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Digital Collections : African American Oral History Collection

African American Oral History Collection

About the Collection

The Oral History Center at the University of Louisville has long sought to aid in the documentation of the history of Louisville's African American community. This effort was bolstered in the 1970s by funding from the Kentucky Oral History Commission, which supported a number of the interviews included in this first online offering. The African American Oral History Collection includes interviews conducted as part of projects designed to document particular aspects of Louisville's history and/or important local institutions, such as the Red Cross (Community) Hospital and the Louisville Municipal College, as well as projects that sought to document African American life more generally. Most of the interviews were conducted in the late 1970s.

Taken as a group, these interviews were conducted in order to document the many aspects of life in Louisville, particularly as experienced by African Americans. Businessmen, educators, politicians, doctors, historians, musicians, and other civic leaders of various kinds, as well as regular folks, were interviewed. There are interviews with a small number of white people who connected with the black community in important ways. Some interviews are brief, lasting 30 minutes or less; others are more extensive, covering several interview sessions and lasting four or more hours. The interviewees talk about their parents, their upbringing (often outside Louisville), their experiences in school, their careers, and their achievements. They discuss everyday life as well as the big events in the history they lived. The interviewees offer their own perspective on events, and while there are many areas of agreement, there are events that they each remember in their own ways.

About the Project

This collection was selected to be the first oral history collection made available online via the University Libraries' Digital Collections so that it would be more accessible to the community in general. We are fortunate that these individuals shared their stories with us; we hope that in sharing these stories more broadly we will all learn about our own collective history.

If you or a member of your family were interviewed in the 1970s as part of the "Black History" project, or a related project such as the history of the Red Cross Hospital, and you do not see the interview in this collection, please contact the Oral History Center (502 852-1912 or by email). We have probably been trying to contact you!

Technical Information

These interviews were originally recorded on analog tape recorders, using standard audiocassette tapes. Some were recorded in stereo, others are monaural. They were all digitized using an M-Audio FireWire 1814 analog to digital converter, and Sound Forge 8.0 software. Changes in standards for audio capture meant that interviews digitized early in the process were converted at a sample rate of 96,000 kHz, with 24-bit depth; interviews converted later in the project were captured at 48,000 kHz, 24-bit depth. A decision was also made during the project to capture all interviews in stereo, regardless of how they were recorded, to standardize the output. Access copies were created by cleaning up the files using the noise reduction plugin for Sound Forge, and then "ripping" the files down to 96 kbps MP3, again using Sound Forge. The MP3 files are streamed to the user.

The bulk of the transcripts were made as part of a Kentucky Oral History Commission grant project awarded in 2005. Others were generated as part of earlier transcription projects focusing on the civil rights movement in Louisville. All transcripts were audited and edited for this online collection, and then converted to PDF-A format using Adobe Acrobat 8.

Metadata was created in accordance with our data dictionary (PDF). All titles were supplied by the catalogers.

Conditions of Use

The University of Louisville welcomes fair use of this website and its contents. If you wish to publish, broadcast, or publicly display these materials, please notify Archives and Special Collections. In addition, it is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions, which may include paying fees for commercial use. For further information about permissions, use, and ordering reproductions, see Order Reproductions, or contact Archives and Special Collections, University of Louisville.

To cite an interview from this collection, please use the format:

Interview with [interviewee name, date of interview], Oral History Center, University of Louisville Archives and Records Center, Louisville, Kentucky.

To cite the digital version, add its Reference URL (found by following the link in the header above the digital file).


These interviews have been an important part of the Oral History Center's collections for many years, and many individuals have contributed to the final product available today.

Obviously, the interviewees and interviewers gave significant amounts of time, thought, and sometimes emotional energy as they prepared for and participated in these interviews.

Transcriptionists have included Lisa Fortwengler, Natalie Fowler, Mindy Glenn, Shawntriss Simms, and Samantha Watson, among others. In addition, Christy Noe provided valuable assistance in proofreading transcripts and assisting in the editorial process. Ashley Francis also aided in the auditing process.

Carrie Daniels and Heather Fox digitized the audio, created the metadata records, and united the streaming audio files with the transcriptions using CONTENTdm digital collection management software version 4.3. Terri L. Holtze designed the web pages. Bill Carner scanned the portraits of interviewees from the Louisville Defender Photograph Collection (1985.26) in the University of Louisville Photographic Archives. Rachel Howard contributed to the collection design and display. Qing Cao and Eric Lair developed the streaming interface. Weiling Liu contributed customized programming for the displays. Dwayne K. Buttler, J.D., provided copyright advice.

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