The Mississippi Oral History Project is a statewide initiative to record Mississippians talking about their experiences — family life, work, politics, churches, community, the daily grind and extraordinary events. The Mississippi Humanities Council has awarded more than half a million dollars in grants to collect histories from moonshiners to legislators. Under a special initiative funded by the Mississippi Legislature, a focused effort is under way to collect oral histories from Hurricane Katrina survivors, Civil Rights Movement participants and World War II veterans.
The University of Southern Mississippi carries out the details of the project, with professional staff working with local groups to gather histories. Once interviews are collected, they are professionally transcribed, with copies of tapes and printed interviews going to the local sites and each participant. The master tapes remain at the USM library, where they are permanently archived. The materials are readily available to scholars and researchers, teachers and students, and to the general public and on the internet at www.usm.edu/msoralhistory. The histories are not just archived. They are also incorporated into numerous public programs, including theatrical productions, radio and film documentaries, K-12 curriculums, museum exhibits and chautauquas. Mississippians are famous for their stories. The Mississippi Oral History Program plays an invaluable role in contributing to the understanding of our state’s history from the perspective of Mississippians themselves.
The Mississippi Humanities Council has involved itself with the collection and preservation of oral history in the state for many years. Its efforts were intensified in 1995 with the creation of the Mississippi Oral History Project, resulting in a collection today that includes recorded memories from World War II survivors and Civil Rights leaders to sports heroes and shrimpers. More than 2,000 histories are now archived at the the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The site offers detailed information for the general public and members of the press including a directory of archived histories. It also offers a Teacher’s Corner with a multitude of educational resources. Mississippi oral histories can be heard twice a week on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s "Mississippi Moments" segments.