The March on the Pentagon was, at the time, the largest anti-war demonstration in American history. The New York Times put together a typically excellent oral history in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the rally. The piece, which includes ample anecdotes from military and political representatives who stood in opposition to the protest, breaks the narrative into three parts: the organization and arrival, the march, and the aftermath. Representative images and video clips are also included. It’s truly an important artifact and a treat for anyone who loves oral history.
The March on the Pentagon: An Oral History
159 race riots erupted across America in 1967 with the worst happening in Newark and Detroit. The Detroit riots, sparked by a police raid of an after-hours welcome-home party for a Vietnam vet, led to 40 deaths and two-thousand-plus injuries, hundreds of properties going up in smoke, as well as the National Guard being called in to restore order. There were many root causes of the Detroit riots, including systemic racism and the steady decline of economic opportunities that drew many blacks to the city in the first place. The Metro Times, Detroit’s counterculture weekly, provides an evocative evaluation of the riot and what led to it. There are numerous high-quality images. The account is not balanced, however, focused entirely on the remembrances of black and white radicals of the time.
A radical’s oral history of Detroit in 1967
Bonnaroo wanted to expand its festival experience so in 2004 it added a comedy tent, a showcase that has gone on to host many of the top names in comedy, including Louis C.K., Steven Wright, Aziz Ansari, and David Cross. The digs are somewhat less than swanky (no running water), but many of the stars treat it like going to camp, or a paid vacation, where they see their comedy brethren and some good music. The A.V. Club gathers a bunch of interesting and funny anecdotes, plus some good video clips, in this oral history.
Deadnecks and sound checks: An oral history of Bonnaroo’s comedy tent
Shirley Kim Bonnani’s first child took 20 hours of labor before being born. When she woke up to contractions on a frigid January night in the middle of a snowstorm, she thought she had time before her second arrived. She did not. After a shower she was unable to make it to the car in their hilly neighborhood, so her husband plopped her on a sled he had presciently bought the day before. They didn’t make it before the baby decided it was coming out hell or highwater. The mother’s labor screams woke neighbors who came out to help, meeting the Bonnanis for the first time in the process. The father delivered the baby with no instruction, then broke the umbilical cord with his hands before wrapping the baby in a blanket and sprinting inside. The neighbors followed with the mom still on the sled. Esquire revisits the remarkable story.
An Oral History of the Baby Delivered on a Sled
Government Executive revisits various local, regional and national agencies response to the much-feared and ultimately catastrophic direct hit by a major hurricane on New Orleans and the surrounding low-lying Gulf Coast. Many of these agencies had participated in a large-scale simulation of this potential event just the year before (known as Hurricane Pam). The results were not encouraging and as Katrina strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of August, 2005, the same issues started to arise (lack of coordination, communication, leadership) and the outcome was as bad as feared, only this time the 2,000+ lives lost were real. The response was not universally bad, however, as numerous individuals and units responded heroically in the face of disaster, saving countless lives in the process.
Katrina 10: An Oral History
Although Freaknik started as a barbecue amongst Atlanta’s black colleges, by the early 90s it had the rep of the ultimate off-the-hook party. Anything goes. Every year it got bigger, ultimately taking over the city with gridlock and insanity. It was unsustainable and Atlanta’s attempts to rein in the madness failed, ultimately causing the party to end. Complex takes a fond look back.
The Oral History of Freaknik
In January of 1969 a fraudulently installed oil platform off of Santa Barbara, California, experienced a catastrophic failure that ruptured the sea floor and caused the largest American oil spill to that time. This was an era without regulation, oversight, or contingency planning, and Union Oil’s pathetic and patronizing response enraged conservationists around the globe, thus helping galvanize the fledgling environmental movement. The Pacific Standard provides an outstanding oral history of the disaster, including many images of the disaster and the response.
‘The Ocean Is Boiling’: The Complete Oral History of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill
The shootings by police of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile on back-to-back days, followed the next day by the wanton murder of five police officers at the end of a peaceful protest, combined to shake many Americans to their core. Because it was 2016 cell-phone videos soon emerged of the shootings on social media and helped cement the outrage over unnecessary violence. Wired examines the shootings and the role social media played in forming public perception and inciting protest.
An Oral History of Three Days That Rocked America
The Met Ball began in 1948 as a glorified costume party for New York’s fashion industry, but has since evolved into an exclusive extravaganza where top celebrities mingle with high society and the fashion world. The Ball is now famously hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour and she personally approves every one of the 600 invites. Nearly every woman describes the experience as her “Cinderella” moment (and so does Adrien Brody!). The Hollywood Reporter recalls the history and glamour of a unique event.
Met Ball and the “Circus of Ambition”: Nicole Kidman, Michael Kors, Cher Tell All in THR’s Oral History
Opinions on the Burning Man festival run the gamut, even from people who have never been, but there is no denying that it is the most mainstream freakshow in America. Outside magazine traces the beginnings from some friends on the beach near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to a $23M business.
American Photo provides a comprehensive four-part oral history documenting the harrowing experiences of the photographers on the ground during 9/11.
9.11.01: The Photographers’ Stories
2014 was a year of anger about police brutality against unarmed black men, often shot in the back, or with their hands in the air. On an early August day in Ferguson, Missouri a white police officer shot an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown, his body lay in the street for hours, and the powder keg was lit. There were similar situations in other cities that year, but Ferguson was the longest and arguably the most successful: The Ferguson police department would ultimately be sued by the U.S. Justice Department for civil rights violations due to their handling of black residents.
“This was the new Jim Crow”: an oral history of the Ferguson protests
The SXSW Conference began in 1994 with 600 participants and has since mushroomed into one of the most recognizable innovation events in the world. The conference tapped into the blossoming online media explosion and has influenced the conversation and culture around innovation, while also hosting some raucous parties.
Oral History: Sex! Drugs! Apps! SXSW Interactive at 20
The homicidal odd couple of 49-year-old John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old Jamaican immigrant Lee Boyd Malvo captivated America in the fall of 2002 when they shot 13 people through a modified trunk over the course of 23 days.
Terror in October: A Look Back at the DC Sniper Attacks
The March coincided with the centenary of the “Emancipation Proclamation” and came soon after President Kennedy’s announcement of the upcoming Civil Rights Act. Martin Luther King Jr. became a shining star that sweltering day as he discarded prepared remarks to deliver “I Have a Dream.” The Smithsonian‘s piece is excellent and includes images and video.
An Oral History of the March on Washington
SmithsonianMag.com, July, 2013