History professor to advise Obama oral history project

a man looks at the camera

David Hollinger is the Berkeley history department’s Preston Hotchkis Professor Emeritus. (UC Berkeley photo)

David Hollinger, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of history, has been named to the advisory board of a project to produce an ambitious oral history of former President Barack Obama’s life, from growing up in Honolulu to managing the Great Recession to overseeing the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.

Over the next five years, researchers plan to interview more than 400 people with insights into the 44th president’s life and administration.

The project, launched by the Obama Foundation and Columbia University, will include an examination of major events during Obama’s presidency and important biographical moments before Obama became president. One of the largest oral history projects ever conceived for a president, Obama’s is designed to be a primary-source record that can be used by future historians.

Hollinger, an expert in the history of religion and ethnicity in America, says he and other historians on the project’s advisory committee will help researchers “identify historically important questions to be asked of individuals being interviewed.”

He says his own role “probably will focus on religion and ethnicity, two areas of modern U.S. history about which I have written. Also, I have made extensive use of oral history materials in my own research.”

“I’m glad to work with the Columbia Oral History Program, since it is, like Berkeley’s, one of the finest in the world,” adds Hollinger, who is the Berkeley history department’s Preston Hotchkis Professor Emeritus.

Other advisory committee members include Harvard University political scientist Danielle Allen and Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, as well as journalists Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker and Michelle Norris of National Public Radio. 

Read more about the project