Thursday, October 11, 2007
Oral history project records at Rust
By SUE WATSON
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has provided a grant for tours to local communities where African American families can have a conversation recorded for posterity.
Representatives with StoryCorps were at Rust College two weeks ago recording interviews with families in the Holly Springs area.
Jennifer Carr, senior coordinator for the Griot Initiative, said the group will tour Jackson, Vicksburg, Tougaloo College, and Port Gibson. StoryCorps uses a mobile studio where two individuals can sit and tell their stories with the help of a facilitator who helps get the conversation started and sees to the technical aspects of recording what they share together.
Often it is a daughter or son and a father or mother who have the conversation and a wide range of topics can be covered.
The Smithsonian Institute in Washington is a partner with CPB and StoryCorps and will be housing the initiatives at a new facility - The National Museum of African American History and Culture - which will be built on the mall in Washington with other Smithsonian National Museums, Carr said.
The project began February 15 this year with recordings in Atlanta and Newark, New Jersey, Detroit, Chicago and Oakland, Calif.
Patterns and recurring themes have developed from scores of interviews, Carr said.
“In Oakland, many of the people there said their ancestors had migrated from Arkansas,” Carr said. Two towns in Arkansas were mentioned in many of the Oakland stories.
“Depending on the city and culture, you find certain kinds of things,” Carr said. “We also worked with churches, Lions Clubs, ACORN and different organizations who pulled in people to talk about how they were drawn into the organization.
In Detroit, groups that fused with the Lions Club or black organizations came from varied business and professional backgrounds, Carr said.
A lot of migration from the South to the North also parallelled post World War II movements. The people in Oakland were looking for work and opportunity, she said.
“In Newark, Detroit and Chicago, people were coming before World War II looking for jobs,” she said. “Particularly in Atlanta, the stories of people showed they were dealing with integration of schools and how they coped going through that process.”
One particularly gripping story was told in Atlanta by Dr. Lynn Weaver, speaking to his daughter Kimberly about his father Thurman Weaver.
Lynn Weaver was one of the first to integrate the schools in Atlanta, Carr said.
“He told of how his father who did not have the education he had, studied algebra at night so he could wake up the next morning and teach his son,” Carr said.
“His daughter’s and his life experiences were so different. He talked about his appreciation of his father for doing that for him. That’s the quintessential African American experience.”
“To this day I live my life trying to be the man my father was, just half the man,” Weaver said. “And I would be a success if my children loved me half as much as I loved my father.”
Some of the recorded oral history stories will air on PBS News and Notes program.
For more visit www.storycorpsgriot.net.
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