“History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands.” Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, 153.
Michel-Rolph Trouillot popularized the term “silences” to describe gaps in the archives and records of the past, and identify the missing pieces of history at large–empty space where minorities, the poor, and those that lack privilege lack representation, because their stories were not deemed worthy of preservation. America is currently wrestling with herself–issues of racism, poverty, and the systemic oppression of minorities have deep roots that are buried in uncomfortable histories that some people simply don’t want to speak aloud.
But other people need to speak–deserve to speak–and should speak, for their history to be legitimated and preserved. Oral history provides a solution of social justice that can address certain gaps in the archive and provide a more equitable understanding of historical events that inform our present.
I’ve personally worked with oral histories for 3 years now in various capacities, but every time I bring it up outside of the academic world, I get a bit of a head tilt and the question:
“But what’s oral history?”
The goal of my digital project would be not only to answer this question, but to publicize the act of oral history as an act of social justice. The year 2020 held numerous historical events that radically changed the fabric of our current world. A global pandemic, the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, and the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer after the death of George Floyd have all impacted us, and impacted our history. Many people found that the only outlet available to them was through the internet–accusations of virtue signaling and being stuck inside made many people feel as if they couldn’t help, and couldn’t contribute to any real social change.
Oral history can provide an outlet for young people to engage with the world around them and improve the historical record–if they KNOW about it and if they have the appropriate resources. My digital project will center on two objectives: teach people about oral history as a practice, teach people how to use it as a form of social justice.
I am currently planning on utilizing Youtube and Tiktok to create short, educational videos that will engage audiences and provide a large amount of resources (for example: places to submit your oral history interview for archivization, where you can record oral history interviews online, if you can do it with your phone, etc.). I am also hoping to get in contact with oral history organizations and ask for permission feature some of their interview content. I will center these two platforms in a blog format site (most likely WordPress) that will provide links, articles, and extended resources mentioned in the videos.
If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know, I would love your feedback. Additionally, since many of us were in the oral history class last semester, if you would like part of your interview featured or referenced on the site, I am more than happy to set that up. If you want to be featured on the Tiktok, also let me know. We can get famous together.
Also, I am currently looking for name suggestions for the site/Tiktok since I am terrible at striking a balance between too much of a pun and something cool. Help a girl out. Let’s get oral history on the map, and make it a process that anyone can do with a little bit of training and a little bit of Tiktok.