Gulf Coast Oral History Project
In July 2010, the Southern Oral History Program completed a small series of interviews to begin the work of documenting the human effects of the BP oil spill, perhaps the worst environmental disaster in American history. The interviews, conducted while…
In July 2010, the Southern Oral History Program completed a small series of interviews to begin the work of documenting the human effects of the BP oil spill, perhaps the worst environmental disaster in American history. The interviews, conducted while oil was still actively flooding into the Gulf of Mexico from the ruptured deepwater well, reveal the worry, hope, confusion, and commitment of Louisiana coastal residents during a time of deep uncertainty and peril. The interviews allowed coastal residents to put their current predicament in historical context: they described lives and livelihoods connected – often for generations – to the coast and to the water. The interviewees talked about their evolving understanding of government, regulation, and industry, about the coexistence of oil and fishing industries, and about the importance of work, family, and place. They compared the oil spill to earlier challenges – like hurricanes – and described how this time seemed different, more daunting, less certain, and more out of control. They expressed frustration with so much of what was happening, and at the same time, confidence in the perseverance and intelligence of local people to get through this crisis.
From the hours of interviews – which will be available as audio and written transcripts online soon – we have highlighted a few very short sections here. Sound bites run counter to the strengths and goals of oral history, though, and we encourage you to read or listen to the whole interview. These clips are meant to offer a way in.
About the Interviewer:
Andy Horowitz conducted the interviews for this series. Andy first came to the Southern Oral History Program as a college intern in 2002, and later returned to direct the SOHP’s post-Katrina project, “Imagining New Orleans,” in 2006. From 2003 to 2007, he was the founding director of the New Haven Oral History Project at Yale University, where he also taught courses on oral history and urban studies. He is currently History doctoral student at Yale.