DOCUMENTING THE AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE; THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT ORAL HISTORY AND DOCUMENTATION PROJECT

by Avril J. Madison

October 20, 1999

 

INTRODUCTION

I am so pleased to be here to celebrate Archives Week with you and especially the completion of the Voting Rights Act Oral History and Documentation Project. This morning I was asked to share my "experiences in setting up an oral history project, particularly those related to proposal writing and funding." But before I do that, I would like to share with you some of the background that made the Voting Rights Act Oral History and Documentation Project possible. Because it was certainly not an isolated initiative, but was built on the very solid foundation provided by the Ralph J. Bunche Oral History Collection. This collection is an excellent example of the use of the in-depth oral history interview as research methodology. It also includes a body of interviews that provided the basis for the Voting Rights Act Oral History and Documentation Project. It is safe to say that without this fabulously rich historic resource on which to build, convincing the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund the Voting Rights Act Oral History and Documentation Project would have been exceedingly difficult.

The Ralph Bunche Collection began its life as the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The concept for this documentation project was in fact the brainchild of Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunche, who, it should be noted, began his academic career at Howard University where he established the graduate Department of Political Science. He later became one of the first Undersecretaries of the United Nations and Director of its Trusteeship Division and was the first Black to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

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November 1999