rbizonet's blog

Oral History Heroes: William V. Banks

 (vmc3323) Television; Stations; WGPR-TV; New All Black Station.

William V. Banks seemingly did it all: he was a lawyer, minister, Freemason, businessman, and civic leader. He is perhaps best known as the founder of the United States’ first Black-owned and operated television station, WGPR-TV 62, and its sister radio station, WGPR-FM. In addition to all of these accomplishments, he was also known as an advocate for labor. In the 1930s, as the head of the Detroit arm of the International Labor Defense, he defended imprisoned striking workers in a business and social climate that was often hostile to organized labor and strikers.  read more »

Oral History Heroes: Dave Miller

(5098) Child Labor, Miners, 1910s

Since his early days as a child laborer in a textile mill, Dave Miller (1891-1979) devoted himself to the labor movement. Miller shared his life and times—and thoughts on the present and the future—in a circa-1972 interview available in the Reuther Library’s holdings.

Working on cataloging this interview, I came away impressed with Miller’s witness to a broad range of developments and events that shaped the twentieth century, not to mention his direct involvement in some them, including his advocacy for women’s suffrage and against the death penalty and his fight for universal health care. Miller deserves recognition for his pioneering work in the UAW alone, but he did that and more.  read more »

Oral History Heroes: Millie Jeffrey

Portraits, Mildred Jeffrey, Undated

As the Oral History Project Archivist at the Reuther Library, my job is to arrange and describe our oral history collections so researchers can find them -- work that has been made possible by a National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Documenting Democracy grant awarded to the library in 2014. I’ve come to greatly admire many of the interviewees, and to be fascinated by their life stories and accomplishments. In a series of blog posts, I’ll tell about some of my “oral history heroes” and what makes them special to me.  read more »

NHPRC Oral History Project: An Update from the (Wave) Field

(33937) David Wildman, National Farm Worker Ministry, NFWM/UFW Darigold protest march, Seattle, Washington, 2011

In 2014 the National Historical Publications and Records Commission awarded the Walter P. Reuther Library its two-year Documenting Democracy grant to enhance access to the library's oral history collections, thus enabling my hiring. As Oral History Project Archivist, I’m lucky enough to get to “unearth” some of the great treasures of our collections. Thanks to the grant, I am arranging and describing more than 1,600 previously undescribed or “under-described” oral histories in our collections.  read more »

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