The Sexual Revolution (In the South)

Reflect on the material we have examined over the last several weeks about the mid-twentieth century and the so-called Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and the turn to the sex wars that developed in the 1980s. Focus on a theme, issue, or topic that strike you as particularly interesting, puzzling, or important. Some example include: marriage, dating, and courtship; sexuality and liberation movements; sex, censorship, and mass culture; reproduction, regulation, and reform? Consider: What is it about this topic that you want to learn more about? What scholarship have we read or other materials have we studied that would help you develop an historical perspective on this issue? Make some notes.
EITHER choose TWO (or more) oral histories from the Southern Oral
History Program collection OR conduct an oral history of your own with a
person of your choice. If conducting an oral history interviews
yourself you may do more than one–but at least one should speak to the
period of the sexual revolution. In either case, you should take some
care in exploring your options to make sure that you end up with an
interview that will end up illuminating the issues you’re interested in
exploring. NOTE: if you’re using an interview from the SOHP
collections, it is often easier if you find two that offer a focused
comparison and develop your essay around the similarities and
differences in the experiences, perspectives, and assumptions of the two
interview subjects.
you’re conducting your own interview, you’ll want to make a practical
plan for scheduling the interview, make sure you have a means of
recording it, and plan on spending about half an hour to an hour
conducting the interview itself. Before your start, clarify with your
interviewee how you’re going to use the interview and how you’re going
to safeguard that person’s privacy.
you review and analyze your interview (or interviewees), consider the
relevant scholarship and other sources we’ve examined that can help
illuminate your analysis by providing historical context, or by offering
models of analysis. Once you’ve identified the central historical issue
at the heart of your essay and a body of relevant sources, write an
essay that uses the oral history/histories to a) illuminate an important
issue in the history of modern sexuality and b) evaluate the efforts of
historians to understand and explain it.
goal of this assignment is to give you an opportunity a) to critically
analyze and evaluate engage specific sources of your own choosing and b)
to develop your own analysis of a particular historical issue or
Your essay should do the following:
At the beginning of the essay, clearly identify the issue/problem that you will be analyzing.
Explain the broader significance
of this issue/problem/phenomenon with respect to the history of sex in
American society from the colonial period through the recent past. To
address this question of broader historical significance consider how
the issue/problem you identified has been defined and contested in
particular periods. Are the individual’s views of sex, her/his life
experiences, and so on consistent or incompatible with the sexual norms,
regulations, identities, or ideologies of the time period she/is
describing and previous periods?
If relevant in your case, focus on the Southern aspect
of your interviewee’s experience. How does this person’s view of the
period differ from what you might expect from scholarship and other
documents produced largely by people living in other parts of the
Consider the question: What does
this person’s attitudes and experience tell us about the history of the
so-called “Sexual Revolution” (in the South)? To
what extent was this person self-consciously political? Was this
person’s approach conservative? reformist? radical? What is most
interesting or significant about this person’s unstated assumptions–or
the relationships between this person’s unstated assumptions and this
person’s articulated beliefs and decisions?
In addition to the oral history, your essay should critically engage at least two other sources.
You can choose any texts from the syllabus or in-class handouts
that you see fit: it is up to you to show how the documents (and the
themes they address) relate to one another

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