Guide to the Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South Records, 1940-1997 and undated, bulk 1993-1997
The Behind the Veil Oral History Project was undertaken by Duke University's Lyndhurst Center for Documentary Studies in 1990. It seeks to record and preserve the living memory of African-American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to the 1950.
- Collection Number
- Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South records
- 1940-1997 and undated, bulk 1993-1997
- Behind the Veil Project Oral History Project
- 69.9 Linear Feet, about 14,018 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Master Tapes Series (MT), 1993-1997 [RESTRICTED]
- Use Tapes Series (UT), 1993-1997 [RESTRICTED]
- Printed Materials Series (PM), ca. 1940-1997 (bulk 1993-1997) [RESTRICTED]
- Transcripts Series (TR), 1993-1997
- Accession 2000-0183
- Accession 2004-0344
- Accession 2009-0012
- Accession 2013-0108
- Audio recordings - associated interview cassettes, 1991-1997
- Audio recordings - associated administrative cassettes, 1991-1997
- Electronic records - associated diskettes, 1991-1997
The Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South Records span the years 1940-1997 (bulk 1993-1997) and are comprised chiefly of interviews recorded on cassette tapes. The 1260 interviews, 1993-1997, in this collection cover a number of topics related to African-American life in the 20th century with a focus on the age of southern segregation. The collection includes interviews with people from Albany, Ga.; Fargo, Ark.; Birmingham and Tuskegee, Ala.; Charlotte, Durham, Enfield, New Bern and Wilmington, N. C.; LeFlore County, Miss.; Memphis, Tenn.; Muhlenburg County, Ky.; New Iberia and New Orleans, La.; Norfolk, Va.; Columbia, Orangeburg, St. Helena, and Summerton, S. C.; and Tallahassee, Fla. In addition to interviews conducted specifically for the Behind the Veil project, the collection includes six interviews from the James City Historical Society, Craven County, N.C. as well as eight interviews conducted by Paul Ortiz in Tallahassee, Fla., in the summer of 1997 as part of his dissertation research.
The collection includes duplicate sets of approximately 1700 interview tapes. The Master Tapes Series is closed except for appropriate use by authorized staff from the Behind the Veil project and the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Use Tapes Series contains copies of the tapes for use by researchers. The Printed Materials Series provides biographical information about informants, interview agreement forms, proper names sheets, and brief summaries (one-three pages) of each of the 1260 interviews. Also included are some personal papers, the earliest of which is dated 1940. The Transcripts Series currently includes unverified transcripts of 314 interviews in the collection. These transcripts are also available as electronic documents. A disk directory log exists. Contact Research Services staff for more information. More transcripts will be available each semester.
The Behind the Veil collection will eventually include approximately 5100 photographs and slides. This Visual Materials Series will contain items donated by informants and others in the communities where Behind the Veil field-workers conducted interviews. The vast majority of these pictures show family and community members at home or at special events. A smaller number portray buildings and other local places. Images of political events are notably rare in the collection. We also anticipate the eventual addition of the Behind the Veil project's papers, which will be held as the Administrative Files Series.
Behind the Veil interviewers were provided with a list of Interview Questions before they entered the field. Although most interviews in the collection do not follow the list question by question, the list provides a useful research guide to the type of inquiry many interviews follow. The list of questions is included as an appendix in this guide. Frequently discussed topics include family history, local neighborhoods, educational background, employment history, religious institutions, experiences of segregation, local political activities, civic organizations and activities, black-owned businesses and local culture. Behind the Veil informants represent a number of occupational groups, including domestic workers, educators, homemakers, health professionals, manufacturing workers, miners, ministers, political figures, professionals and servicemen.
A Behind the Veil Database, created by Alex X. Byrd, will soon accompany the collection. The fields included are in two categories: Informant and Circumstance of Interview. The Informant fields are Last Name, First Name, Middle or Maiden Name, Sex, Zip Code, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, and Principal Occupations. The Circumstance of Interview fields are Date of Interview, Location of Interview, Processing Subseries, and Interviewers. The other fields are: was the informant part of a group interview?; has the interview been transcribed?; if part of a group interview, under whose name is the material filed?; number of tapes for interview.
Consult reference staff concerning the availability of the database.
The addition (acc# 2001-0183)(100 items, 1.5 linear feet; dated 1996-1997) includes a course syllabus, interviews of African-American North Carolinians on cassette tapes, some student self-evaluations, contracts, indices, and transcript excerpts. The area most represented is Durham, N.C. Students were to aim for insight into how African-Americans built communities during an age of racial oppression. The interviews include much information about family history and social and community issues.
Access to the Collection
All researchers must sign an agreement form before using the records. Please consult the Description of Series section of the finding aid for information concerning the restrictions governing access to and use of the materials in the Behind the Veil Collection. Some materials are closed to all researchers.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
Duke University holds the copyright for this collection. Additional restrictions may apply to the use of materials in the Behind the Veil Collection. See the Description of Series section of the finding aid or consult with Library staff for more information.
How to Cite
[name of interviewee], interviewed by [name of interviewer], [city], [state], [date]. From Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South. Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
The Master Tapes Series, 1993-1997,includes one complete set of master tapes for all of the 1260 interviews conducted as part of the Behind the Veil Oral History Project.
The interviews tapes in this series are organized alphabetically by site, with administration tapes at the beginning of the series, and alphabetically by surname.
This set of archival tapes is restricted to use by library and Behind the Veil staff and for creating use copies.
(Elder materials include videotape, The Real Estate Report: Welcome Back Greenville)
The Use Tapes Series, 1993-1997, contains a full set of the 1260 interviews conducted as part of the Behind the Veil oral history project.
The interview tapes in this series are organized alphabetically by site, with administrative tapes at the beginning of the series, and alphabetically by surname within.
Forty-two of these interviews are closed to all researchers; these tapes are housed separately at the end of the series. All the remaining tapes are available to researchers; however, some restrictions, such as stipulations regarding publication and profit, anonymity or transliteration of language, may apply to the use of individual interviews. Information about particular restrictions on use can be found with the printed materials in this collection. Researchers with further questions about these restrictions should consult with library staff.
(Elder materials include videotape, "The Real Estate Report: Welcome Back Greenville")