Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

For Participating Institutions

Community Organizer Genealogy Project oral history interviews (MS.2015.016)

Brown University Library

Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: Manuscripts: 401-863-3723; University Archives: 401-863-2148
Email: Manuscripts: hay@brown.edu; University Archives: archives@brown.edu

Scope & content

The Center for Community Change created the Community Organizer Genealogy Project in order "to document the development of community organizing, the development of individual organizers and the connections among organizers, organizations and networks." The project was led by Don Elmer who also interviewed the majority of the community organizers during 2008-2010.

Series 1: Oral History Interviews The project created 100 oral history interviews with community organizers throughout the United States who worked in all aspects of community organizing: neighborhood organizations, labor unions, civil rights, human rights, religious communities. The interviews together provide a history of community organizing during the 20th century as well as the effect of community organizers on the history of the United States. The original interviews were recorded on miniDV tapes and are restricted for 50 years per agreement with the interviewees. The final edited versions are on DVDs and are accessible without restrictions. A standard set of questions was asked during each interview and included:

  • How did you get into organizing?
  • Who inspired you?
  • Memories of movements and moments
  • What are your accomplishments?
  • What is the most difficult aspect of organizing?
  • What is the most satisfying aspect of organizing?
  • What comes easily?
  • How do you balance your personal life with your work life?
  • What lessons have you learned?
  • What are the barriers to organizing?
  • What is the future of organizing?
  • What personal and/or professional crises have affected you?

Series 2: Genealogy Project Documentation The documentation for the project includes handwritten interview notes, 2 completed questionnaires as examples of the type of information gathered by the project, and information on the development of the website. The website provided video clips from the interviews, biographical information about each participant and mapped the connections between organizers. The full edited versions of the interviews were for sale on DVDs through the website. The Community Organizer Genealogy Project website is no longer available on the internet but was captured by the Internet Archive WayBack Machine 77 times between April 15, 2008 and November 15, 2014. As of Dec 2015, all 77 captures of the Community Organizer Genealogy Project website can be accessed at this address on the Internet Archive's website: https://web.archive.org/web/20141115203424/http://www.organizergenealogy.org/.

Series 3: Herbert D. White and Jessica Fernandez-White Herbert White and Jessica Fernandez-White were community organizers active in South Korea, the Philippines, and India from the 1950s through the 1970s. They donated to the Center for Community Change a documentary and 22 photographs related to their work in those countries as supplements to the oral history interview of Herbert White. The documentary was created by the: "EACC Urban Industrial Mission Committee in cooperation with The People of Tondo AVACO, Japan and the United Church of Christ in the USA" about the Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO) in Manila, Philippines and the grassroots organizing done to improve the lives of the people in a slum and the 2nd Annual ZOTO Convention in 1972.

Series 4: Original oral history miniDV tapes - RESTRICTED These are the original recordings of the oral histories on miniDV tapes. They are restricted for 50 years per agreement with the interviewees. The staff at the Center for Community Change, in cooperation with the interviewees, edited the original footage to include only the parts the individual wished to make public on the DVD version of the recording.