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Oral Histories Online


Fascinating interviews, stories, photos, and other oral histories are available online from a number of different sources. Even if you aren't lucky enough to find your ancestor's history preserved online, you can learn a lot about them by reading oral histories of their contemporaries - neighbors, people from the same ethnic community, individuals who had similiar experiences (e.g. same Japanese internment camp), etc. There is no better way to understand the history that you came from than through the words of the people who lived it first-hand.

1. American Life Histories, Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project 1936-1940

Search or browse through almost 3,000 life histories, both in transcribed and digital form. The documents represent the work of more than 300 writers from the Federal Writers' Project of the U.S. Work Projects Administration who collected interviews between 1936 and 1940. Be aware that some of these interviews use pseudomyms in place of the real names of people and places.

2. Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938

The American Memory Project from the Library of Congress offers free access to more than 2,300 first person accounts of slavery in the United States. Each digitized transcript of a slave narrative is accompanied by notes including the name of the narrator, place and date of the interview and the interviewer's name.

3. Mountain Voices

Presents interviews with hundreds of individuals who live in mountain and highland regions round the world.

4. Telling Their Stories

Watch and listen to oral history interviews conducted by high school students with a variety of interesting individuals including Holocaust survivors and refugees, WWII camp liberators and witnesses, Japanese American internees, and residents/former residents of the historically African American Fillmore District of San Francisco, California.

5. Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World

This site relies on hundreds of interviews with working-class southerners conducted by the Southern Oral History Program Piedmont Industrialization Project of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Also available are approximately 70 audio clips of interviews with mill workers ranging in length from 15 seconds to more than eight minutes.

6. Experiencing War - Stories from the Veterans History Project

Browse or search for stories, letters, and other heartfelt accounts collected through the Veterans History Project of the US Library of Congress.

7. Voices of the Holocaust

Browse this collection of oral history testimonies describing life during the Holocaust, gathered from Jewish men and women who came to live in Britain.

8. Oral Histories from the Social Security Administration

Find oral histories dating back to the 1960s, containing personal recollections and opinions related to the history of the Social Security Administration in the U.S.

9. Baylor Institute for Oral History

Since its founding in 1970, the Institute for Oral History at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has completed over 800 memoirs comprising more than 1,800 oral history interviews. The Institute has created transcripts of all interviews in the collection; most created after 1990 are in digital format online, while earlier transcripts can be searched in the online index.

10. Calisphere: Japanese American Oral History Project

The University of California offer access to several hundred oral history interviews and personal stories documenting the lives of the people who lived in the WWII Japanese American Internment Camps as well as the administrators who created and worked in the camps.

11. Oral Histories of the American South

Documenting the American South, a digital publishing initiative sponsored by the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hosts among many other primary materials this collection of over 500 oral history interviews with a southern focus on a variety of topics, including civil rights, politics, and women's issues. Interviews can be read in text transcript form, listened to with a media player, or both simultaneously.

12. Voices of Feminism Oral History Project

Narrators of the oral histories available through this online project include labor, peace and anti-racism activists; artists and writers; lesbian rights advocates; grassroots anti-violence and anti-poverty organizers; and women of color reproductive justice leaders. Interviews average 5-6 hours in length and cover childhood, personal life and political work.

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