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Remembering Cliff Kuhn, OHA Executive Director

We are very sorry to have to share with you the news that our friend and OHA Executive Director Cliff Kuhn passed away on Sunday in Atlanta, surrounded as he usually was by loved ones.

Surely we do not have to tell you what a loss this is–not just to his family and to us in the OHA but to the worldwide oral history movement, to the fields of southern history and public history, to the city of Atlanta, to Georgia State University students and colleagues, and to many, many others. Cliff brought high energy, unfailing good humor and generosity, and a larger-than-life personality to everything he did, whether it was welcoming new oral historians to our organization, coaching his sons’ soccer teams, advocating for oral history in front of academic organizations and funding agencies, or making all of the communities he belonged to more democratic, egalitarian, and just. For all of these reasons we grieve with Cliff’s wife and family. We also recommit ourselves to the causes that were so dear to Cliff and resolve to pay forward some of the generosity and encouragement he gave us.

We understand that Cliff’s family is planning a memorial service for next month in Atlanta. We will share those details as soon as we have them. In the meantime, you might enjoy learning more about the work he did to document and confront Atlanta’s history–and take solace, as we have, in hearing his voice. NPR reported on his and others’ efforts to commemorate the centennial of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. This work was very near and dear to Cliff; between 2006 and last month he took hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Atlantans and visitors to the city on walking tours of race riot sites in Downtown Atlanta that more often than not resulted in discussions of what we could do to bring racial justice to present-day Atlanta. He also recorded hundreds of oral histories for the independent radio station WRFG (“Radio Free Georgia”), which he developed into his book Living Atlanta, and “This Day in History” pieces for the local NPR affiliate WABE, which are archived at WABE.

(Photo credit Stephanie M. Lennox/WABE)

Read a tribute by GSU professor Alex Sayf Cummings at Atlanta Loses Its Greatest Listener.


International Committee at the Annual Meeting

The Oral History Association’s Annual Meeting in Tampa was excellent. I want to thank all who came to the International Committee meeting and thank our international scholarship recipients for their terrific papers.

Here at the comments of two of the international scholarship recipients:

My first experience at the OHA Annual Conference was fantastic. There were many interesting panels, and my own paper was well received and fun to present to an American audience. The walking tour of Ybor City was also worth the trip to Tampa itself. Our guide was a joy, bringing the neighborhood to life and making us laugh with several stories that I assume only he could tell with such panache. I greatly appreciate the support of the OHA International Scholarship which enabled me to make the journey and attend. I hope to return in upcoming years and see familiar faces from this time around.
Adam King, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The meeting theme on the power of oral history to uncover links between political and cultural change and to inspire civic engagement interested me greatly. My paper based on my work as the oral historian for an oral history project with Sudanese refugees and the various sectors in the community who helped Sudanese people in their new Australian environment matched the conference theme. Presenting the project and its important issues of trauma, cultural awareness, and language as it affects an oral history project and involving children among others was an honor in an atmosphere of professional camaraderie. I loved being with like-minded professionals passionate about oral history and I sensed genuine interest in all the presentations. There was a real sense of aiming for excellence in the field and working with, and learning from, other professionals. The conference tone was academic but not pompous; it was learned but practical as well.

It was also a fun meeting. The Newcomers’ breakfast was a treat and a great chance to network with a range of participants. I loved the Speed Networking; I was a bit nervous about it because Speed Dating is definitely ‘before my time’! I had no idea how it worked but it turned out to be a great way to learn about different aspects of oral history. The various performances were fabulous. I liked the poster displays too with their visual representations of projects. The conference was expertly run.

Overall, possibly the nicest part of being in Tampa for the 2015 Annual Meeting was its friendliness and being in an exciting setting of learning more about knowing someone’s story and preserving it.
I was successful in receiving a scholarship from the conference organizers and that was a much appreciated fantastic help because Australia is so far away – after a plane delay which then caused a missed connection it took me 30 hours to get to the USA but it was worth it. I’d love to come again.
Carol McKirdy, Australia