THANK YOU AND FAREWELL TO RACHEL SEIDMAN
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