The Moral Courage Project

THE Problem

Our world continues to witness civil strife and human rights abuse, but our attempt to understand chaos and violence commonly resorts to simplistic narratives: good and bad, violator and victim. We focus on broad strokes and binaries, ignoring texture and complexity. In every case of violence and exploitation, however, there are stories of people relentlessly fighting these same injustices. In all communities, one can find individuals who are standing up on behalf of others in danger, regardless of the risk. These people embody moral courage, yet are often left out of history. There is a need to bear witness to the heroic work being done by seemingly average people and to bring these stories to light in order to better understand the impact of these contributions on the communities from which they emerge.

The Purpose

This project aims to tell the stories of “upstanders” (those who refuse to be bystanders), and identify and celebrate individuals who take risks to make important contributions in their communities during moments of crisis. By expanding the historical record to include overlooked stories and marginalized voices, we can produce a more accurate account, as well as learn from the experiences of those most directly affected.

On the operational side, the Moral Courage Project trains students to take testimony and engage in human rights storytelling. These skills coupled with the opportunity to conduct fieldwork provide students with invaluable and transformative experiences. Working with practitioner partners permits our team to support and build the capabilities of organizations on the front lines. The Moral Courage Project fulfills the mission of the Human Rights Center to work at the frontiers of research and advocacy, as well as the charge of the University of Dayton to serve the common good.

The People

Project leads:
  • Joel R. Pruce, Human Rights Center Faculty Research Fellow
  • Natalie F. Hudson, Director of Human Rights Studies program and Associate Professor
  • Leora Kahn, founder and executive director of PROOF: Media for Social Justice

THE Partners

Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame | 2016-2017

    •  The people of Ferguson have a story to tell – and one that the majority of those in the United States have not heard or fully understood. The 12 Stories and images captured in Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame are a testament not only to the systemic discrimination that the Ferguson protests laid bare, but also to the power of transformative action taken to foster community, accountability and justice.


    • free standing portable photo essay exhibit made available for display at museums, community centers, libraries, college and universities. View or download exhibit brochure.
    • Travel Log 
      • Roesch Library, OH
      • Dayton Metro Library, OH
      • St. Louis Public Library, MO
      • St. Louis University, MO
      • Newark Public Library, NJ
      • Phillips Exeter Academy, NH
      • Denison University, OH

    • An interactive website documenting the stories in radio and podcast formats freely accessible to educators, community and advocates in support of research, workshops, lectures, seminars and panel discussions.
    • PODCAST 

    • A limited series podcast featuring interviews collected in Ferguson, structured thematically, and written and produced by our team. iOS | GooglePlay | SoundCloud | Stitcher | TuneIn
    • Publication

Contribution to an edited volume under contract (forthcoming, 2019) with Voice of Witness containing chapters of individual profiles with students’ names as interviewers. VOW books serve as excellent public education resource and an historical record of the events used as curricula around the use of oral history in high school and college classrooms.

El Paso | 2018

In May 2018, a team of undergraduate students along with faculty members and practitioners will travel to El Paso, TX to conduct an innovative oral history project in the model of our pilot project, but in a new environment.

We will work alongside local organizations like the Hope Border Institute, and learn from them about the context in which we will work and build their advocacy capacity in turn.

Our team will immerse ourselves in the community and take testimonies of ordinary people who can teach us about life and action in the Borderlands.

Related Links

Find us

Human Rights Center

Keller Hall 455 
300 College Park 
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2790