The Keepers: The Unrelenting Oral Histories of Eddie McCoy

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After a devastating car accident that made his work as a janitor impossible, civil rights activist Eddie McCoy, picked up a scavenged tape recorder and began taping anyone and everyone in his town—from the oldest person on down—piecing together the little known history of the African American community in Oxford, North Carolina. Hidden stories of slavery times, sharecropping, the civil rights era and more.

Eddie McCoy’s recordings and interviewing style are like no others. With energy and passion, Eddie documented the lives of teachers, railroad workers, doctors, sharecroppers and others in his community as far back as the end of the 19th century. A self-taught historian and avid researcher, he jokes, cajoles, and sympathizes with his interviewees drawing out candid stories that provide a window into life in small, southern tobacco town of some 10,000 people.

McCoy’s more than 140 interviews have become part of the Southern Oral History Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His story is part of The Kitchen Sisters series “The Keepers” — stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians. Keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections they keep. Guardians of history, large and small, protectors of the free flow of information and ideas.