Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, November 8, 1990

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Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, November 8, 1990. Interview A-0347. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).

Herman Talmadge served as the Democratic governor of Georgia from 1948 to 1955 (in addition to a brief stint in 1947), and went on to represent that state in the United States Senate from 1957 to 1981. In this interview, he shares his opinions on integration and race relations in Georgia. Talmadge, who opposed integration, claims that he did so to avoid tensions. He maintains that had the federal government stayed out of the South, states like Georgia would have integrated slowly but surely and with significantly less strife.The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.

Source: Herman Talmadge and John Egerton, conducted by Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, November 8, 1990. Interview A-0347. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).

Principles and Best Practices | Oral History Association

Principles for Oral History and Best Practices for Oral History

Adopted October, 2009

General Principles for Oral History
Best Practices for Oral History


The Principles and Best Practices for Oral History update and replace the Oral History Evaluation Guidelines adopted in 1989, revised in 2000.


Oral history refers both to a method of recording and preserving oral testimony and to the product of that process. It begins with an audio or video recording of a first person account made by an interviewer with an interviewee (also referred to as narrator), both of whom have the conscious intention of creating a permanent record to contribute to an understanding of the past. A verbal document, the oral history, results from this process and is preserved and made available in different forms to other users, researchers, and the public. A critical approach to the oral testimony and interpretations are necessary in the use of oral history.

The Oral History Association encourages individuals and institutions involved with the creation and preservation of oral histories to uphold certain principles, professional and technical standards, and obligations. These include commitments to the narrators, to standards of scholarship for history and related disciplines, and to the preservation of the interviews and related materials for current and future users.

Recognizing that clear and concise guide can be useful to all practitioners of oral history, the Oral History Association has since 1968 published a series of statements aimed at outlining a set of principles and obligations for all those who use this methodology. A history of these earlier statements, and a record of the individuals involved in producing them, is available to download.

Building on those earlier documents, but representing changes in an evolving field, the OHA now offers General Principles for Oral History and Best Practices for Oral History as summaries of the organization’s most important principles and best practices for the pre-interview preparation, the conduct of the interview, and the preservation and use of oral histories. These documents are not intended to be an inclusive primer on oral history; for that there are numerous manuals, guidebooks, and theoretical discussions. For the readers’ convenience, a bibliography of resources is provided online at the Oral History Association website.

General Principles for Oral History

Oral history is distinguished from other forms of interviews by its content and extent. Oral history interviews seek an in-depth account of personal experience and reflections, with sufficient time allowed for the narrators to give their story the fullness they desire. The content of oral history interviews is grounded in reflections on the past as opposed to commentary on purely contemporary events.

Oral historians inform narrators about the nature and purpose of oral history interviewing in general and of their interview specifically. Oral historians insure that narrators voluntarily give their consent to be interviewed and understand that they can withdraw from the interview or refuse to answer a question at any time. Narrators may give this consent by signing a consent form or by recording an oral statement of consent prior to the interview. All interviews are conducted in accord with the stated aims and within the parameters of the consent.

Interviewees hold the copyright to their interviews until and unless they transfer those rights to an individual or institution. This is done by the interviewee signing a release form or in exceptional circumstances recording an oral statement to the same effect. Interviewers must insure that narrators understand the extent of their rights to the interview and the request that those rights be yielded to a repository or other party, as well as their right to put restrictions on the use of the material. All use and dissemination of the interview content must follow any restrictions the narrator places upon it.

Oral historians respect the narrators as well as the integrity of the research. Interviewers are obliged to ask historically significant questions, reflecting careful preparation for the interview and understanding of the issues to be addressed. Interviewers must also respect the narrators’ equal authority in the interviews and honor their right to respond to questions in their own style and language. In the use of interviews, oral historians strive for intellectual honesty and the best application of the skills of their discipline, while avoiding stereotypes, misrepresentations, or manipulations of the narrators’ words.

Because of the importance of context and identity in shaping the content of an oral history narrative, it is the practice in oral history for narrators to be identified by name. There may be some exceptional circumstances when anonymity is appropriate, and this should be negotiated in advance with the narrator as part of the informed consent process.

Oral history interviews are historical documents that are preserved and made accessible to future researchers and members of the public. This preservation and access may take a variety of forms, reflecting changes in technology. But, in choosing a repository or form, oral historians consider how best to preserve the original recording and any transcripts made of it and to protect the accessibility and usability of the interview. The plan for preservation and access, including any possible dissemination through the web or other media, is stated in the informed consent process and on release forms.

In keeping with the goal of long term preservation and access, oral historians should use the best recording equipment available within the limits of their financial resources.

Interviewers must take care to avoid making promises that cannot be met, such as guarantees of control over interpretation and presentation of the interviews beyond the scope of restrictions stated in informed consent/release forms, suggestions of material benefit outside the control of the interviewer, or assurances of an open ended relationship between the narrator and oral historian.
Best Practices for Oral History


1. Whether conducting their own research or developing an institutional project, first time interviewers and others involved in oral history projects should seek training to prepare themselves for all stages of the oral history process.

2. In the early stages of preparation, interviewers should make contact with an appropriate repository that has the capacity to preserve the oral histories and make them accessible to the public.

3. Oral historians or others responsible for planning the oral history project should choose potential narrators based on the relevance of their experiences to the subject at hand.

4. To prepare to ask informed questions, interviewers should conduct background research on the person, topic, and larger context in both primary and secondary sources

5. When ready to contact a possible narrator, oral historians should send via regular mail or email an introductory letter outlining the general focus and purpose of the interview, and then follow-up with either a phone call or a return email. In projects involving groups in which literacy is not the norm, or when other conditions make it appropriate, participation may be solicited via face to face meetings.

6. After securing the narrator’s agreement to be interviewed, the interviewer should schedule a non-recorded meeting. This pre-interview session will allow an exchange of information between interviewer and narrator on possible questions/topics, reasons for conducting the interview, the process that will be involved, and the need for informed consent and legal release forms. During pre-interview discussion the interviewer should make sure that the narrator understands:

*oral history’s purposes and procedures in general and of the proposed interview’s aims and anticipated uses.
*his or her rights to the interviews including editing, access restrictions, copyrights, prior use, royalties, and the expected disposition and dissemination of all forms of the record, including the potential distribution electronically or on-line.
*that his or her recording(s) will remain confidential until he or she has given permission via a signed legal release.

7. Oral historians should use the best digital recording equipment within their means to reproduce the narrator’s voice accurately and, if appropriate, other sounds as well as visual images. Before the interview, interviewers should become familiar with the equipment and be knowledgeable about its function.

8. Interviewers should prepare an outline of interview topics and questions to use as a guide to the recorded dialogue.

1. Unless part of the oral history process includes gathering soundscapes, historically significant sound events, or ambient noise, the interview should be conducted in a quiet room with minimal background noises and possible distractions.

2. The interviewer should record a “lead” at the beginning of each session to help focus his or her and the narrator’s thoughts to each session’s goals. The “lead” should consist of, at least, the names of narrator and interviewer, day and year of session, interview’s location, and proposed subject of the recording.

3. Both parties should agree to the approximate length of the interview in advance. The interviewer is responsible for assessing whether the narrator is becoming tired and at that point should ask if the latter wishes to continue. Although most interviews last about two hours, if the narrator wishes to continue those wishes should be honored, if possible.

4. Along with asking creative and probing questions and listening to the answers to ask better follow-up questions, the interviewer should keep the following items in mind:
• interviews should be conducted in accord with any prior agreements made with narrator, which should be documented for the record.
• interviewers should work to achieve a balance between the objectives of the project and the perspectives of the interviewees. Interviewers should fully explore all appropriate areas of inquiry with interviewees and not be satisfied with superficial responses. At the same time, they should encourage narrators to respond to questions in their own style and language and to address issues that reflect their concerns.
• interviewers must respect the rights of interviewees to refuse to discuss certain subjects, to restrict access to the interview, or, under certain circumstances, to choose anonymity. Interviewers should clearly explain these options to all interviewees.
• interviewers should attempt to extend the inquiry beyond the specific focus of the project to create as complete a record as possible for the benefit of others.
• in recognition of the importance of oral history to an understanding of the past and of the cost and effort involved, interviewers and interviewees should mutually strive to record candid information of lasting value.

5. The interviewer should secure a release form, by which the narrator transfers his or her rights to the interview to the repository or designated body, signed after each recording session or at the end of the last interview with the narrator.
Post Interview
1. Interviewers, sponsoring institutions, and institutions charged with the preservation of oral history interviews should understand that appropriate care and storage of original recordings begins immediately after their creation.

2. Interviewers should document their preparation and methods, including the circumstances of the interviews and provide that information to whatever repository will be preserving and providing access to the interview.

3. Information deemed relevant for the interpretation of the oral history by future users, such as photographs, documents, or other records should be collected, and archivists should make clear to users the availability and connection of these materials to the recorded interview.

4. The recordings of the interviews should be stored, processed, refreshed and accessed according to established archival standards designated for the media format used. Whenever possible, all efforts should be made to preserve electronic files in formats that are cross platform and nonproprietary. Finally, the obsolescence of all media formats should be assumed and planned for.

5. In order to augment the accessibility of the interview, repositories should make transcriptions, indexes, time tags, detailed descriptions or other written guides to the contents.

6. Institutions charged with the preservation and access of oral history interviews should honor the stipulations of prior agreements made with the interviewers or sponsoring institutions including restrictions on access and methods of distribution.

7. The repository should comply to the extent to which it is aware with the letter and spirit of the interviewee’s agreement with the interviewer and sponsoring institution. If written documentation such as consent and release forms does not exist then the institution should make a good faith effort to contact interviewees regarding their intent. When media become available that did not exist at the time of the interview, those working with oral history should carefully assess the applicability of the release to the new formats and proceed—or not—accordingly.

8. All those who use oral history interviews should strive for intellectual honesty and the best application of the skills of their discipline. They should avoid stereotypes, misrepresentations, and manipulations of the narrator’s words. This includes foremost striving to retain the integrity of the narrator’s perspective, recognizing the subjectivity of the interview, and interpreting and contextualizing the narrative according to the professional standards of the applicable scholarly disciplines. Finally, if a project deals with community history, the interviewer should be sensitive to the community, taking care not to reinforce thoughtless stereotypes. Interviewers should strive to make the interviews accessible to the community and where appropriate to include representatives of the community in public programs or presentations of the oral history material.

Source: Principles and Best Practices | Oral History Association

Mississippi Moments Podcast: MSM 590 John Gouras – Greek Restaurateur

John Gouras left the island of Patmos to come to America with his father in 1921. In this episode, taken from an interview conducted in 1974, Gouras shares some memories of his life and career spent as a Jackson restaurateur.  He remembers selling his father’s homemade candy to local businesses in Lake Charles, Louisiana as a teenager and how he and his partner purchased their first eatery, the People’s Café, in Jackson for $800, in 1928.  He recalls how they survived the Great Depression and opened their second café, the Mayflower, four years later.

Shortly after becoming a naturalized citizen in 1938, Gouras joined the Army Air Corp and served as a supply officer in the Mediterranean theater.  He explains how his restaurant experience was put to use by General William L. Lee.

At the time of the interview, the Mayflower Café had been open for 42 years. It is still in business as of 2018. Gouras describes the Greek community of Jackson as industrious, close-knit, and well-respected. He discusses how they work to keep traditional Greek holidays and customs alive.

PHOTO: roadarch.com

Source: Mississippi Moments Podcast: MSM 590 John Gouras – Greek Restaurateur

Inside the Interview | Oral History Review

Hot off the presses, the new OHR features a special section, Inside the Interview: The Challenges of a Humanistic Oral History Approach in the Deep Exchange of Oral History, co-edited by Andrea Hajek and Sofia Serenelli. Here, Hajek shares its origins and themes.

By Andrea Hajek

The idea behind this special section originated during a series of oral history seminars and workshops, which I co-organized on behalf of the Warwick Oral History Network, between 2011 and 2013. The network’s first conference (‘Gender, Subjectivity and Oral History’), in particular, evoked many questions about the kind of relationships that make interviews possible, and the interviewer’s ambiguous position within the interview process. Keynote speaker Penny Summerfield, as well as other speakers and attendees, discussed a whole range of variables, such as age, ethnicity, religion and gender, and the particular dynamics these can bring to the interview, both facilitating and impeding the quest to find out more about a person’s life.

In this same period, Stacey Zembrzycki and Anna Sheftel published the volume Oral History off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice (2013). The essays gathered here all focus on those aspects of oral history research that tend to remain unexplored in oral history scholarship, such as the relationships that unfold between interviewer and interviewee. Zembrzycki and Sheftel thus explain that the aim of the volume was ‘to explore how a more holistic approach to the interview might help us better understand the work we do and the people with whom we engage’.

Scholars in the field of oral history have continued in this direction, engaging more and more in discussions about the practical challenges of oral history research, and addressing issues such as intersubjectivity and ethics. Edited together with a member of the Warwick Oral History Network, Sofia Serenelli, the special section ‘Inside the Interview. The Challenges of a Humanistic Oral History Approach in the Deep Exchange of Oral History’ aims to contribute to this development, by investigating the complexity of the relationship between individual and collective memory, and the ambiguity of the interviewer’s own position as either insider or outsider in terms of age, nationality, ethnicity, or gender. Most importantly, it seeks to redefine oral history as a humanistic and processual methodology: one centered on the humanity of two human beings with different cultural and social backgrounds, and which considers the interview as intrinsically affected by what happens before, during, and after the interview.

We seek to redefine oral history as a humanistic and processual methodology: one centered on the humanity of two human beings with different cultural and social backgrounds, and which considers the interview as intrinsically affected by what happens before, during, and after the interview.

In sum, this special section analyzes the impact of self-reflexivity and personal identification on the interviewer-interviewee relationship within a variety of geographical environments and sociocultural contexts, focusing on memories of sensitive and traumatic events. Following Alessandro Portelli’s opening essay on the international development of oral history practice and the specific status of the interview, Angela Davis examines generational difference in the interview encounter, drawing on a wide body of oral history interviews that she conducted in Oxfordshire, and focused on the experience of sexuality and motherhood. Darshi Thoradeniya’s essay, which takes us to a totally different geographical context, focuses on her position as both insider and outsider in the interview process, which enabled her to both gain trust yet also posed important challenges. Anna Sheftel’s analysis of memories of atrocities among survivors of the Holocaust and the Bosnian war in Bosnia-Herzegovina raises ethical and methodological issues, in particular with regard to the limits of framing lives within the context of violence. Cahal McLaughlin, finally, analyzes the psychological and relational effects of video-recording, in his discussion of two documentary projects about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and apartheid in South Africa.

By disclosing interview experiences that reflect on the ways we listen to stories and shape them into narratives, we may come to a more profound understanding of oral history practice.

Andrea Hajek is a former British Academy postdoctoral fellow and a freelance academic editor. She is managing editor of the journal Memory Studies, and an associate editor of Modern Italy. She is also a founding member of the Oral History Network (University of Warwick), and an affiliate member of the Centre for Gender History (University of Glasgow). Her research interests include cultural and collective memory, gender and women’s history, Italian social movements, oral history, second-wave feminism, 1968 and the 1970s in Italy.

Featured image “Interview” is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)  by Flickr user Pierre Selim. We have cropped the image. 

Source: Inside the Interview | Oral History Review

Southern Grains – Southern Foodways Alliance

Community grain mills were once omnipresent in the South. A community mill often shared space with a general store or a post office. While their wheat and corn got milled, patrons could take care of other business, socialize, and trade. During the 20th century, American flour production industrialized, yielding a uniform commodity, controlled by a small handful of large food companies. The diverse taste qualities of regional grains were lost in favor of “all-purpose flour.”

The South is now experiencing a regional grain renaissance. Modern milling pioneers like Carolina Ground and Anson Mills have joined stalwarts like Lindley Mills to connect farmers and bakers, enabling them to produce a unique regional agricultural product. Farmers, such as North Carolina’s Billy Carter, now experiment with growing different types of wheat. Bakeries, like Bellegarde in New Orleans, are now developing new products that reflect the stone-ground quality and unique taste properties of regionally grown flours.

This oral history project shares the stories of farmers, millers, and bakers who have rejected the industrial system and prioritized great taste.

Photos and interviews by photojournalist and filmmaker Kate Medley.

Published October 2018

TAGS: agriculture, baking, Billy Carter, Caroline Lindley, Evrim Dogu, Glenn Roberts, Graison Gill, Jennifer Lapidus, Lionel Vatinet, milling, Rob Segovia-Welsh, Southern Grains

Source: Southern Grains – Southern Foodways Alliance

Updates from the Veterans History Project (VHP): VHP Launches "Cold War Dispatches" Online Exhibit

Though the term “veteran” is often uttered in the same breath as “war,” many U.S. veterans served during times of peace. This includes more than 10,000 men and women in the Veterans History Project archive who served during the period known as the Cold War era.

Entirely comprised of military volunteers, the online exhibit speaks to the motivations of veterans who served during an era of escalating international tensions. Trained to fight a Soviet threat, their narratives invariably give voice to conflicts derived from their ancestry, gender, and opposition to traditional warfighting techniques.

Share this link  and if you know any Cold War veterans, collect their stories for the Library of Congress:


The mission of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is to collect, preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of U.S. veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. Learn more at http://www.loc.gov/vets. Share your exciting VHP initiatives, programs, events and news stories with VHP to be considered for a future RSS. Email vohp@loc.gov and place “My VHP RSS Story” in the subject line.

Visit VHP on Facebook.

Click here for more information.

Source: Updates from the Veterans History Project (VHP): VHP Launches “Cold War Dispatches” Online Exhibit