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Kellogg African American Health Care Project

Methodology Used in the Project

The primary goal for the project  is to create primary historical resources relating to the African American experience with health care in southeast Michigan.  "Primary" historical resources means information coming directly from people who lived during the time being studied.
The project continues work which began in 1991, called SourceLINK.   That project also took place at The University of Michigan and  was also funded by the Kellogg Foundation.  It set up an electronic database of information relating to the history of the health sciences in Michigan.  By 1995, SourceLINK had electronically connected 37 repositories (libraries and other organizations possessing actual documents).  Those 37 repositories together hold 1450 different archival collections.
During the SourceLink work it was discovered that there is a wealth of information on the topic of the development of the health sciences in Michigan.  But one subject area seemed to be particularly lacking: the history of the African American   experience and influence.
The project presented in this website begins to fill this gap and presents primary and secondary sources in the form of oral histories, original documents, photographs, and newspaper articles. 

Staff Recruitment/Personnel

At the beginning of this project, a Project Coordinator was hired by the Principal and Co-Principal Investigators. The major duties of the Project Coordinator were
to enlist the cooperation of the African American community in Southeastern Michigan;
to design procedures for and conduct oral interviews;
to coordinate the preservation, processing, and analysis of data.
Additional research staff personnel were later hired by the Project Coordinator. The current project staff consists of a full-time Project Coordinator, a full-time Research Associate, a half-time Research Associate, various part-time student Research Assistants, and community volunteers.  All staff members hired were required to sign a confidentiality pledge form, which are on file at The University of Michigan.

Background Research and Staff Training

At the beginning of the project, the Project Team conducted background research in order to build a foundation of knowledge for the study.  Some of the background research appears in the Hospital Histories section of this website.   Background research information came primarily from newspaper articles and history books.  The background research revealed the names of people who had been important in the history of African American health care in southeastern Michigan.  Many of these people were eventually contacted and asked to be in the oral history part of the study. 

The Project Coordinator developed a written Interviewer Training Guide that was later used to teach interviewers how to do high-quality interviews.  In this context, "high-quality" means at least the following:

All interviews are done alike, regardless of who does them.
The training guide provides a consistent approach to training research assistants in data collection techniques and oral history methodology. The guide covers basic procedures to be used by interviewers to engage in high quality data collection and to properly conduct oral interviews. The guide is a compilation and synthesis of information obtained from published texts and various oral history web sites on the Internet. The Training Guide document also focuses on the importance of complying with the Guidelines and Principles of Oral History (1992) as established by the Oral History Association.

Every staff member involved with interviewing was required to attend two (2) in-service workshops, which included watching videotapes and reading relevant literature. The training consisted of orienting the staff to the basics of oral history methods, the types of equipment used during the interviewing and archiving phases, the use of equipment, mock interviews, and the responsibilities of both the interviewer and the narrator. Also, a smaller in-service workshop was conducted by the lead Research Associate for all staff regarding the principles of confidentiality and the implementation of data security procedures.


Pre-interviews are an important part of the process of collecting oral histories. They are conducted in order to determine the eligibility of prospective participants. Prior to conducting pre-interviews, potential narrators were identified on the basis of background research and community referrals. During Phase I, potential narrators were grouped into two (2) tiers as a means of identifying high priority narrators. Tier I (high priority narrators) consisted of those individuals who were involved in pivotal decisions, were most active in important events, or were very elderly or had health problems. The majority of tier I narrators were interviewed during Phase I of the project.

Following a few initial contacts, the majority of the narrators were recruited using the snowballing process in which the interviewer asked each narrator to refer others who might be interested in the project. The Kellogg Project Team has also recruited participants from formal presentations made to various community groups, including: the Turner African American Services Council of the Division of Geriatrics in the University of Michigan (UM) Medical Center; the UM School of Public Health Alumni Board of Governors meetings; the Mary Mahoney Detroit Nurses Club; and the Detroit Medical Society.

Once a potential narrator was identified, s/he was contacted by telephone to establish interest in participation in the project. A "Contact Summary Form" was then completed followed by a letter to the potential narrator delineating the scope and objectives of the Kellogg Oral History Project. If the individual indicated an interest in participating and was considered a high priority narrator for Phase I, a pre-interview was conducted.

All pre-interviews were conducted in-person at the participant's home or office. The pre-interview was crucial for building rapport with the potential narrator, assessing the narrator's memory skills, narrowing the range of topics to what s/he knew, becoming familiar with the potential interview environment, and discovering any supporting materials held by the narrator that might be helpful to documenting his/her story (photographs, manuscripts, reports, memorandums, artifacts, etc.).

During the pre-interview, the interviewer thoroughly explained the purpose of the research, the project's consent and agreement forms, and the research procedures. Interviewees were made well aware of how they would be involved in the project and what they could expect in terms of contact. Following the pre-interview, if a narrator was deemed eligible, s/he was contacted by letter and a follow-up telephone call in order to set up a formal interview within a two week time period. Additional background research was conducted and the Interview Guides were developed during this period.

Contact Letters and Project Consent and Agreement Forms

Following each contact with research participants, letters were sent to inform participants regarding their relative position in the research process. In addition to contact letters, consent and agreement forms are essential, ensuring that researchers conduct ethical research and that the rights of the participants are protected. These forms become a record of the research participant's consent and provide legal protection for the research participant, researchers, and the university.

For this research, there are two discrete consent forms. The first form, entitled "Informed Consent," acknowledges the narrator's voluntary consent to participate in the project. This form was signed following a thorough explanation of the research objectives and procedures prior to tape recording an oral interview with the narrator. The purpose of this form is explained in detail during the pre-interview with the narrator and again before the oral interview taping. Once the main interview had been conducted and the audio tape transcribed, the narrator was asked to review and edit the transcript. At that point, a second form, the "Combined Interviewer Agreement and Consent Form," was signed. This form completes a transfer of copyright from the participant to the research project and makes note of any conditions or restrictions the narrator wishes to place upon the tape and transcript. The Project Team noted any restrictions or conditions placed on an interview by the narrator (e.g., conditions of time release, restrictions placed on the use of the interview, or on the method of dissemination).

Interview Guides, Interviewing, and Equipment

In order to conduct interviews that adhere to the goals of the research, an Interview Guide was used to ensure that each narrator was asked questions that were specific to her/his background and questions on subjects relevant to this investigation. The pre-interview was used to enhance the basic outline of the Interview Guide, allowing the interviewer to make note of subject areas that may correspond to a narrator's particular area(s) of life experience, training, or expertise. Prior to an interview, the research team would review the Interview Guide for topical relevance.

Interviews were conducted by teams of two interviewers who met the narrators at either their homes or offices. The average length of each interview was 2 hours. The interview team used the personalized Interview Guide to ensure that specific questions were asked of every narrator and to provide a sense of standardization regarding subject matter relevant to this study. Because of the nature of oral history methodology, however, the order of the questions asked were not identical in every interview. Also, because the questions were open-ended, narrators' answers often led the interviewers into subject areas not specifically covered by the Interview Guide. The richness of any oral history project often resides in the unanticipated comment, response, or allusion. Great care was taken to follow-up on pertinent information and to tactfully guide the narrators to provide the information relevant to this project, while allowing them the freedom to tell their own story. Each narrator's Interview Guide is filed with the oral history collection.

Every interview was recorded on professional audio tape recording machines made by Marantz, using normal bias 60 minute audio tapes (30 minutes per side). Images of the narrators, manuscripts, documents, photographs, and other supplementary materials were obtained with a Casio LCD digital camera, model QV-10A, in order to transfer and incorporate them into our Internet website, newsletter, conference brochures, or other documents.

Following the interview, a staff member filled out an "Interview Data Form," stating the general tone, length, and success of the interview. It was also noted whether the interviewers felt that a follow-up interview might be necessary. Follow-up interviews can be a necessary part of the process if, for any reason, the interview needs to be aborted and begun again at a later date, or if a second interview is warranted to generate additional information. During Phase I, three follow-up interviews were conducted: one because a tape failed to record, one due to a time constraint, and one as a follow-up to an interview conducted during the pilot phase of the project. When the interviewing was finally completed, narrators were thanked in a letter and notified that we would contact them again to have them review and edit their transcripts after the transcription of the audio tapes.

Transcription, Auditing, Editing, and Indexing

Following the interview, the audio cassettes were delivered to a transcription company. Upon receiving the transcripts, the Project Team systematically audited each one, following along with the tape recorded interview. Basic spelling and/or grammatical corrections were noted. The transcripts were then edited on computer disk, printed, and sent to the respective narrator with a letter stating instructions for reviewing and editing the transcript.

The narrators were asked to read, review, and edit only their own transcript, making note of any changes they would wish to make prior to releasing the transcripts to the project. Allowing the narrators to edit their own materials helped to ensure the accuracy of each transcript. Narrators were given approximately two weeks to make changes, at which time the transcripts were picked up, issues regarding the final steps of transcript processing were discussed, and the "Combined Interviewer Agreement and Consent Form" was explained and signed.

Upon receiving the narrator edited transcripts, edits were made to each text, noting textual additions and editorial changes with square brackets (e.g., Dr. [William] Morris). A notation of <deletion> appears wherever the narrator crossed out words or phrases. Any editorial changes made by the Kellogg Project Team were made only for the sake of readability or clarification and do not alter the content of the information provided by the narrator. The reader should note that any deletions or significant insertions were made by the narrators, not by members of the project staff. In addition to the transcripts, tapes of each interview in its entirety are available.

In order to make this oral history collection as user-friendly as possible, the Kellogg Project Team has developed an index for each transcript, as well as a Master Index for the entire collection of transcripts. Included in each index are relevant topics, names, places, and themes covered in the interview. Our indexing process was adopted from the method described in Transcribing and Editing Oral History (1977) by Willa K. Baum. The Master Index of transcripts differs from the individual indexes in that it combines the information from all the transcript indexes into one source. In that document, different transcripts are noted by number, corresponding to the alphabetical order of the transcripts based on the narrator last name. The cover page for each transcript also indicates in the upper right corner the number it has been assigned in the Master Index.

Each audio tape has also been indexed regarding general subject matter. These indexes reflect the order in which indexable subjects appear on each side of each tape. The index to each taped interview can be found in the individual collections and compiled in the Master Tape Index.

Review and Submission

The major goal of this oral history research investigation is to make publicly accessible the information gathered regarding the experiences of African Americans in the health sciences, in the health professions, and with health care in southeastern Michigan, 1940-1969. In order to ensure quality and consistency of the collection, a team of experts, including oral historians, medical historians, and health policy makers, have reviewed all oral history transcripts prior to submission to public archives and institutions.

In addition, dissemination efforts will include the use of the Internet's World Wide Web and periodic press releases. The Kellogg Project Team will further disseminate information through formal presentations to schools, community and academic organizations, and publications such as newsletters, newspapers, and scholarly journals.


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Copyright , Kellogg African American Health Care Project, 2000.
Text and images may not be used without the permission of the Kellogg African American Health Care Project.