Â© 2011 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved. The idea of race against the backdrop of social history is explored in this article. One of the most remarkable developments in the historical profession in the past forty years has been the explosion of African American history and its movement to the center of the American experience. African American history occupied a prominent place in the discussion and in the interpretation of numerous historical eras and controversies. Oral history evidence has illuminated the African American experience during the periods of slavery and reconstruction and the modern civil rights movement. American slavery is a glaring example of race in oral history. U. B. Phillips's American Negro Slavery, published in 1918, argued that slavery was a benign, humane institution, which served primarily as a school of civilization for ignorant, barbaric, and unenterprising Africans. Oral histories of the civil rights movements as recorded in biographies and journals followed by an analysis of new insights winds up this article.