The Duluth African American Oral History Project was initiated by the board of Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial, Inc. to aid in the documentation of the history of Duluth’s African American community. The funding came from a Legacy Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. The African American Oral History Project includes interviews designed to document particular aspects of Duluth’s history and/or important local institutions, such as the Institute for Afro-American Awareness, the local branch of NAACP, St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, Calvary Baptist Church and the Juneteenth Celebration committee, as well as document African American life more generally. The interviews were conducted between November 2016 and February 2017.
Taken as a group, these interviews were conducted in order to document the many aspects of life in Duluth, particularly as experienced by African Americans. Business people, educators, laborers, commercial seamen, fire fighters, military veterans, civil employees, community activists and other civic leaders of various kinds, as well as regular folks, were interviewed. Some interviews are brief, lasting 60 minutes or less; others are more extensive, lasting up to three or more hours. The interviewees talk about their parents, their upbringing (often outside Duluth), their experiences in school, their careers, and their achievements. They discuss everyday life as well as the big events in the history they lived. The interviewees offer their own perspective on events, and while there are many areas of agreement, there are events that they each remember in their own ways.