Remembering Cliff Kuhn, by Todd Moye


Remembering Cliff Kuhn

Todd Moye, Professor of History and Director, University of North Texas Oral History Program

We are very sorry to have to share with you the news that our friend and Oral History Association (OHA) Executive Director Cliff Kuhn passed away on November 8 in Atlanta, surrounded as he usually was by loved ones.


Cliff KuhnSurely we do not have to tell you what a loss this is—not just to his family and the OHA but to the worldwide oral history movement, to the fields of southern history and public history, to the city of Atlanta, to Georgia State University students and colleagues, and to many, many others. Cliff brought high energy, unfailing good humor and generosity, and a larger-than-life personality to everything he did, whether it was welcoming new oral historians to OHA, coaching his sons' soccer teams, advocating for oral history in front of academic organizations and funding agencies, or making all of the communities he belonged to more democratic, egalitarian, and just. For all of these reasons we grieve with Cliff's wife and family. We also recommit ourselves to the causes that were so dear to Cliff and resolve to pay forward some of the generosity and encouragement he gave us.

Colleagues might enjoy learning more about the work he did to document and confront Atlanta's history—and take solace, as we have, in hearing his voice. NPR reported on his and others' efforts to commemorate the centennial of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. This work was very near and dear to Cliff. Between 2006 and November of last year, he took hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Atlantans and visitors to the city on walking tours of race riot sites in Downtown Atlanta that more often than not resulted in discussions of what we could do to bring racial justice to present-day Atlanta. He also recorded hundreds of oral histories for the independent radio station WRFG ("Radio Free Georgia"), which he developed into his book Living Atlanta, and "This Day in History" pieces for the local NPR affiliate WABE, which are archived at WABE. GSU professor Alex Sayf Cummings has written a moving tribute at Atlanta Loses Its Greatest Listener.

The Oral History Association has established the Cliff Kuhn Scholarship fund to assist students and oral history practitioners interested in attending the OHA annual meeting. To contribute to the fund, see 

(Photo credit Stephanie M. Lennox/WABE)