In honor of Black History Month, we’re sharing StoryCorps stories that center Black voices in conversations about Black history, identity, struggles, and joy. This collection also includes behind-the-scenes information about some of the stories. Through these broadcasts and animations, you can discover new perspectives and reflections on our shared history as a nation.

Whose voice do you want to see included in the narrative of Black history? By sitting down with someone you love for a StoryCorps conversation, you’re showing them that their stories matter and preserving them for generations. You can record in person using the StoryCorps App, or remotely using StoryCorps Connect.

 

Historic Black Voices


Silvia’s Legacy

In the 1950s Ellaraino, then age 16, was sent to Louisiana to visit her great-grandmother Silvia, who had lived through the Civil War. That summer, Silvia shared the moment she got her freedom.
Read the full transcript here.


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"I truly think everyone should do what they can to sustain their country."
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Olivia J. Hooker on Making Military History

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker, 103, shares what it was like as one of the first Black women to join the United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve in 1945, and what her time in the service has meant to her.
Read the full transcript here.

 

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker was thought to be the last surviving witness to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. You can hear more about her life and the lives of other groundbreaking women in our podcast episode, “The First, But Not The Last.”

Photo: Olivia Hooker (in front) and fellow SPAR Aileen Anita Cooks, pause on the ladder of the dry-land ship ‘U.S.S. Neversail’ during their ‘boot’ training at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Station, Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, NY, 1945.
A black-and-white photo of two women, one in front of the other, smiling at the camera on the steps of the ship wearing the U.S. Coast Guard uniform.

A More Perfect Union

As a Black woman who came of voting age in the late 1940s, Theresa Burroughs was one of many Americans to fight against voter suppression. Every month for two years, she traveled to Alabama’s Hale County Courthouse in pursuit of her right to vote.
Read the full transcript here.


The Civil Rights Era


The Treasures of Mrs. Grady’s Library

Growing up in Arkansas in the 1950s, Judge Olly Neal was afraid to let his high school classmates see him reading. To keep this secret, he would steal books from the library. What he didn’t realize was that the librarian Mrs. Grady was supporting his love of reading from afar.
Read the full transcript here.


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"I was 15 years of age when I first started having my own private sit-ins."
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Dion Diamond: Reflections on 60 Years of Activism

This photo, taken in 1960, shows then-teenage civil rights activist Dion Diamond conducting a sit-in at a “white only” lunch counter in Arlington, VA. He shares his experience, as he puts it, “crashing segregated society.”
Read the full transcript here.


Driven

Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, race car driver Wendell Scott poured his heart, soul, and all of his earnings into racing across the South. In 2015, he became the first Black person to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Read the full transcript here.

 

Wendell Scott competed in race cars that he put together from pieces he found in junkyards. You can hear more about his extraordinary life and race car driving career in our podcast episode, “The Ballad of Wendell Scott.”

Photo: A rough drawing of Wendell Scott created for the Storycorps animation “Driven.”
Black-and-white horizontal drawing of Wendell Scott wearing a helmet and race car uniform, driving a race car, glaring ahead as he grips the wheel.

Making History Today


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“It opened up for me like a gift. And I’m like, ‘I’m in this lab killing cancer.’”
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Untangling The Code

After being raised by her aunt and uncle, Hadiyah-Nicole Green lost both of them to cancer in her early 20s. Caring for them inspired Dr. Green to dedicate her life to fighting the disease.
Read the full transcript here.

 

Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green is the first person ever to kill cancer in mice using laser-activated nanoparticles, which is a big departure from predominant cancer treatments today. She founded the Ora Lee Smith Cancer Research Foundation in honor of her late aunt, and her work is in the process of moving forward into human trials. Her goal is to make cancer treatment accessible, effective, and affordable for all.

A sepia-colored photo of a Black woman and girl smiling for a portrait against a cloudy brown background. The woman has short, curly black hair and wears brown glasses and a collared shirt with a design of purple flowers. The girl in her lap has braided hair and wears pink shirt with a ruffly white collar and bow.

Photo: “Auntie” Ora Lee Smith and Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green.

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"You’re my favorite person to talk about space to."
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Dreams of Outer Space

Six-year-old Jerry Morrison’s favorite person to talk to is his uncle, NASA engineer Joey Jefferson. They celebrate their shared passion for space and exploration.
Read the full transcript here.

 

Joey Jefferson spoke about his love of space with his other love: his partner, Wilford Lenov. You can hear more from them in our podcast episode, “Love and a Life Complete.”

Drawing of two people in silhouette in front of a forest, looking out at the stars. Behind them in the forest is a pink bunny wearing headphones.

From the StoryCorps Archive


Notes from StoryCorps Facilitator Franchesca Peña who compiled this selection of stories from our Archive: At one point in my Archive search I came across the keyword “leisure” which led me to the word “hobbies”. These keywords led me to stories of Black people relaxing and doing things that they love. I think it’s important to have these stories in conversation with the narrative of Black people needing to work extra hard and overcoming obstacles (which is also important but a narrative I’ve been exposed to more than that of leisure, rest, and joy).

Bruce Waight and Vanessa Morrison

Bruce Waight talks with his life and business partner, Vanessa Morrison, about the mobile barbershop they started together, En Root. They talk about what it means to be Black entrepreneurs, help their community, and provide haircuts to people experiencing vulnerability.

Mary Sims and Linda Jones

Mary E. Sims talks with her friend, Linda Jones, about attending “Nappy Hair Affair” gatherings at Linda’s house where women, and later men, of color were encouraged to wear their hair naturally and learn how to style it. The two unpack how trauma and healing are linked to how they choose to wear their hair.

Jaida Nelson and Joia Thornton

Sisters Jaida Elyse Nelson and Joia Erin Thornton reflect on their sisterhood, their experiences growing up and going to college, and why they started the Queen Esteem Foundation.

RaShauna Wright and John Wright

RaShauna Nicole Wright talks with her husband John Henry Wright IV about their “bucket lists,” what they’re most proud of, first meeting each other, and hopes for the future.

Doris Jackson, Lucy Jackson, and LaToya Jackson

Doris Jackson and her sister Lucy talk with Doris’ daughter, LaToya, about some of their favorite family memories. LaToya thanks her mother for the sacrifice she made to send LaToya to college.

Jason Pryor and Svetlana Binshtok

Jason Pryor talks to his girlfriend Svetlana Binshtok about how he started fencing at age 11 on a whim, got hooked on the sport, and became a competitive athlete. He describes the bittersweetness of competing in the 2016 Olympic Games and the challenges of being a professional fencer.

Regina Mitchell and E. Mitchell

Spouses Regina Mitchell and E. Stanley “Stan” Mitchell reflect on their marriage and share how it all started with a chance meeting and a piece of gum.

Nothando Zulu, Mariama Gillespie, and Makeda Zulu-Gillespie

Nothando Zulu talks with her granddaughter, Mariama Gillespie, and daughter, Makeda Zulu-Gillespie, about being a storyteller, “whoopins,” and love.

Mary Mills and April Banks

April Banks talks to new acquaintance Mary Mills, an African American woman who surfs in the LA county area.

Javal Blades and Kenny Halbert

Javal Blades speaks to their friend Kenny Halbert about family, their trans identity, and remembering the evolution of their individual identities since they met in high school.


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