Samuel Proctor Oral History Program

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Pugh Hall at the University of Florida.JPG
Former names
University of Florida Oral History Program
MottoOne community, many voices
TypeOral history program
Parent institution
University of Florida
DirectorDr. Paul Ortiz
Location, ,
University of Florida logo.svg

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) is the official oral history program at the University of Florida. With over 6,500 interviews and more than 150,000 pages of transcribed material, it is one of the premier oral history programs in the United States. SPOHP's mission is "to gather, preserve, and promote living histories of individuals from all walks of life." The program involves staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and community volunteers in its operation.[1][2]


The program was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor in 1967 as the University of Florida Oral History Program. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. Major projects focused on Native American, African American, military, and Florida county-specific history. Much of SPOHP's early work was initiated by grants and support from the Doris Duke Foundation.[3][4]

Dr. Samuel Proctor, with a student at the University of Florida Oral History Program in 1980.

Dr. Samuel Proctor, the UF Oral History Program's original founder, was a prominent scholar of Florida history and a pioneer in the field of oral history in the United States. Dr. Proctor taught in the History Department at the University of Florida for fifty years, serving as the first official University of Florida Historian and Archivist and holding chairs as Distinguished Service Professor of History and Julian C. Yonge Professor of History. He was also the Director of the Center for Florida Studies and the History Curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History.[5][6]

Following Dr. Proctor's tenure, the directorship of the program was taken up by Dr. Julian Pleasants, who renamed the program in Proctor's honor and lead the program from 1996 to 2007. The program's current director is Dr. Paul Ortíz. Dr. Ortíz is an associate professor in the History Department and affiliated faculty with the Center For Latin American Studies and African American Studies Program who has also served as the President of the Oral History Association.


The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program strives to promote the thousands of oral narratives entrusted in its care, making existing and emerging collections accessible to a wide audience by uploading transcripts of interviews, maintaining digital archives, creating educational podcasts, and organizing public programs and events. SPOHP also produces a newsletter, featuring new research and student work, that is published each semester.

Recent Grants and Awards[edit]

Dr. Paul Ortiz and SPOHP will take part in developing UF undergrad courses on Intersections of Global Blackness and Latinx Identity through an 2018 Intersections Research-Into-Teaching Grant awarded from the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere & Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This Intersections group will emphasize how popular culture, visual arts, and performance reverberate globally through media consumption to (re)produce Black & Latinx cultures.

Fieldwork Research Trips[edit]

Remembering Refugees in Jacksonville: Oral Histories of Resettled Refugees: Our program has been collecting oral histories of resettled refugees in Jacksonville, Florida, in partnership with World Relief Jacksonville. Our project director Seyeon Hwang has spearheaded the project by documenting and recording the personal stories of refugees who have resettled in Jacksonville both recently and over the past decades. Our team is committed to listening to these stories and having them heard by a broader audience through this project. Every story that has been recorded will be permanently stored in the University of Florida archives.

The Latino Diaspora in the Americas Project seeks to understand the movements of Latinx peoples and their struggles in Gainesville, the United States, and abroad. LDAP covers a wide range of subject matter, including projects on undocumented students, Hispanic alumni, and Christian communities. This year, the LDAP team worked with the University to create training programs for administration on undocumented students and built a research platform on La Casita and safe spaces for Latinx students on campus. We presented at several conferences including the Southwest Oral History Association and UF's Social Justice Summit. LDAP also expanded its research into the lives of agricultural workers, Hispanic alumni at UF, and Latinx religious communities in Gainesville.

The Seahorse Key Marine Lab Oral History Project is preserving the faculty, staff, student, and community memory of UF's history on the island. In 1952, the University of Florida established its marine laboratory on Seahorse Key, part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. It was convened by a generous grant by the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere. Join us at the island's open houses or check out our videos on our YouTube channel to view the work products of this grant in person: an informational display banner and video-recorded oral histories.

The Poarch Creek Project is in its fourth year of working with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Office of Archives and Records Management to process archival audio materials in an effort to document their tribal history and federal recognition effort. This collaboration, originating from an oral history project conducted in the 1970s by Dr. Anthony Paredes, focuses on the audiocassette recordings of Judge Hugh Rozelle, an attorney involved in the tribe's federal recognition efforts. Students participate in conducting archival research, transcribing audio materials, and preservation. In addition, this summer will mark the second consecutive trip to Alabama in which students will conduct oral histories with tribal elders in the community to supplement the archival records of the tribe. This project has produced multiple presentations at the Oral History Association's Annual Meeting and hopes to encourage further student research and projects through podcasts and video presentations.

Eddie Tullis is the Treasurer and former Tribal Chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Atmore, Alabama. Tullis has served as Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians, President of United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), and Chairman of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education. Mr. Tullis' interview during our 2017 fieldwork trip to Alabama renews an oral history collaboration that started with the Poarch Band in the 1970s, and supports our collaboration with Dr. Deidra Dees and the Poarch Creek Office of Archives and Records Management on the Hugh Rozelle Collection.

Ottoman Greeks in the United States Project: In March 2018, the UF Asian Alumni Association (AAA) hosted a weekend of events for both alumni and current students to attend. SPOHP staff collaborated with the AAA to interview alumni and record their presidential panel event. The Asian American History Project will continue to work with the Association of Asian Alumni to fill gaps in the history of Asian students and student organizations at the University of Florida. These stories shed light on immigration experiences, the creation and growth of student groups, various forms of student activism, the creation of multicultural spaces and supports for students, the struggle to keep Asian language programs, and the development of the Asian American Studies minor at UF.

The Tidewater Main Street Project is dedicated to documenting the traditions, folklore, and history of the rural communities in the tidewater region of Virginia via student fieldwork and community engagement. This year marks the fifth year SPOHP plans on traveling to Virginia to build upon its 200+ oral history collection, which are available online at In addition, project coordinators Patrick Daglaris and Dr. Jessica Taylor collaborated with the Southern Foodways Alliance in May to conduct interviews focusing on how local foodways define and affect rural communities throughout the tidewater region. This project has produced student video productions and podcasts, presentations for the Oral History Association's Annual Meeting, photo essays, and would not be successful without extensive support and collaboration with several public history organizations in Virginia. Students of the Virginia Tidewater Project brought together the stories of men who fish, crab, oyster, clam, and conch for a livelihood and as a calling in Mathews and Middlesex Counties, Virginia.

The Mississippi Freedom Project (MFP) was established in 2008 to give students the opportunity to engage in oral history research that centers on activism and the civil rights movement. The project archive contains more than 200 interviews that tell the stories of activists and organizers in the Mississippi Delta and other parts of the South. In 2014, SPOHP published "I Will Never Forget," an edited volume that was compiled by MFP coordinator Sarah Blanc, to commemorate the project. Each year, SPOHP organizes an MFP panel to share stories and fieldwork experiences from each year's MFP trip. This year's MFP trip is scheduled to begin on July 15th and end on July 22nd. Students on this year's trip will have the opportunity to visit the newly opened Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial in Montgomery Alabama. As with all MFP trips, this year's trip will give students the opportunity to meet numerous social activists that have done tremendous work to advance racial equity in this nation.

Ms. Margaret Block was a lifelong civil rights activist, teacher, and friend. Her efforts to organize, agitate, and educate for social justice inspired men and women across the country to work together for freedom in America, including students of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program's Mississippi Freedom Project, whom she led for many years.

In Summer 2013, UF's George A. Smathers Libraries approved a mini-grant proposal to transcribe the SPOHP's Mississippi Freedom Project collection. The completion of this project was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer during the summer of 2014, when SPOHP presented the completed transcripts to veterans of the Mississippi Freedom Summer at their 50th anniversary reunion. This processing project leveraged existing knowledge, resources, and partnerships to promote online access to the Mississippi Freedom Project collection, including the development of a Freedom Summer LibGuide, two new podcasts, and a second phase which involves continuing transcription, Google Optimization of transcripts, and expanded Mississippi Freedom Project content on SPOHP's website.[7]

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program launched its fifth annual Mississippi Freedom Project Research Trip in 2012. Group pictured here at the Tallahatchie County Courthouse.


SPOHP is continuously engaged in active research projects designed to broaden the scope and scale of its collections, using contributions from undergraduate and graduate students as well as trained volunteers. SPOHP's collections house more than 6,500 oral history interviews on hundreds of different topics. The program also transcribes a portion of its interviews, which are available at the University of Florida Digital Collections online Samuel Proctor Oral History Program Digital Collection archive.[8]

Veterans History Project

In 2000, SPOHP was approached by the Library of Congress to assist in efforts with collecting oral history interviews of World War II veterans. Since that time, SPOHP has been conducting interviews for the Library's Veterans History Project, which is a project of its American Folklife Center.[9][10] Ann Smith, a longtime SPOHP volunteer, is the project director.

The Veterans History Project obtained 45 new oral histories since June 2017. The highest number continues to be from the WWII era with continued interest from students, volunteers, and the public. Additional interviews came from the Vietnam War, Korean Conflict, and Iraq. In February 2018, a public program was presented in the Ocora of Pugh Hall to commemorate the fifty-year anniversary of the Tet Offensive. A panel of speakers presented to a generous crowd with active discussion following the initial remarks.

Transcription and the finalization of oral histories continues on the entire collection by volunteers and students. Our collaboration with the Library of Congress and Matheson Museum continues. In September 2016, the UF Oral History Program conducted an interview with the late Marine Veteran Mr. Ernest Sneed in Monticello, Florida. His story is preserved in the SPOHP archives and available in the video below.

[11] SPOHP has submitted over 100 interviews to date.[12]

African American History Project

SPOHP's African American History Project (AAHP) began in January 2010 with the mission of collecting 400 interviews on local African American history, giving particular attention to narratives on segregation under Jim Crow, as well as integration and Civil Rights.[13] Originally conceived as the Alachua County African American History Project, AAHP quickly expanded into other parts of North and Central Florida, and now contains over 300 interviews with elders, leaders, activists, and other community members. A list of themes in the collection include: pre-integration black high schools and their contemporary legacies and significance; previously silenced narratives of racially motivated violence and repression; the quotidian socio-economics of providing for families and maintaining communities under Jim Crow; and the conflicted history of the University of Florida's interactions with and influence on local African American communities.[14][15]

The Art of Aging Project was co-founded by SPOHP and partners in the College of Medicine in September 2017 to advance good communication skills in medical education. As part of the Geriatrics Clerkship rotation for fourth-year MD students, a core goal of the collaboration is to help future clinicians see older adults in their full personhood. Each month, students receive training in the methods of oral history from SPOHP staff and volunteers; interview a narrator who has been recruited through community partners like the Oak Hammock retirement community and the Community Coalition for Older Adults; and present to colleagues a vignette of their interview along with their impressions of the process. Since the project began, 101 students have interviewed 52 narrators. A clip featuring AOAP interview highlights was shared with 2018 College of Medicine graduates. Initial findings from the collaboration were presented at the 2018 International Health Humanities Consortium Conference at Stanford University.

The Florida Queer History Project presented a symposia session titled, "Queer in the Capitals," joined by South African Fulbrightscholar Mandisa Haarhoff, at the UF Social Justice Summit in January 2018. The presentation shared the panelists' intersectional research from Pride weekend in Washington, D.C. as well as the politics of Pride in South Africa. In March 2018, FQH led a fieldwork trip with UF students to document the March for Our Lives in Orlando, Florida. SPOHP coordinator Robert Baez interviewed organizers with Gays Against Guns, in addition to Pulse shooting survivors Kate Maini, Brian Wood, and Tommy Connelly. FQH coordinator Holland Hall performed in the play, Voices from the March, at several conferences both at UF and at the Southwest Oral History Association Annual Conference at California State, Fullerton. Holland incorporated contemporary queer issues through sharing her personal narrative regarding queer identity in the play. In June 2017 student researchers from the Florida Queer History Project attended Capital Pride, an annual LGBT pride festival held in early June each year in Washington, D.C., as well as the No Justice No Pride protest of Capital Pride and the Equality March for Unity and Pride (EMUP),

The Latino Diaspora in the Americas Project seeks to understand the movements of Latinx peoples and their struggles in Gainesville, the United States, and abroad. LDAP covers a wide range of subject matter, including projects on undocumented students, Hispanic alumni, and Christian communities. This year, the LDAP team worked with the University to create training programs for administration on undocumented students and built a research platform on La Casita and safe spaces for Latinx students on campus. We presented at several conferences including the Southwest Oral History Association and UF's Social Justice Summit. LDAP also expanded its research into the lives of agricultural workers, Hispanic alumni at UF, and Latinx religious communities in Gainesville.

The History of the Jewish Community in El Salvador documents the community-building efforts of Jewish immigrants to El Salvador, some arriving in the 1920s and starting coffee plantations, and many more after fleeing the Nazi occupation during WWII. Many members of the community then left El Salvador in the late 1970s and early 1980s due to the civil war. The collection began in 1981 when Lea Freund, a member of the community, interviewed some of her family members and friends in the parts of South Florida that they had immigrated to. It was then substantially expanded when Jessica Alpert, whose grandmother had lived in the community, received a Fulbright grant to interview community members who were now geographically scattered; she traveled to San Salvador, Miami, Maryland, Israel, and parts of Europe to conduct the interviews and trace out the interconnections of family and heritage in this small and tight-knit community, as well as being able to record voices from the Jewish community's efforts in San Salvador to convert new members so that it is able to carry on into the future. The interviews are primarily in English or Spanish, but variously also contain phrases and statements in French, German, and Hebrew. This year, SPOHP expects to finally complete the transcription of the History of the Jewish Community in El Salvador project, through a collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Jefferson of the UF Judaica Library.

Events and Public Programs[edit]

Since 2018, SPOHP has transcribed and processed a substantial number of oral history interviews within the African American History Project (AAHP). This summer, we are finalizing the transcriptions to be ready for their public unveiling at the inaugural symposium on March 21-23rd, 2019. The symposium, entitled, From Segregation to Black Lives Matter will feature this collection, which holds over six hundred oral history interviews.

In January, our original play Voices from the March headlined the 2018 UF Social Justice Summit. We were joined by actors from the UF College of the Arts to present the play, which was collaboratively written by SPOHP staff and Fall 2017 interns and directed by SPOHP visiting scholar, Jeffrey Pufahl. The play combines the experiences of the SPOHP staff who traveled to the presidential inauguration and Women's March on Washington in January 2017, and the perspectives of SPOHP interns who not only shared their personal narratives, but also incorporated archival research to feature interviews the research team collected in D.C.

SPOHP regularly develops documentaries, podcasts, and other audio selections to highlight interviews in its collections.[16][17] SPOHP's archives also contains a variety of different sound files, including University of Florida speeches, videotapes of television interviews, Native American slides and photos, and recordings of music.[18]

Oral History and Academic Study at UF[edit]

SPOHP promotes the craft and intellectual traditions of oral history through university seminars, classes, and community-based workshops. SPOHP offers an internship class for 12-16 undergraduate students each semester, involving training in oral history practices and fieldwork experience, and also operates a program for volunteers on a rotating semester basis. The program consults on an ongoing basis with local historians, civic leaders, and educators across the country interested in initiating oral history projects in their towns and municipalities.

Intro to Oral History: This Summer B Semester Ph.D. Candidate Matt Simmons is teaching the Introduction to Oral History seminar. This course explores Florida's unique agricultural history, focusing on the experiences of farmworkers in Florida's fields. The class will interview current and former Latinx and African American Florida farmworkers through a partnership with the Farmworkers’ Association of Florida (FWAF), an organization which advocates on behalf of agricultural workers in central Florida. Conducting these oral history interviews will give students the opportunity to interrogate the lived experiences of these men and women and to better understand what it means to be a worker in the agricultural industry and to understand the intersection of class, race/ethnicity, and gender in this work environment. Through these interviews students will have the opportunity to also explore issues of environmental sustainability and the impact of pesticides and genetically modified crops on humans and the environment.

Trinidad Study Abroad Program: In the summer of 2017, SPOHP staff members traveled to the University of the West Indies St. Augustine in Trinidad to lay the groundwork for a study abroad program that incorporates guest lectures, oral history interviews, collaboration with local institutions, and excursions to heritage sites around the country. They met with professors, archivists, and other stakeholders to build the network of contacts necessary for successful oral history fieldwork. Students in the UF in Trinidad and Tobago 2019 program will have the opportunity to participate in Emancipation Day celebrations and interview the leaders who helped Emancipation Day become an official holiday in Trinidad. These interviews will not only become part of archives at UF, but will also be shared with the libraries at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine and the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to planning immersive student experiences, SPOHP staff are committed to finding ways to make the program accessible to as many students as possible.

Oral History Internship: SPOHP started recording interviews with people involved in the punk scene, prioritizing the voices of women, people of color, and queer punks who have always been part of the scene but are not always visible in popular representations of it. We are also making an effort not only to interview band members, but also general show-goers, zine makers, venue operators, and anyone else willing to share some of their experiences. This fall, our internship will add to and further process this collection, and also start creating things like podcasts and zines to share these stories and shed more light on how people can successfully create spaces of creative resistance, and what kinds of potential they offer for inclusivity and empowerment.

BA/MA 4+1 Combined Degree Program: In October 2013, the UF History Department announced a new combined Bachelor's and Master's Degree Program in oral history. The program, open to students working in any field of modern history, is designed to train students in oral history practice to make history accessible to a broad audience and connect scholars and departments to their local communities. The track opened to students in Spring 2014.[19]

Featured projects include:

  • African American History Project (AAHP)
  • Coalition of Immokalee Workers
  • Community Organizing in America
  • Confederate Veterans
  • Cold War History
  • Disability History
  • Duval County
  • Everglades
  • Everglades Jetport
  • Fifth Avenue Blacks
  • Florida Business Leaders
  • Florida Environment and Ecology
  • Florida Elections Project
  • Florida Opportunity Scholars
  • Florida Politics
  • Florida Ranching
  • Florida Water Management
  • Haitian Revolution Memories
  • Immigration History in America
  • Iraq Veterans
  • Korean War
  • Lumbee Indians
  • Mississippi Choctaw
  • Mississippi Freedom Project
  • 9/11 Project
  • Nantucket Preservation
  • Ocklawaha River Project
  • Panama Canal Museum Project
  • Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
  • St. Augustine Civil Rights
  • St. Augustine Historic Preservation
  • Student Action with Farmworkers
  • Suwannee River
  • Tucson Ethnic Studies
  • University of Florida
  • UF College of Nursing
  • UF Healthcare Center
  • UF College of Law
  • United Faculty of Florida
  • Veterans History Project
  • Vietnam War Veterans
  • Women Activists Feminists
  • Women's Police
  • World War II Veterans

Featured interviewees:

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. Samuel Proctor Oral History Program official website
  2. Samuel Proctor Oral History Program Oral History Archives at UF's Digital Collections
  3. Samuel Proctor Oral History Program YouTube Channel


  1. ^ Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, "About", University of Florida, 2015.
  2. ^ Oral History Association, "Featured Member Spotlight: The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program", November 4, 2015.
  3. ^ Kathryn L. Jasper (Spring 2005). "The Doris Duke Program in Scope and Sequence". Journal of the Southwest. Journal of the Southwest. 47 (1, Oral History Remembered: Native Americans, Doris Duke, and the Young Anthropologists): 153–164. doi:10.2307/40170355. JSTOR 40170355.
  4. ^ Dianna Repp (Spring 2005). "The Doris Duke American Indian Oral History Program: Gathering the "Raw Material of History"". Journal of the Southwest. Journal of the Southwest. 47 (1, Oral History Remembered: Native Americans, Doris Duke, and the Young Anthropologists): 11–28. doi:10.2307/40170347. JSTOR 40170347.
  5. ^ College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, "Remembering Dr. Samuel Proctor", University of Florida, October 16, 2005.
  6. ^ Bob Arndorfer, "'Dean of state history' dies at Gainesville Home", The Gainesville Sun, July 11, 2005.
  7. ^ Bess de Farber, Dr. Paul Ortíz, Jana Ronan, Barbara Hood, Mississippi Freedom Project Interviews to be Available on University of Florida Digital Collections for MLK Celebration, Freedom Summer Anniversary, University of Florida Digital Collections, 2014.
  8. ^ University of Florida Digital Collections, "UFDC Home - All Collection Groups". Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  9. ^ University of Florida News, "UF to collaborate with Library of Congress on veterans' oral histories | University of Florida News". 2010-11-08. Archived from the original on 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  10. ^ Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, "SPOHP's Veterans History Project". Archived from the original on 2014-04-14. Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  11. ^ Ferguson, Grier (2011-05-13). "Ann Smith is coordinator of the Veterans Project for the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida". Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  12. ^ Veterans History Project, Samuel Proctor Oral History Program interviews, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, 2015.
  13. ^ University of Florida News, "UF awards $150,000 grant to preserve oral histories of local African-Americans | University of Florida News". 2010-01-14. Archived from the original on 2011-08-13. Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  14. ^ Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, African American History Project Mission Archived 2014-04-13 at the Wayback Machine., University of Florida, 2015.
  15. ^ Gerald Ensley, John Due, still making the world a better place, Tallahassee Democrat, October 28, 2014.
  16. ^ Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, "SPOHP Proctor Podcasts". Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  17. ^ "Samuel Proctor Oral History Program | WUFT News". Archived from the original on 2014-03-14. Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  18. ^ Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, About, University of Florida, 2015.
  19. ^ History Department, 4+1 Program in Oral History, University of Florida, 2015.
  20. ^