“We are in a moment when marginalized people are increasingly attempting to document themselves. It would be useful to spend some time figuring out how to build tools and provide support for … people who want to document their own communities … based on their own values.”  —Bergis Jules, Writer and Director of Equity Initiatives, Shift

Since 2013, the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) has laid the foundation with our partners for four community-driven archives pilot projects. These pilot projects will continue through March 2021 with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Our Partnerships

The Appalachian Student Health Coalition (ASHC)

Group shot of four Appalachian Student Health Coalition women leaders

Alumni leaders of the Appalachian Student Health Coalition.

The ASHC connected with the SHC in 2013 to begin the process of documenting and sharing its organizational history. The ASHC emerged from a Vanderbilt University medical student group founded in the 1960s. As students, group members provided healthcare to underserved rural Appalachian communities.

In partnership with founding ASHC alumni, the SHC is crafting a sustainable, long-term archival home for the organization’s materials at Wilson Library.

Partnership Outcomes

7 people at a table

SHC team members with ASHC leaders during their visit to Wilson Special Collections Library, Chapel Hill.

In support of ASHC control over its organizational history, the SHC and the Community-Driven Archives Team (CDAT) have partnered with ASHC members to:

  • Develop an active ASHC alumni network
  • Conduct oral histories with ASHC partners in TN
  • Create a project advisory group led by ASHC alumni
  • Build a user-friendly website that tells the ASHC story through maps, timelines, and archival material documenting rural health initiatives, community organizing, and more
  • Raise funds in support of the project’s long-term goals

The Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA)

Team members in Princeville, NC

Local community members with CDAT team members and North Carolina Central University students at an oral history training in Princeville, NC.

HBTSA grew from a coalition of town partnerships, to a mayors’ conference, into a regional initiative promoting historic preservation in Southern Black communities.

HBTSA has partnered with the SHC to further its vision for community and economic development through cultural heritage initiatives.


Community leaders caring for museum collection

Community leaders in Hobson City, AL care for local museum collections during a CDAT-led workshop.

The SHC’s Community-Driven Archives Team has developed projects and led workshops with local HBTSA affiliates and community members in:

  • East Spencer, NC
  • Eatonville, FL
  • Grambling, LA
  • Hobson City, AL
  • Mound Bayou, MS
  • Navassa, NC
  • Princeville, NC
  • Tuskegee, AL

Partnership Outcomes

Chaitra Powell with Navassa, NC Mayor

CDAT Project Director Chaitra Powell with Navassa, NC Mayor Eulis Willis.

HBTSA and the CDAT have partnered to:

  • Support historical document rescue and emergency storage
  • Instruct high school students and community members in genealogical research
  • Lead workshops on archival collecting, preservation, inventory, and processing
  • Lead workshops on digital archiving
  • Teach oral history best practices through Archivist in a Backpack
  • Offer coaching and resources for exhibit development
  • Offer support and resources for community scanning days through Archivist in a Backpack
  • Facilitate town hall-style meetings (charrettes) to ensure community participation
  • Provide additional training for the development of local community archive projects

Black Communities: A Conference for Collaboration 

This conference in the Spring of 2018 and the Fall of 2019 brought together Black communities across the US to connect, learn, and vision with one another in Durham, NCIt was a direct result of the SHC and multiple UNC departments evolving partnership with HBTSA and our collective investment in finding more academic and community partners across the country. 

The next conference is scheduled for 2021. 

Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP)

5 people on a porch

EKAAMP members on their front porch in Lynch, KY.

EKAAMP is a public humanities project that works closely with current and former residents of eastern Kentucky to document and preserve the history of the 20th-century African American diaspora from the region. EKAAMP honors the place of African Americans in Appalachia and ensures that their stories are available to future generations.

Partnership Outcomes

EKAAMP members look through materials in their collection

EKAAMP members look through materials in their collection at Wilson Special Collections Library, Chapel Hill.

The CDAT has partnered with EKAAMP and its Community Liaison, Dr. Karida Brown, to:

  • Develop two exhibitions: Heart & Coal: Soul Survivors of the Company Store (St. Louis, MO, Fall 2018) and Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia (Brown University, RI, May-December 2016). A traveling version of Gone Home will launch in Summer 2020.
  • Teach oral history best practices through Archivist in a Backpack in Lynch, KY
  • Launch theEKAAMP website to reach new audiences and share opportunities to get involved

The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM)

Karida Brown with SAAACAM members

Oral history training with SAAACAM members and CDAT Community Liaison Karida Brown in San Antonio, TX.

As an independent community archive in San Antonio, TX, SAAACAM’s mission is to collect, maintain, disseminate, and interpret a digital database of authentic community-based African American history.

SAAACAM’s Beginnings

SAAACAM members with SHC staff in San Antonio, TX

Group of SAAACAM leaders with SHC staff members on their visit to San Antonio, TX.

In the Fall of 2016, the SHC met with leaders of San Antonio’s African American historical and cultural heritage community. The Kronkosky Foundation and the San Antonio Spurs sponsored this charrette. As people shared stories about local African American musicians, migrants, civil rights workers, and farmers, two themes emerged:

  • San Antonio’s African Americans are tired of being overlooked.
  • San Antonio’s African Americans can tell their own histories better than anyone else.

From there, local African American history keepers developed a vision for an independent community archive and history museum.

Partnership Outcomes

The Community-Driven Archives Team continues to serve as a project adviser, and CDAT team members have partnered with SAAACAM to:

  • Curate an exhibition on local cattle brands and the African American ranchers behind them
  • Conduct oral histories and video interviews with local elders
  • Teach oral history best practices through Archivist in a Backpack
  • Offer support and resources for community scanning days through Archivist in a Backpack
  • Create digital maps to highlight important places in San Antonio’s African American history
  • Manage SAAACAM’s digital assets as it builds its capacity