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OHA Awards Vox Populi “Voice of the People” Honor to SPOHP, Recognizes Partner in McComb, MS

Gainesville, FL. August 14, 2013—The Oral History Association is awarding its 2013 Stetson Kennedy Vox Populi (“Voice of the People”) Award to the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program for achievements in using oral histories as a means of furthering social justice. As OHA President Dr. Mary Larson noted, the awarding committee congratulated SPOHP on its multi-faceted achievements in scholarship and outreach, saying, “The breadth of the program is astounding.” The Association is also recognizing Ms. Falana McDaniel with the Martha Ross Teaching Award for her direction of the teaching oral history to the McComb Legacies Project, a partner educator of SPOHP.

The Stetson Kennedy Vox Populi (“Voice of the People”) annual award honors individuals or organizations who have accomplished outstanding achievement in using oral history to create a more humane and just world and is named in honor of Floridian Stetson Kennedy, a pioneer oral historian whose work has been an important tool for advocacy on behalf of human rights.  As a further testament to SPOHP’s commitment to social justice initiatives, SPOHP and the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History were selected for the honor of preparing Stetson Kennedy’s writings, recordings, and papers for public access through the University of Florida libraries, the inaugural event for which will be held on October 22, 2013 at Smathers Libraries.

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program works to build an oral history archive that preserves eyewitness accounts, memories and narratives of historical events and progressive social movements. With archives featuring over 5,300 interviews, SPOHP involves the creativity of students, staff, and community volunteers to share this research with the public through podcasts, videos, and research projects.

SPOHP’s emphasis on social justice research is reflected in the work of its students, who have written theses and dissertation on community activism and labor organizing, relying on the interdisciplinary nature of oral history that provides a rare opportunity for students in the humanities to conduct field studies.  SPOHP sends a group of graduate and undergraduate students to the Mississippi Delta every September to expand its Mississippi Freedom Project collection, which focuses on recording the histories of civil rights movement veterans as well as current community organizers, catfish plant workers, union members, educators, and students. SPOHP’s internship program grants practical experience in public history to over twenty students a semester.

SPOHP’s free public programs highlight how scholars and activists use oral interviews empower messages of social justice and human rights, including such guests as Dr. Larry Rivers, Dr. Alan Rosen, and Stephanie Coontz in the past year. SPOHP partners social justice groups including Gainesville Women’s Liberation, Gainesville Veterans for Peace, and the Civic Media Center, and The Gainesville Iguana, and maintains a network of partnerships with similar organizations across the country, including Student Action with Farmworkers in Durham, North Carolina, the Sunflower County Freedom Project in the Mississippi Delta, Teaching for Change in McComb, Mississippi, and the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project through the National Folklife Center. SPOHP’s contribution to these partnerships is carried out by facilitating and processing interviews to generate more educational materials. These partnerships allow each organization to advance their goals by sharing resources and audiences.

The Martha Ross Teaching Award is being awarded to McComb High School Digital Medias Technology teacher Falana McDaniel, who coordinates the after-school history research group, McComb Legacies Project, at McComb High School in McComb Mississippi. The Martha Ross Award recognizes an educator involved in using oral history as a medium to enhance learning, focusing on civic and community components. Ms. McDaniel attended an intensive two-day oral history workshop with SPOHP in 2011 at the University of Florida which covered oral history methodology and practice. The workshop focused on how to conduct an interview, document it, and publish it in various forms of media: techniques Ms. McDaniel uses to great success in teaching her students about the flexibility of oral history as a research tool.

In the last school year, Ms. McDaniel facilitated multiple research and leadership development opportunities for her students, culminating in the premiere of their local history documentary, “The Voting Rights Struggle,” based on their own oral history research in McComb. The documentary won first place in Mississippi state’s National History Day competition. Legacies Project students also attended SPOHP’s 2012 Mississippi Freedom Project research trip and later organized a multi-day event at their high school in February 2013, which they designed to share the experiences of Civil Rights Movement activists with their classmates. Legacies Project students were inspired, instructed, and empowered by their teacher, Falana McDaniel, to actively seek engagement with oral history research and education, and SPOHP congratulates Ms. McDaniel on her award.

The Vox Populi award is co-sponsored by The Stetson Kennedy Foundation , a non-profit foundation dedicated to human rights, racial and social justice, environmental stewardship, and the preservation and growth of folk culture. SPOHP is a receiving the award with Rosalie Riegle, who will be recognized for her achievements over a lifetime of activism. The Vox Populi and Martha Ross awards will be presented at the Oral History Association’s Annual Meeting, to be held in October 2013 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Press Release
The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
August 14, 2013