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The SOHP's "Race, Poverty, and the North Carolina Fund Project"

Established in 1963, the North Carolina Fund was a forerunner of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. A bold experiment in fostering cooperation between government agencies and the private sector, the Fund relied on a combination of federal, state, and foundation support. Between 1963 and 1968, over 350 student volunteers traveled to rural and urban communities across North Carolina to work with local leaders in implementing the Fund's initiatives. These volunteers made lasting connections with community organizations and many of them still live and work in North Carolina.

While the Fund's legacy remains strong in local communities, memories of this path-breaking organization are fading in policy-making circles. To address this dilemma, Jim Leloudis, of the Department of History at UNC-CH, and Robert Korstad, of Duke University's Sanford Institute of Public Policy, created the "Race, Poverty, and the North Carolina Fund Project" for the SOHP in 1995. Intended to forge connections between the volunteers of the 1960s and modern day government officials and activists, the project was designed, as Leloudis explained, "to bring a sense of history to policy making so that policy makers understand better how the challenges and possibilities of the present are shaped and constrained by the legacies of this episode of social action 30 years ago."

Under the direction of Leloudis and Korstad, a team of university students interviewed former volunteers, foundation officers, federal and state policy makers, and residents of the communities touched by the Fund's efforts. The issues and experiences discussed in these interviews laid the groundwork for a broader exchange of ideas at the "No Easy Walk" conference, held in Durham in December 1996. The Hon. Terry Sanford and Rep. Eva Clayton were among the political leaders attending the conference, which brought policy makers and former Fund participants together to consider new ways of addressing poverty and racial injustice in North Carolina.

Opened to the public in January 2000, the 31 interviews created by the Race, Poverty and the North Carolina Fund project are now accessible for review in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-CH. Archival copies of the program and four taped sessions from the "No Easy Walk" conference, as well as the syllabus for "Race, Politics, and the War on Poverty: The North Carolina Fund and its Legacy," a course taught by Leloudis and Korstad in the fall of 1996, are also available.

The Southern Oral History Program
Center for the Study of the American South
Love House and Hutchins Forum
410 East Franklin St., CB# 9127, UNC-CH
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-9127
(919) 962-0455