The mission of the UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research is to document the past experiences, memories and voices of the greater Los Angeles area through recorded interviews with the people who have made that history. In a region as diverse as Los Angeles, that means an intentional focus on the often-underrepresented Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian and immigrant communities.
“The stories of those communities are the story of Los Angeles,” said Teresa Barnett, head of the Center for Oral History Research. Founded in 1959, the center currently has interviews with more than 2,000 individuals grouped into 37 categories that include Latina and Latino history, American Indian History, Iranian American History and women’s issues.
Barnett said the center has particularly strong collections of African American history in Los Angeles, including its “Community and Commerce: Oral Histories of African American Businesses in Los Angeles” project, featuring a series of 18 oral histories and photos that document long-term Black business ownership. Excerpts from the oral histories explore the financial and psychological journeys involved in starting up a business, strategies for how to weather change over decades, and the sometimes challenging task of finding a successor.