DC Oral History Collaborative Partnership Grants

DCOHC_LogoHelp us preserve the unique stories of Washington, DC residents! This opportunity provides financial and capacity building resources to community organizations and individuals (“partners”) interested in conducting oral history projects. Potential projects may focus on: neighborhoods, social organizations, political history, labor, faith-based groups, cultural trends, historic events, or other themes that lend themselves to oral history as a tool for research and preservation. Partnership proposals will be reviewed in February, and selected projects will be announced in March.

Selected partners will be required to attend a three-session Oral History training workshop, and will work in conjunction with staff and consultants from the DC Oral History Collaborative throughout the course of their projects.

Congratulations to this Year’s DCOHC Community Partners!


The Brookland Literary And Hunting Club (BLAHC): It’s Not What You Think!

Project Director: Eve Austin
Brookland Literary and Hunting Club(BLAHC)is a 76-year-old poker club organized in 1942 by nine accomplished Black men from the Brookland area of DC—doctors, lawyers, scientists, educators—many with Howard University affiliations. Each month they gathered to engage in facilitated conversation about important topics of the day (the “literary” component), to share a meal, and then for the main event: the “hunt” (aka poker). The tradition continues to this day.

Members have all been highly-regarded professional men. Founding member Paul Cornely was the first Black President of the American Public Health Association; William Bryant was the first Black Chief Judge of DC’s Federal Court; and Howard Jenkins was the first Black person on the National Labor Relations Board.

As society shifts toward on-line interaction, with fewer opportunities for young men to find support and friendship through in-person activities, BLAHC faces an uncertain future, and recording and preserving this history now is imperative.

Asbury United Methodist Church 2018 Oral History Project

Project Director: Adelle Banks
Asbury is a historic African-American congregation that has served Washington from the same site at 11th and K Streets NW since 1836. Its original congregation was composed of enslaved and free Black men and women who left the segregated Foundry Methodist Episcopal Church to fully worship as children of God. In 1848, Asbury members were among the 77 slaves in the biggest mass attempted slave escape in U.S. history. Asbury has inspired the formation of other churches, led the city through Reconstruction, and participated in the civil rights movement, including the March on Washington in 1963. It is a stop on the Downtown Heritage Trail, and is on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. Today, Asbury provides meals and facilitates medical services to the homeless, supports the D.C. Boys Choir, gives food to needy families, provides housing to the elderly, takes a stand against prostitution, reaches out to millennials, and provides Christmas gifts to children of prisoners.

Their oral history project will capture the stories of Asbury United Methodist Church through the voices of its longtime members, who have seen the city, its neighborhoods, and the church community develop.

Chinatown Voices

Project Director: Stephanie Yee
The Chinatown Voices project will record the stories and voices of Chinatown community elders and, in the process, establish a sustainable dialogue among generations about their common heritage and evolving customs. Their motivation lies in the inherent value of uncovering and then preserving stories that help individuals understand his/her identity and that add to the City’s collective historical archive. There is some urgency in recording DC Chinatown stories. They represent a minority population within a city of minorities whose communities are growing more visibly while Chinatown’s decline. In that dynamic, the Chinatown stories can be overwhelmed and forgotten as original residents now in their 70’s and 80’s pass away and as their stories are replaced by restaurant reviews and art/style accounts of a gentrified or pan-Asianized Chinatown. Our research topic focuses on annual cemetery rites conducted by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. This research overlaps with other topics, each of which involves recording voices and images for further research and more complete storytelling.

Federal City College Oral History Project

Project Director: Amanda Huron, PhD.
This project documents the history of Federal City College (FCC), an experiment in public higher education for the people of Washington, D.C. FCC was D.C.’s first four-year public college. Upon opening in 1968, it was flooded with eager students, including Vietnam veterans, men incarcerated at Lorton Prison, civil rights activists, and young single mothers, almost entirely working-class and African-American. As a brand-new college serving the disenfranchised people of D.C., FCC attracted faculty from all over the country. They included poet Gil Scott-Heron; C.L.R. James, perhaps the most important black Marxist of the 20th century; and civil rights activist James Garrett, who led the fight for Black Studies at San Francisco State University before helping found FCC. FCC only existed independently for eight years: in 1976, it was folded in with two other schools to create the University of the District of Columbia. But these were a fertile eight years in the city’s history, encompassing the 1968 eruptions and aftermath, the civil rights organizing that led to Home Rule in 1974, and, in 1975, the launching of a city government that strove to bring progressive democracy to the place that was becoming known as Chocolate City. Students, faculty, and staff from FCC played key roles in all of this. Studying the history of FCC not only lets us see how this unique institution worked, but also sheds light on the broader history of the city at this critical time.

Origins of Ayuda

Project Director: Laura Trask
The origins of Ayuda mirror the historic migration of Central Americans to the District of Columbia in the 1960s and 70s. As part of Ayuda’s 45th anniversary celebration, and on the road to its 50th year — a mere five years away, they will trace Ayuda’s roots through story-telling by founders and early leaders that still live, and by other activists and visionaries who founded similar organizations such as Mary’s Center and Carlos Rosario Public School, Latin America Youth Center, and others, about the same time Ayuda was founded in 1973. Those organizations have rich historical footprints because their founders remain connected with their organizations today. Ayuda’s history is fraught with transitions, attritions, and fiscal uncertainty that it’s hard to imagine how it has survived for 45 years. But we have. Ayuda’s survival and sustainability include stories of grit, courage, innovation, and empathy for immigrants who are striving to rebuild their lives sustainably.
This history can provide the context for how Ayuda can approach its evolution and relevancy in the current environment where immigration remains one of the most debated topics in American society and politics today. Now, more than ever, in capturing the stories of immigrants in our community, and immigration more broadly, the project becomes an important time capsule for the moral, just, and humane underpinnings of immigration policies affecting DC immigrant residents long before today.

Finally, the project will capture individual stories that expose the realities of what it means to be an immigrant in DC, and share the poignant fact that immigrants’ aspirations and dreams are not so dissimilar to non-immigrant residents.

Asian American Voices in the Making of Washington, D.C.’s Cultural Landscape

Project Director: Hyun Jung Rie
This project aims to document and preserve the stories of Asian American immigrant-entrepreneurs and restaurateurs in Washington, D.C. Despite their small population size (they are four percent of the District’s total population), Asian American restaurateurs have played a critical role in shaping the culinary landscape in Washington D.C. even beyond the Chinatown in Ward 2 for several decades. Many American Chinese take-out restaurants have long permeated every corner in the District. With the recent development of foodie culture, Asian American restaurateurs are introducing their heritage cuisines, diversifying Washingtonians’ palates.
The cultural and commercial practices of the food industry function as a valuable lens for understanding struggles and adjustments of Asian American small business owners in D.C. We believe oral history is the most effective tool for uncovering the restaurateurs’ personal experiences and perspectives that are not illustrated in popular culinary literature such as food critic restaurant reviews or magazines. This project will record the survivals of immigrant restaurateurs in the D.C. food industry that are oftentimes hidden behind the kitchen door.

Oral History of DanceAfrica, DC

Project Director: Sarah Greenbaum
Dance Place will capture the oral history of DanceAfrica, DC, the 31-year-old festival celebrating dance, music and spirit of the African Diaspora. Dance Place, a 37-year-old dance presenter, school and community arts center located in the Brookland/Edgewood neighborhood in Ward 5, has been the home of DanceAfrica, DC since the festival’s origin. The festival features numerous African dance and music companies from across the DMV region in ticketed indoor performances and free outdoor performances, as well as an African marketplace and master classes.
Preserving the oral history of this important staple of the Washington, DC African dance community is of the utmost importance: while this community is thriving and growing, it is also mourning the loss of some of its important figures. Baba Chuck Davis, the founder of DanceAfrica, DC, passed away a few weeks before the 2017 festival. With Baba Chuck’s passing, many elders have noted the importance of capturing the community’s history for future generations to remember and learn from. Our oral history project will interview these elders to preserve the community’s history, specifically as it relates to DanceAfrica, DC, an event which has bound the community together for three decades.

Women of the WIRE: Stories of DC’s Formerly Incarcerated Women

Project Director: Kristin Adair
Women are now the fastest growing population in American prisons and jails. Between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women rose by more than 700%, increasing from 26,378 nationwide in 1980 to 215,332 in 2014. Today there are 1.2 million women under the supervision of the criminal justice system. But because women still constitute a small percentage of all those incarcerated, they are often left out of the conversation about mass incarceration and reentry.
In Washington, DC, 5 percent of those behind bars are women. A substantial majority of these women are mothers, and many leave small children behind when they are sentenced to years or decades of incarceration. The W.I.R.E. (Women Involved in Reentry Efforts) is a network of previously incarcerated women in DC who have joined together to provide social support to women recently released from prison, because they know first hand the unique challenges women face in prison and their gender-specific needs in reentry.
Moreover, those who have been incarcerated are often dehumanized deeply in media and advocacy efforts. At this moment of national reflection about the injustices associated with our system of punishment, in depth personal stories that have not been told about women’s painful experiences and their lifelong negative implications are vital to the conversation. This project will explore and document stories about the unique challenges that women from DC face while incarcerated and after they return home, as well as the impact of their incarceration on them, their families and communities.

Voices of The DC Fort Totten Storytellers

Project Director: Stephanie Mills Trice
This proposed project is aimed at preserving the oral history of storytellers from the Fort Totten community. The project was initially envisioned in September 2011 by two childhood friends who wanted to tell the story of their neighborhood nestled between Fort Totten Park, the Armed Forces Retirement Home and the Rock Creek Cemetery; their childhood fun and the history of African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s beginning to enjoy the equal opportunity in purchasing homes in the upper Northeast section of the City. These rowhouses were built by Colony Construction Company in the 1930s, developed by Morris Cafritz and designed by the architect George T. Santmyers.



Award Amount:
Applicants may request up to $6,000 depending on the scope of their projects.

What we are looking for:
Successful applications will propose projects that explore Washington, DC’s life, history and culture through interviews with the people who have lived it. Projects should have a theme, focus, or research question they aim to illuminate, and should commit to interviewing at least five people. The final product for each project will be a set of well documented recordings accompanied by transcripts and any legal forms necessary for inclusion in the DC Oral History Collaborative repository. Click here to download the full RFP.

The deadline for the 2018 partnership grant application has passed.

“How to Apply” Presentation:

About the DC Oral History Collaborative:

The DC Oral History Collaborative is an ambitious city-wide initiative to document and preserve the history of Washington’s residents and communities through the collection of oral histories. The project will survey and publicize existing oral history collections, provide grants and training for scholars and amateur historians to launch new oral history projects, and establish an interactive, accessible platform where the city’s memories can benefit residents and scholars for generations to come. The Collaborative is a partnership of HumanitiesDC, The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and the DC Public Library.

What is Oral History:
“[Oral history is] distinguished from other forms of interviews by its content and extent. Oral history interviews seek an in-depth account of personal experience and reflections, with sufficient time allowed for the narrators give their story the fullness they desire. The content of oral history interviews is grounded in reflections on the past as opposed to commentary on purely contemporary events.”

Qualifying Questions:
1. Does the proposed project have Washington, DC or one of its communities or neighborhoods as its primary geographic focus?
2. Will the proposed project occur within the grant period (March 12, 2018 and September 30, 2018)?
3. Can the project director commit to attending a three-session workshop on oral history during the month of March 2018 (specific dates TBD)?
4. Will the project interview at least five people?
5. Will the project be able to provide a set of unrestricted interviews with transcripts, to a repository associated with the DC Oral History Collaborative by the end of the grant period?

Additional Requirements:
1. All partnership projects will be supported by a professional oral historian contracted by the DC Oral History Collaborative. This consultant will be responsible for providing support and advice to project directors as well as ensuring that all project work is progressing smoothly.
2. The oral history consultant will schedule several required check-in sessions with partnership project directors over the course of the project period.
3. All partnership projects must participate in joint marketing and communications campaigns in support of the DC Oral History Collaborative during the grant period.

1. No member of, nor delegate to Congress, Mayor, or City Council member, nor officer nor employee of the District, nor officer nor employee of the DC Public Library may benefit financially from a partnership grant.
2. Awardees agree to document all grant expenditures and provide a final report at the end of the project period using forms provided by HumanitiesDC.
3. Awarded applicants will receive one payment for the full amount of the grant upon their signature of the partnership agreement document. This payment must be expended before September 30, 2018.
4. Any changes to the scope or budget of a partnership project must be communicated to HumanitiesDC in writing.
5. Awarded applicants will sign grant conditions that constitute a legally binding contract between HumanitiesDC and the applicant’s sponsoring organization or a designated responsible party. The organization or responsible party will be legally obligated to complete the project under the terms of the grant conditions.

How is this opportunity different from a standard HumanitiesDC grant?
1. Applicants do not have to represent 501(c)3 non-profit organizations. Projects conducted by individuals or for-profit entities must select a responsible party to sign, and be liable for upholding, the grant conditions document.
2. Organizations with open HumanitiesDC grants may still apply for a DCOHC partnership grant. Any oral history project supported through the DCOHC must be clearly distinct from a project already supported by an open HumanitiesDC grant.
3. The DCOHC funding opportunity supports a partnership between the Collaborative and the funded entity. The DCOHC will work with all funded projects, throughout the grant period, to ensure their use of best practices and to facilitate public communications efforts.
4. The DCOHC funding opportunity does not require a “Humanities Scholar” as a separate role. Applications may be strengthened if they show engagement by a humanities professional, but scholars working with the DCOHC will provide advice and support to every project.

How to Apply:
Click here to access HumanitiesDC’s online grants portal.
If you or your organization have applied for funding from HumanitiesDC in the past, please DO NOT create a new applicant profile. Use your organization’s existing login credentials. If you are not sure if you organization has an existing profile, please contact Jasper Collier at jcollier@wdchumanities.org or 202-387-8391.

Note that applicants to this opportunity are not required to represent a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. If you have an EIN number, please enter it in the appropriate field in the registration form. If you do not have an EIN number input 11-11111 as a placeholder.

Learn how to get involved:



The DC Oral History Collaborative is a partnership of: