Website with profile pictures of oral history interviewees

Black Bethlehem Project oral histories in the LVEHC Digital Archive

As part of its formal partnership on the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant staged at Lafayette, Digital Scholarship Services works with faculty, students, and community partners across the Lehigh Valley to build the LVEHC Digital Archive.  One collecting initiative in the digital archive, the Black Bethlehem Project, has been featured in recent regional news stories.  Led by Bethlehem Area Public Library Head of Adult Services M. Rayah Levy, the project features oral history interviews focused on the Black experience in Bethlehem over the past half-century.  Additions of archival materials such as family photos and ephemera are in planning.

DSS staff as well as a host of DSS student workers contributed to the process of getting the Black Bethlehem Project up and running in the digital archive.  Tasks included auditing oral history transcripts, editing sound files, managing versions, editing metadata, and transferring sound files, image files, and metadata to the LVEHC Digital Archive.  DSS student worker Grayce Walker ’22 reflects, “working on the Black Bethlehem Project meant so much to me! It allowed me to continue exploring my interest in oral history, learn more about and hold carefully the genealogy of Black presence in the Lehigh Valley, and contribute to documents that will help students conduct research on this particular Black history for years to come. This is the work that I hope to do in my career and it was a wonderful experience being able to do so now.” Jessica Mummert ’22 adds, “working on this project meant doing my part to help preserve the important history of Bethlehem’s Black community. Amplifying Black voices is vital, especially now.”  Jordie Werner ’20, a native of the Lehigh Valley, also found unique meaning. “The project opened my eyes to the rich culture and history that I was previously unaware of. Each story offered a new perspective on the place I’ve called home for almost my entire life.”

Learn more about the Black Bethlehem Project in the following news coverage:

The Morning Call, Black History Month spotlight: Preservation project spells out the story of Esther Lee’s political life, from the PTA to the NAACP

PBS39, “BAPL Launches Black Bethlehem Project

The Morning Call, “Library opens Black Bethlehem Project: ‘We have a history that needs to be told‘”

The American Library Association, “Black Bethlehem: Documenting the Black Experience in a Majority-White Town