Locals tell their stories as part of oral history project

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Local residents sat down with students and faculty members from the University of Florida to become a part of history by telling their stories of living in Vicksburg during the battle for civil rights in the Delta.

The University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program has been visiting the Mississippi Delta and the surrounding area for the past 10 years collecting oral histories for the Mississippi Freedom Project, an award-winning learning initiative focused on interviewing civil rights movement veterans.

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An estimated 12 people were interviewed July 19 and 20 by members of the team visiting the area, said Georgene Clark, a retired Delta State professor who helped coordinate the visit.

The members also participated in a panel discussion on the program July 19, and University of Florida professor Paul Ortiz, the team’s leader and author of the book “An African American and Latinx History of the United States,” discussed his book and had a book signing at Lorlei Books July 20.

Participation numbers

Clark said the low number of interviews “wasn’t a lack of interest. It was just so many other things going on.” Many of the people who would have been interviewed, she said, were not in town, and some of the older people were unable to go to the interviews at Outside the Box.

“I did not know they (the team members) would have gone to their homes,” she said. “Had I known that, we would have had more, because we would have gone to those elderly folk who could not get out. But it went well, and it was enthusiastically received.”

The field workers conducted recorded interviews with high school students, educators, and contemporary activists who reflected on the legacies of the civil rights movement for public access. Their visit to Vicksburg was the second for the program, which interviewed residents here in 2017.

“We returned to get interview more people in the Delta and Vicksburg, and we’ve gotten some amazing stories from people, not just about the civil rights movement, but about every day life in the Delta and in Vicksburg,” said Nicole Yapp, a recent University of Florida graduate. “This is really a valuable experience for the students on our team.”

She said the interviews will be transcribed and filed, and participants interviewed for the program will receive a CD of their interview.

Clark said she became affiliated with the oral history program while she was at Delta State, and asked if the group would come to Vicksburg, because they put Natchez on their list of places to visit.

She did not know if the team would return to Vicksburg in 2019.

“They are certainly willing to come to Vicksburg, and they come to Mississippi every year, so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t come back.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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