In the spirit of not letting its youth get in the way of its ambitions, in the early 1990s the Center for Documentary Studies launched a massive oral history project that aimed to move beyond simplistic historical interpretations of segregation—Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South. Duke University historians William Chafe (a CDS cofounder), Raymond Gavins, and Robert Korstad collaborated with scholars from historically black colleges and universities to shape the project, and from 1993 to 1995, multiracial teams of graduate students from Duke and other schools, assisted by community and civic groups, fanned out across the South in search of African Americans who had lived through the Jim Crow era. More than 1,200 interviews captured on cassette tapes, as well as family photographs and other documents, told of oppression and exploitation, yet also of monumental efforts by black Americans to build their own communities and institutions, to resist discrimination despite personal risk, and to put their lasting mark on American culture. The Behind the Veil materials have continued to unfold as a singularly rich resource for understanding self-images, racial pride, and African American achievement during Jim Crow:

2000: Trying Not to Forget: Portraits from Behind the Veil, a CDS photography exhibit

2001: Remembering Jim Crow, a CDS book published with the New Press and an audio documentary produced in collaboration with American RadioWorks

2011: Living With Jim Crow, Annie Valk and Leslie Brown’s prizewinning book featuring interviews with African American women from Behind the Veil

Ongoing: The Behind the Veil Collection at Duke University Libraries, an archive of the original tapes and transcriptions as well as thousands of photos and other documents; Duke’s Digital Collections contains hundreds of interviews available online