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Eddie McCoy's Struggle for Freedom
Professor David S. Cecelski
Southern Oral History Project. Dept. of History, UNC at Chapel Hill
Excepts from paper presented April 3, 1997
"….Eddie has single-handedly created one of the most important oral history collections on African American life in the American South. He has conducted more than one hundred interviews with older black citizens of Granville County from all walks of life, The tobacco files of Antioch, the cotton plantations of Oak Hill, the church services at Black Cat and the hustle and bustle of black neighborhoods like Grab-All in Oxford all come to life in his interviews. There we find what daily life was really like in the black orphanage at Oxford, at a Mary potter School that was once alive with black children's gaiety and pride, and at lumber camps and cotton fields so low-down mean that hey could barely de distinguished from slavery. But what sets apart Eddie's interviews is not always whom he talked to but who Eddie is, what side of town he comes from, and what he did in the Civil Rights movement."
"…One of the things I like most about oral history: it can be profoundly democratic. No matter what some say, oral history can be done will - and, in fact, often better-by the ordinary local man or woman dedicated to the craft and ready to think seriously about the past and to engage it honestly. Certainly Eddie's research bears that out. Especially early on, he broke every rule in the oral historian's handbook but his individuality was also strength. He shaped his questions from what he heard from the grass roots instead of what he had read in history books. He was not going to succumb to the latest scholarly fad or intellectual trend…What distinguishes Eddie's interviews from mine and most of my colleagues' are exactly the qualities that a local individual can bring to the craft of oral history and most professional historians cannot. When you listen to Eddie's interviews, you can tell he has spent a lifetime in Granville County. He is interviewing his neighbors. He is speaking to them as a neighbor, a brother, an African American, a man who came from the streets, a freedom fighter."
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