|I also spent a lot of time at
the Foundation Center determining the most likely sources of support for an oral history
project and getting side-tracked by a few false starts. There are precious few sources of
support for oral history projects, particularly of the magnitude of the Voting Rights Act
Oral History and Documentation Project. The main one at that time was the National
Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). After determining that fact, I worked closely with the
staff of the NEH, particularly Barbara Paulsen, submitting preliminary proposals and
expanding the proposal to answer the questions that were put to me. The Oral History
Associations Guidelines for Oral History Projects was used as a bible by the
NEH so it became my bible for detailed answers to technical questions. I also made use of
the fact that I could request copies of NEH grant-winning proposals. I read them and
learned from them.
The June 1993 decision of the Supreme Court in Shaw v. Reno however, gave added urgency to our efforts. For the voting rights movement, "it was like a train wreck at high speed" because it called into question the constitutionality of remedial race-conscious districting.4 For the proposal it meant adding more research questions to the interview guide to assess the affect of this decision and other cases in the judicial pipeline challenging redistricting plans and it meant moving the proposal ahead on a faster track. The next several months were spent working with Dr. Thomas Battle, Center Director, to develop and constitute an Advisory Board and holding the first meeting of this distinguished group. The Advisory Board included the Honorable Julian Bond; Frank Parker, the noted civil rights attorney, the Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson, Member of Congress from Texas; Dr. Ronald Walters, then professor of Political Science at Howard University, and Dr. Vincent J. Browne, former Director of the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The Advisory Board added significant validation to our efforts by indicating the importance and urgency of our project.
During this period also, Dr. Battle and I worked on the proposal budget, which when submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities on November 1, 1993, totaled $342, 257 for the two year project. On May 10,1994 we received word that the NEH had awarded Howard University a $200,000 grant and a $10,000 challenge grant, which we matched with a Ford Foundation grant in 1995.