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Historian Shaped and Advanced SOHP


With bittersweet feelings and our deepest gratitude, we say farewell and best wishes to Rachel Seidman, Ph.D., Director of the Southern Oral History Program. Rachel has been with the Center for the Study of the American South for over eight years, first as Associate Director of SOHP, then Acting Director in 2016 and Director in 2017. During those years, Rachel’s leadership and dedication to oral history, both as a research and active learning method, sustained SOHP’s international leadership among programs which center the humanities and oral history as a tool for analyzing and contextualizing history. Her commitment to capturing voices in the South will continue to help communities and scholars understand the region’s history and articulate its future.

Rachel’s benchmark projects during her tenure with SOHP include the undergraduate internship program, unique in the College of Arts and Sciences as a deeply research-driven credit course that combines service, interdisciplinary engagement with the arts, and absolutely necessary contributions to our tremendous archive at Wilson Library. Rachel worked closely with our partners at the Southern Historical Collection to secure the near-complete digitization of our available interview archive. She nurtured artistic collaborations with Carolina Performing Arts, Arts Everywhere, and the Process Series, including launching the Black Pioneers Project, a model of community engagement and historical truth-telling.

Among the many research initiatives Rachel has stewarded, Stories to Save Lives: Health, Illness and Medical Care in the U.S. South has had a tremendous impact across the campus and the nation. This interdisciplinary oral history project looks at how patterns of mobility and migration shape North Carolina residents’ access to medical resources, their treatment at the hands of healthcare providers, and their ability to engage effectively in their own health advocacy. The initiative led Rachel to co-teach a course with cardiologist Ross Simpson using oral testimonies from project narrators, as well as significant community partnerships in counties across North Carolina.

Rachel is the author of numerous publications, and she is a consistent and valued contributor to the Oral History Association, the Berkshire Women’s History Conference, and the National Council for Public History. She was a founding member of Women AdvaNCe and her book Speaking of Feminism has been praised as a “panorama of twenty-first-century feminism glows with passion, outrage, sensitivity, and creativity.” In the classroom, this historian of the women’s movement has mentored scores of graduate fellows and undergraduate students in a variety of fields, passing along the value of oral history.

Although we will miss Rachel in the classrooms at UNC-Chapel Hill and as a colleague at Love House, she’ll be only a short drive from us, in Washington, D.C., where her husband, historian Benjamin Filene, was recently named associate director of curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Her last day at SOHP will be June 30.

Thank you, Rachel, for your tremendous contributions to SOHP, the Center, and the university. We look forward to collaborating with you in the future. Please join us in wishing Rachel well.


Malinda Maynor Lowery and the Center Staff

15 Responses to “Thank You Rachel Seidman”

  1. Connie Eble

    What bad news for us but good news for your family. Thank you for those presentations to the first year seminar on archival research that Laura Hart and I taught. You won over so many young scholars to the value of oral history. Thank you too for the many other creative ways that you contributed to the intellectual and cultural life on campus—and always with such a cheerful attitude. Very best wishes for a happy life in Washington.

  2. William Chafe

    So good to have been your colleague and associate and friend for lo these many years. You’ve done a terrific job and it’s been a joy to be your associate for all these years. Enjoy D.C.!!!


  3. Ben Edwards

    It’s been a real pleasure to work with you and learn from you, Rachel. Every good wish in what’s next.

  4. Caroline Taheri

    Best of luck in DC, Rachel! I loved learning from you while an intern with SOHP in the Fall of 2018. I wish you all the best on your next adventure!

  5. Tim West

    It was great working with you from the SHC angle, Rachel, and occasionally seeing you around the Paris of the Piedmont! Sorry you’re leaving, but wishing you good things in DC.

  6. Evan Faulkenbury

    Oh wow! Such emotions are bubbling up in me! First off, congrats to you and your family…I wish y’all the best. Thanks for everything you did for me when I was an SOHP field scholar…it reshaped my life and put me onto my professional path.

    • Rachel Seidman

      Thank you Evan! Watching you develop as a scholar & leader has been deeply gratifying!

  7. jacquelyn Dowd hall

    Oh Rachel, how much I have loved seeing all you have accomplished, how much I hate to see you go. Good luck in your new adventures. I take comfort in the fact that, if we ever get out of our houses, you are just up the road.

  8. E Pruette

    Good luck! I was part of the first class of undergrad interns at the SOHP. It was an invaluable experience — I still think about its lessons to this day. Thank you for your service to people’s stories. All the best.

  9. Grant Holub-Moorman

    Best wishes on your journey, Rachel!
    All of us at WUNC have loved hosting you on our program, and I learned so much from you last time around when discussing your book. Thank you for the amazing work you’ve done to make oral history relevant and approachable. The ethics and expansiveness of the SOHP’s collection continues to inform my understanding of the South and myself.
    -Grant ( producer, WUNC’s “The State of Things”)


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