with past and present members of this important Mobile organization, a band first established in 1872.
  3. Washington County Creek Collection - A small group of interviews with members of the Creek Nation.
  4. Africatown Foodways Collection - A group of interviews with residents of Africatown as part of Dr. Kern Jackson's summer 2023 course on oral narrative. Interviews were conducted by students.
  5. Black Life in Mobile Collection - A group of interviews exploring the specific experience of African Americans in Mobile.
  6. The Jewish Mobile Oral History Project - A group of interviews from members of Mobile's Jewish community documenting life histories and present day experiences of being Jewish in Mobile.