American Slaves “Underground Railroad”

Decades of oral tradition and a few scant clues suggest the role a northern Maine church played in harboring slaves along the Underground Railroad.  This small Quaker church just two miles from the Canadian border was likely the last stop on the Underground Railroad for many runaway slaves making their way to freedom, according to historians in the Fort Fairfield area.  Documenting the role of the Friends Church and many other sites means relying on oral records passed from one generation to the next. For full story click here.

Black History Month (USA) – Merging schools

Last February, the oral history project opened an exhibit at the Nelson Heritage Center displaying the history of the integration of the schools in the county. The exhibit built on the countless hours of research Woody Greenberg had done in 1985 for his doctoral dissertation on the county’s school system, with two of the chapters focusing on the integration process.  He interviewed many people who lived through it and combed through documents from the school board. His research corresponded with a video project members of the oral history project were working on a few years ago and so they decided to create the exhibit, Greenberg said.  For full story, click here.

World War II American Veterans’ Project

An Army Air Corps pilot, 94-year-old Charles P. Evans was the 2,000th person interviewed for the Veterans Oral History Project at the New York State Military Museum program that began 12 years ago.  He got a bird’s eye view of Normandy the day before D-Day while on one of 30 harrowing bombing missions he was assigned to during World War II.  For full story with a video clip, click here.

1955 Maitland flood

The thing that Noel Gilmour remembers most about the 1955 flood was how black the sky was. The day before the Hunter River unleashed its fury and the water flowed like an ocean over the top of Mount Pleasant Street, taking his family’s home with it, the 21-year-old Mr Gilmour was leaving his work at Maitland City Council early on that Thursday afternoon when he looked up and noted how dark the sky had become. And it is a detail he will again remember as a speaker at Maitland City Library’s Look Who’s Talking Local History: Memory or Myth? Local Flood Stories event to commemorate the anniversary of the 1955 flood this month (February). For full story, click here.

Aboriginal oral history misunderstood (Canada)

Recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as a legitimate form of evidence in 1997, Aboriginal oral history is too often cast aside as an inferior or even illegitimate form of proof in the Canadian justice system, according to scholars at the University of British Columbia.  It’s that lack of information and deep-seated bias towards Aboriginal culture and ways of knowing that they hope to address in “Aboriginal Oral Histories in the Courtroom: More than a matter of evidence” a panel discussion at the University on Wednesday, February 8.  For full story, click here.

Oaks Estate, Canberra History

Oaks Estate, a forgotten village on Canberra’s eastern outskirts, may not have completely shed its crime haven status, but is nonetheless cherished for its history and obscure status.  Long-time resident Karen Williams says the village’s neglect over many years has inadvertently defined Oaks Estate.  Ms Williams arrived in Oaks Estate in 1987 and answered a call from the Arts Council to establish an arts festival by talking to old people, including some born in 1909. She spent six months gathering oral history, applied for more grants and helped stage an inaugural festival, which drew people from all over Canberra. For full story, click here.

Struggle of Memory Against Forgetting

The ABC’s Hindsight program repeated one of its stories during it’s “Summer” break, which is of special interest to oral historians – “The Struggle of Memory Against Forgetting”.  “Oral history has been part and parcel of the democratisation of history since the Second World War. Through interviews with historians from many different countries, and archival material from seminal oral history projects, we chart the international oral history movement, paying special attention to the role of oral history in Aboriginal historiography, and in post-Apartheid South Africa.”  See the full description of the program, listing the speakers and references and listen to it by clicking here.

OAM for Forbes Oral Historian

Robert Willis has been awarded the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for service to the preservation to Australian folklore.  For Mr Willis the OAM comes as an acknowledgement of decades of work travelling around Australia recording oral history. Mr Willis has been recording social and musical history for over 30 years, spending the last 20 years working for the Oral History and Folklore Section of the National Library of Australia. For full story, click here.

Australian Migrant Stories

Rosaline Uaniva Havea migrated to Australia from Tonga at 16 in search of better opportunities.  It was 1975 and her family settled at Hurstville where she attended Kingsgrove High School. Mrs Havea, a former chairwoman of St George Migrant Resource Centre, said it was important to share her story. “These stories can help new migrants learn from other people’s experiences, how we overcame problems and jumped over hurdles to settle more successfully,” she said. “With the migrant experience, there are always difficulties.” This is the thinking behind the latest oral history project from Hurstville City Library, Museum and Gallery which will form the basis of a multimedia exhibition. It will centre on special items that new migrants have kept which could trigger memories of their experiences. For full story, click here.