|He was also a member of the
Board of Directors of the Fund for the Advancement of Education, which funded the Oral
History Project during its first four years. The Ford Foundation directly funded the last
two years of Projects activities.
During the six years of its existence1967 to 1973, the Project systematically documented the civil rights era through recorded oral history interviews with close to 700 people, several of whom were interviewed more than once. The Project also collected other documentary evidence. More than 90 percent of the interviews were transcribed for researcher access. The result is a prodigious collection of primary source material documenting the 20th Century civil rights era beginning in the 1940s, through the early 1970s.
The interviews in the Ralph Bunche Collection explore a broad range of civil rights and other human rights activities during the period which were directly influenced by the "Movement." The South, the setting of the early civil rights protests, produced hundreds of interviews. But the Project actually documented efforts in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Initially, the Projects interviewing strategy was to give particular attention to recording older persons whose involvement covered a wide span of years and whose contributions in fact helped to prepare the way for the "Movement" of the 1960s. Quickly, however, the documentation focus shifted to the intense civil rights activities that occurred after 1960. Some events were often documented as they were happening or within a few months thereafter, for example, the Poor Peoples March and Campaign in 1968, college student protests of the Vietnam War, and the 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana.
While many of the oral authors were well-known civil rights leaders of the time, a large number of them were known only to their local communities. Of course, two egregious omissions are the failure to record interviews with Dr. Bunche and the Reverend Martin Luther King. The oral authors can generally be grouped into 11 separate categories. Three of these were critical to the development of the Voting Rights Act Oral history and Documentation Project. The first group includes interviews with individuals who were involved as participants in some form of civil rights protest activity, particularly voter registration drives.