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History: Oral Histories

Welcome to the library guide for history research at the University of Alabama.

Find Oral Histories

History students can use oral histories, or interviews, as primary sources, especially for 20th century topics.  Sometimes, oral histories have been transcribed by other historians, and we can search for and read their transcriptions.  

Some places to look for interviews:

>The Southern Oral History Program, American Rhetoric, Historical Voices, and The Sixties are all excellent collections of interview transcripts and recordings of the twentieth century.

>Use the "General Collections" under the "Primary Sources" tab on this site.

>Pinpoint oral histories on the internet or general collections by using search terms like "oral history" in quotation marks, or the keyword interview.  Narrow your search to interviews on a specific topic with search statements like interview and "civil rights".  Or, focus your search on interviews with people from a specific region with search statements like interview and Alabama.  

In addition to reading or listening to interviews conducted by other historians, we may want to perform some ourselves. Maybe you're researching the Battle of the Bulge, and you want to interview World War II veterans.  Please consult with your professor and the IRB about University policies before conducting interviews, and the techniques you can use to interview and transcribe.

Gorgas Library's Sanford Media Center offers video and audio recorders that you can use for interviewing.  Checking them out is free!

History students sometimes interview people as sources for their papers.  Technology like laptops, as well as video and audio recorders, has made the process of interviewing easier. Talking with someone who lived through an event is one of the funnest kinds of historical research!

Interviews with Former Slaves...

American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology--this database offers interviews conducted with thousands of former slaves in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration.  Read primary accounts of slave family life, religion, music, art, and work.  However, Gorgas Library also offers many, many more former WPA slave interviews in print.  The official title of the collection is The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography.

UA in the 1960s

photo of Vietnam War protest

University of Alabama students protesting the Vietnam War in the 1960s (Picture from the University of Alabama Photographs Collection).