Digital Collections

Behind the Veil Oral History Project

Digital Collection. Oral history interviews chronicling African-American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to the 1950s.

Time Periods: 19th Century, 20th Century
Themes: African American

The Behind the Veil Oral History Project was undertaken by Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies from 1993 to 1995. The primary purpose of this documentary project was to record and preserve the living memory of African American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to the 1950s.

The record was collected by teams of researchers conducting oral history interviews with more than one thousand elderly black southerners who remembered that period of legal segregation. The tapes and selected transcripts of the 1,260 interviews in this collection capture the vivid personalities, poignant personal stories, and behind-the-scenes decision-making that bring to life the African American experience in the South during the late-19th to the mid-20th century. It is the largest single collection of Jim Crow oral histories in the world.

Four hundred and ten of the 1,260 interviews have been digitized and made available on this site totaling about 725 hours of recorded audio. One hundred and sixty-five of the interviews include transcripts comprising more than 15,000 pages of text.

[Description from the digital collection’s website.]

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