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Dr. Paul Ortiz, Director 2008-Present

Humans are wired to be story tellers…that’s kind of the signature element of oral history…in a way it kind of goes back to if you had a grandmother or grandfather, you remember the power of the story that they told.
-Dr. Paul Ortiz, AAHP-055

Image of the Director Paul Ortiz
Dr. Paul Ortíz, Director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program 2008-present.

Oral History with Dr. Ortiz

  • Dr. Paul Ortiz’s oral history interview, conducted with Joseph DeFrancisco, is available online through the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program archives in the University of Florida collection.

Dr. Paul Ortiz is the director of the award-winning Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and associate professor of history at the University of Florida.

He is president of the Oral History Association for the 2014-2015 term. He has previously served as vice-president as well as chair of the nominating committee for the OHA. His publications include the Emancipation Betrayed (University of California Press) a history of the Black Freedom struggle in Florida, and Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Jim Crow South (New Press) which went into its 4th printing in 2014.

He is the recipient of several book awards including the Lillian Smith Book Prize conferred by the Southern Regional Council & the Harry T. and Harriett V. Moore Book Prize bestowed by the Florida Historical Society and the Florida Institute of Technology. His forthcoming monograph is titled: Our Separate Struggles are Really One: African American and Latino Histories and will be published by Beacon Press as part of its ReVisioning American History series. He is also co-authoring the forthcoming book Behind the Veil: African Americans in the Age of Segregation, 1895-1965 with William H. Chafe.

Paul has published essays in a wide array of publications including Latino Studies, The Oral History Review, Radical History Review, Truthout, Against the Current, Southern Exposure and McClatchy News Services. He writes frequently for the popular press about African American and Latino histories and politics. He has been interviewed by ABC News, the Washington Post, the Hong Kong Daily Apple, BBC, Russia Today News, Agencia De Noticias Del Estado Mexicano, and Time on historical and contemporary social issues.

Paul serves on the international editorial boards for Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies as well as for Palgrave Studies in Oral History, Palgrave Macmillan Books. He has served as a Post-Doctoral Faculty Mentor for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation as well as for the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program.

Professor Ortiz received his Ph.D. in history from Duke University in 2000.  He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the Evergreen State College in 1990 in history and political economy after transferring from Olympic Community College.

As a graduate student, Ortiz served as the research coordinator for the “Behind The Veil” African American oral history project at Duke University, and was part of the research team that received the Oral History Association’s inaugural Outstanding Oral History Project Award in 1996. Ortíz’s interview work with “Behind the Veil” was heard on a four-part documentary program that aired on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition in 2002 and has been re-broadcast on stations in the US and abroad since then.

Ortiz taught for seven years in the Department of Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he earned the Excellence in Teaching Award.  He chaired the UC-Santa Cruz Committee on Faculty Welfare. The Academic Senate nominated him for U.S. Professor of the Year (Doctoral and Research Universities Category) in 2006. The city of Santa Cruz declared June 13, 2008 to be “Paul Ortiz Day” by official decree of the Mayor of Santa Cruz in recognition of Ortiz’s academic and community service. UF students have twice presented a certificate of appreciation for “Demostrando el Orgullo de Nuestra Cultura,” to Paul for his work on behalf of Hispanic Heritage Month at the university. He received the Key to the City of Ocoee, Florida for giving the Martin Luther King, Jr. Keynote Address in that city.

Professor Ortiz is currently the faculty adviser for UF chapter of the Dream Defenders, Students for a Democratic Society, the Venezuelan Students Association & CHISPAS. He was awarded the 2013 César E. Chávez Action and Commitment Award, by the Florida Education Association, AFL-CIO. The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program received the Oral History Association’s 2013 Stetson Kennedy Vox Populi Award for outstanding achievement in using oral history to create a more humane and just world. He was the recipient of the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Award in 2014 for contributions to civil rights and social justice.

Paul worked as a volunteer labor organizer with the United Farm Workers of Washington State and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in North Carolina.  He was a founding advisory committee member for the 1st Annual César Chávez Celebration in Watsonville, California.

Ortiz served as a paratrooper and radio operator in the United States Army from 1982 to 1986 with the 82nd Airborne Division and the 7th Special Forces Group in Central America. He received the US Armed Forces’ Humanitarian Service Medal for meritorious action in the wake of the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz stratovolcano in Tolima, Colombia in November, 1985. He attained the rank of sergeant and served as a radio operator for Special Forces mobile training teams in Latin America.

He is membership chair for the United Faculty of Florida’s University of Florida union chapter.

He lives in Gainesville, Florida with his wife Sheila Payne and her son Joshua Redmond Payne.


Image of the book Emancipation Betrayed“Emancipation Betrayed”
by Dr. Paul Ortiz
University of California Press (2006)
Book available through University of California Press

In this penetrating examination of African American politics and culture, Paul Ortiz throws a powerful light on the struggle of black Floridians to create the first statewide civil rights movement against Jim Crow. Concentrating on the period between the end of slavery and the election of 1920, Emancipation Betrayed vividly demonstrates that the decades leading up to the historic voter registration drive of 1919-20 were marked by intense battles during which African Americans struck for higher wages, took up arms to prevent lynching, forged independent political alliances, boycotted segregated streetcars, and created a democratic historical memory of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Contrary to previous claims that African Americans made few strides toward building an effective civil rights movement during this period, Ortiz documents how black Floridians formed mutual aid organizations—secret societies, women’s clubs, labor unions, and churches—to bolster dignity and survival in the harsh climate of Florida, which had the highest lynching rate of any state in the union. African Americans called on these institutions to build a statewide movement to regain the right to vote after World War I. African American women played a decisive role in the campaign as they mobilized in the months leading up to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. The 1920 contest culminated in the bloodiest Election Day in modern American history, when white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan violently, and with state sanction, prevented African Americans from voting.

Ortiz’s eloquent interpretation of the many ways that black Floridians fought to expand the meaning of freedom beyond formal equality and his broader consideration of how people resist oppression and create new social movements illuminate a strategic era of United States history and reveal how the legacy of legal segregation continues to play itself out to this day.


Image of the book Remembering Jim Crow Director“Remembering Jim Crow”
by William H. Chafe (Editor), Raymond Gavins (Editor), Robert Korstad (Editor), with Dr. Paul Ortiz and others
New Press (2008)
Book available through Amazon

Hailed as “viscerally powerful” (Publishers Weekly) and “a multimedia triumph” (Kansas City Star), Remembering Jim Crow is a searing story of survival enriched by vivid memories of individual, family, and community triumphs and tragedies.

This landmark in African American oral history is now available in an affordable paperback edition with a remastered MP3 CD of the companion radio documentary program produced by American RadioWorks.

Based on interviews collected by the Behind the Veil Project at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, this extraordinary book-and-CD set makes available for the first time the most extensive oral history ever recorded of African American life under segregation. In vivid, compelling accounts, men and women from all walks of life tell how their day-to-day activity was subjected to profound and unrelenting racial oppression. At the same time, Remembering Jim Crow is a testament to how black southerners fought back against the system, raising children, building churches and schools, running businesses, and struggling for respect in a society that denied them the most basic rights. This new edition of the original volume makes the recordings available for the first time in MP3 audio CDs.

The audio for this new edition is on MP3 compact discs. MP3 audio books on compact disc can be played on newer CD players that support MP3 technology and accept a standard-sized CD, on any personal computer that has Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft’s Media Player or similar software, and on an iPod and other personal MP3 players.

That makes what we do here a little different than some of the other research centers…the oral history center is going to be a place that tries to bridge the gaps between the broader community, the state, and the university.

-Dr. Paul Ortiz, AAHP-055

For additional information, contact SPOHP, call the offices at (352) 392-7168, and connect with us online today.