PublicHistory Using Oral History for Social Justice Activism

AHA Session 264
Sunday, January 6, 2013: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
La Galerie 6 (New Orleans Marriott)
Candace S. Falk, University of California, Berkeley
The Shirley Chisholm Project of Brooklyn Women's Activism
Barbara Winslow, Brooklyn College, City University of New York
The Bronx African American History Project
Mark Naison, Fordham University
The Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project
Trevor Griffey, Evergreen State College
The Washington State Chicano History Project
Oscar Rosales Castaņeda, University of Washington
Candace S. Falk, University of California, Berkeley

Session Abstract

Using Oral History for Social Justice Activism This proposed panel will present interactive oral history projects, based upon ongoing partnerships of scholars, activists and community organizations. All four presenters are the founders and Directors of these projects. All four projects - The Bronx African American History Project, The Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, The Chicano/a Movement in Washington State History Project, and the Shirley Chisholm Project of Brooklyn Women’s Activism, 1945-to the Present - facilitated collaborations of professors, graduate and undergraduate students with community organizations and activists. The result has been unparalleled and unique data bases of archival materials and multi generational and multi racial oral history interviews. The people interviewed bring to light and to life the voices, writings and other texts of people whose lives had hitherto been ignored or deemed by ‘professional’ archivists as not particularly important to the dominant historical narrative - Chicano activists in Yakima Washington, anti war activists working in G.I. Coffee houses in Tacoma Washington, a Bronx Korean War veteran, Shirley Chisholm’s best friend, secretary and hairdresser. All of their stories give new meanings to an understanding of history, and many of these individuals were participants in the making of history or creating community. All four projects challenge traditional assumptions about the preservation of historical materials.  Housing documents in private, semi public or inaccessible libraries, to be used by a select few, perpetuates the concept that some knowledge should be private. Furthermore, it perpetuates the idea that research and scholarship should be the province of a private and privileged group.  Historical documents and artifacts located in public places such as historical societies, public libraries, and of course the web,  breaks down these artificial barriers allowing all interested parties to read the material, And since all four Projects place their materials are put on the web, they are be accessible to all. All four panel presenters will talk about how their web based interactive oral history projects are exemplary cases of engaged scholarship; how these Projects transformed their own teaching; how these projects connected  students with the elders in their communities and finally, hoe these projects have lead to greater college-community partnerships and community revitalization.

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