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OH-31; T-32

Black Women Oral History Project. Interviews of the Black Women Oral History Project, 1976-1981: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: OH-31; T-32
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Black Women Oral History Project
Title: Interviews of the Black Women Oral History Project, 1976-1981
Date(s): 1976-1981
Quantity: 7 linear feet (7 cartons) plus 353 audiotapes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: The Black Women Oral History Project collection consists of audiotapes and transcripts of 72 oral histories.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: OH-31; T-32
These oral histories were created by the Schlesinger Library between 1976 and 1981.

Processing Information:

Processed: March 2013
By: John Quirk, Joanne Donovan

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most transcripts and audiotapes are unrestricted. Some oral histories have restrictions which are noted in the inventory. An appointment is necessary to use the restricted audiotapes.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Unless otherwise noted, copyright in the transcripts and audiotapes is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Permission to quote from the transcript for publication is required from the Director of the Schlesinger Library, and in some cases, where noted, by the heirs of the interviewee. Commercial use is prohibited until 2027 without prior consent of heirs.
Copying. Materials may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Black Women Oral History Project Interviews; item description, dates. OH-31, T-32/interviewee name. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


The Black Women Oral History Project was initiated by a recommendation made by Letitia Woods Brown, professor of history at George Washington University. Noting that the stories of African-American women were inadequately documented in the Schlesinger Library and at other centers for research, Dr. Brown recommended that the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe College collect the oral memoirs of a selected group of older black women. These women, many already in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, had made substantial contributions to improving the lives of African-Americans and all people, through professional and voluntary activities, in their communities and nationally.
With initial funding secured from The Rockefeller Foundation, staff at the Schlesinger Library, most importantly Ruth Hill, guided the project, and from 1976 to 1981, 72 women from all over the United States were interviewed. They were selected from several hundred potential interviewees reviewed by the project's advisory committee. Many interviewees had professional careers in fields such as education, government, the arts, business, medicine, law and social work. Others combined care for their families with voluntary service to their communities, regions, or to the nation. Scientific sampling techniques were not employed in the selection process; rather the goal of the project was to interview a cross section of the many women of African descent who had made significant contributions of varying kinds to American society in the early and mid-decades of the twentieth century.


The Black Women Oral History Project collection consists of audiotapes and transcripts of the oral histories of 72 African-American women from across the United States. The interviews discuss family background, marriages, childhood, education and training, significant influences affecting their choice of primary career or activity, professional and voluntary accomplishments, union activities, the ways in which being black and a woman had affected their options and the choices made. For each oral history, the interviewer cooperated with the memoirist to record as full an account of her life as possible. The project's procedure was that after the tapes were transcribed, each memoirist was given an opportunity to edit and correct her oral history before the final copy was prepared. Due to the editing process afforded the memoirists, there are occasions when the transcripts do not precisely follow the audio recordings. All of transcripts are open for research with the exception of Merze Tate, which is not yet complete. All of the tapes are preserved at the Schlesinger Library, but the following five interviews are closed until 2027: Kathleen Adams, Margaret Walker Alexander, Lucy Mitchell, Ruth Temple, and Era Bell Thompson. In 1991, the Schlesinger Library in cooperation with Meckler Corporation, published a 10 volume set of many of the transcripts. For additional information on the project, see The Black Women Oral History Project: A Guide to the Transcripts (HOLLIS record), edited by Ruth Edmonds Hill and Patricia Miller King. Further information can be found in the Records of the Black Women Oral History Project. In 1981, photographer Judith Sedwick offered to photograph many of the participants, this project resulted in the exhibit Women of Courage (HOLLIS record) and the corresponding publication. All of these photographs are cataloged in HOLLIS Images, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

African American women
African American women--Education
African American women--Employment
African American women--History
African American women--Interviews
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Civil rights
Greek letter societies
Oral histories
United States--Race relations
Washington (D.C.)--Social life and customs
Women artisans
Women artists
Women authors
Women clergy
Women clerks
Women educators
Women household employees
Women in community development
Women in medicine
Women in the civil service
Women journalists
Women labor union members
Women lawyers
Women librarians
Women musicians
Women--Political activity
Women social workers
Women volunteers in social service
Abbott, Jessie, interviewee
Adair, Christia, 1893-1989, interviewee
Adams, Frankie V., 1902-1979, interviewee
Adams, Kathleen Redding, 1890-1993, interviewee
Aiken, Lucy Rucker, interviewee
Albrier, Frances Mary, 1898-1987, interviewee
Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell, 1898-1989, interviewee
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Balanoff, Elizabeth, interviewer
Banks, Gay Francine, interviewer
Barker, Elizabeth, 1900-1981, interviewee
Barnett, Etta Moten, 1901-2004, interviewee
Black Women Oral History Project
Bowens, Felicia, interviewer
Boyd, Norma E., 1888-1985, interviewee
Carver, George Washington, 1864?-1943
Cass, Melnea A. (Melnea Agnes), 1896-1978, interviewee
Chall, Malca, interviewer
Chinn, May Edward, 1896-1980, interviewee
Cowan, Polly, 1913-1976, interviewer
Craft, Juanita Jewel, 1902-1985, interviewee
Dickson, Clara, interviewee
Dammond, Ellen Craft, interviewer
Danley, Theresa, interviewer
Dunnigan, Alice Allison, 1906-1983, interviewee
Duster, Alfreda, 1904-1983, interviewee
Dykes, Eva Beatrice, 1893-1986, interviewee
Eberhardt, Mae Massie, 1915-2007, interviewee
Edmonds, Florence Jacobs, 1890-1983, interviewee
Edwards-Madison, Lena Frances, interviewee
Ferebee, Dorothy Boulding, 1898?-1980, interviewee
Fisher, Minnie L. (Minnie Lucinda), 1896-1990, interviewee
Flippin, Katherine Stewart, 1906-1996, interviewee
Franklin, Lucy Brown, interviewer
Gayton, Virginia Clark, interviewee
George, Zelma, 1903-1994, interviewee
Gilkes, Cheryl, interviewer
Grant, Frances O. (Frances Olivia), 1895-1982, interviewee
Greenlee, Marcia M., interviewer
Guinier, Genii, interviewer
Halyard, Ardie Clark, interviewee
Harper, Neddie Rucker, interviewee
Harrison, Pleasant, 1915-2002, interviewee
Hedgeman, Anna Arnold, 1899-1990, interviewee
Height, Dorothy I. (Dorothy Irene), 1912-2010, interviewee
Hester, Beulah S. (Beulah Shepard), 1893-1981, interviewee
Hill, May Edwards, interviewee
Hill, Ruth Edmonds, interviewer
Holmes, Margaret, 1898-1991, interviewee
Hunter, Clementine, interviewee
Jackson, Ellen, 1935-2005, interviewee
Johnson, Fidelia, 1905-1996, interviewee
Jones, Lois Mailou, interviewee
Jones, Susie, 1892-1984, interviewee
Jones, Virginia Lacy, 1912-1984, interviewee
Kelly, Hattie Simmons, interviewee
Kemp, Maida Springer, interviewee
Kittrell, Flemmie P. (Flemmie Pansy), 1904-1980, interviewee
Lachatanere, Diana, interviewer
Lancaster, Abna Aggrey, 1907-1997, interviewee
Laurie, Eunice Rivers, 1899-1986, interviewee
Lewis, Catherine Cardozo, interviewee
Lindsay, Inabel Burns, 1900-1983, interviewee
McCabe, Eliza, interviewee
Matthews, Miriam, interviewee
Mitchell, Lucy Miller, 1899-2002, interviewee
Moore, Audley, 1898-1997, interviewee
Mottl, Tahi Lani, 1945- interviewer
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Council of Negro Women
National Urban League
Nipson, Annie M. (Annie Mae), 1884-1986, interviewee
Parks, Rosa, 1913-2005, interviewee
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Rhude, Beth E., interviewer
Roberts, Eleanor, 1949-1978, interviewer
Robinson, Dorothy Redus, interviewer
Rothschild, Maurine, interviewer
Rowley, Margaret, 1917-2003, interviewer
Rucker, Hazel, interviewee
Scott, Esther Mae, 1893-1979, interviewee
Smith, Julia Hamilton, 1885-1980, interviewee
Snowden, Muriel S. (Muriel Sutherland), 1916-1988, interviewee
Stokes, Olivia Pearl, 1916-2002, interviewee
Tanneyhill, Ann, interviewee
Tate, Merze, 1905-1996, interviewee
Temple, Ruth Janetta, 1892-1984, interviewee
Thomas, Constance Pitter, interviewee
Thompson, A. Lillian, interviewer
Thompson, Era Bell, interviewee
Thompson, Mary C. (Mary Crutchfield), 1902-1985, interviewee
Tuskegee Institute
Usher, Bazoline, 1885-1992, interviewee
Waddles, Charleszetta, 1912-2001, interviewee
Walker, Margaret, 1915-1998
Watson, Sandra M., interviewer
Wells-Barnett, Ida B., 1862-1931
West, Dorothy, 1907-1998, interviewee
Whitehead, Thomas Wayne, 1952- interviewer
Williams, Addie Luck, 1874-1982, interviewee
Williams, Frances H., interviewee
Wise, Ozeline, interviewee
Wolfe, Deborah, interviewee
Yarbrough, Arline J., 1912-1999, interviewee
Young Women's Christian Association