Du Bois’ The Ward Oral History Collection: Aspiration for Church Renewal in the Old Seventh Ward

Team Members/Contributors

Amy Hillier University of Pennsylvania Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

We propose to use a community-based participatory research approach to develop an Oral History Collection based on interviews with former residents of Philadelphia’s Old Seventh Ward and members of congregations. This research is inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois and his classic 1899 work studying Black residents, The Philadelphia Negro. A new initiative within the well-established Du Bois’ The Ward: Race & Class in the Seventh Ward Project at University of Pennsylvania, the Oral History Collection aims to answer the following questions: (1) When and why did Black residents and Black congregations move out of the Seventh Ward? Which congregations stayed and why? (2) How have the role of congregations and our understanding of their role changed since Du Bois’ pioneering research? (3) How do former Seventh Ward residents and current members of Black congregations think about themselves, their communities), their congregations and their faith through in terms of renewal of mission and purpose? We will train students from the university and the congregations to conduct interviews, video-tape, transcribe, edit, and publish the oral histories through printed booklets, a new section of our website as well as social media. We will work with a Community Advisory Board to develop recommendations to help congregations use this Oral History Collection to renew their mission and purpose as their communities continue to undergo change. We seek to help the historic congregations tell their stories and use them to help preserve their heritage and buildings and support the growth of their congregations and related social service programs. We will use the Louisville Institute funding to establish research protocols and complete the first 15-20 interviews as we seek external funding from local and national foundations to expand this project.