I’m working on a history report and need support to help me learn.
This semester you have an opportunity to earn 20 extra credit points through a Family History project in which you will collect “oral history” data and use it to write an essay. What is oral history? Oral history is a direct account of historical events as told by a person who participated in or witnessed the event(s). The main tool for conducting oral history is the interview.
• Find someone willing to be interviewed about an historical time period or event in American history (or other history if you have family from a foreign country). A family member is the best source, but you can interview anyone of an older generation if you choose. This may be done in person or over the phone, though an in-person interview is recommended. You may also find it helpful to record your interview session, as long as your interviewee is comfortable.
• Next, ask a series of questions to get your subject to talk about his or her experiences of the time period or event in question. You may find that this person has one event or story in particular s/he wishes to talk about—let her/him, as it may mark an important life experience.
• Some questions to consider: Where did you grow up? How old were you at the time of the event? What class, race, or gender categories may have affected the person’s viewpoint of the event? How significant do you think the time period was? How did it affect your life or the lives of others? How did this even contribute to the shaping of America as a country? Any lasting effects you can see? You might think of other questions to ask as you go along in the interview.
• After the interview, collect your notes. It’s time to write this down!
• For 20 points extra credit, write a short essay, 2-3 pages (at least 2 full!), describing the person you interviewed and her/his experience. As you are now the historian, you may use their interview to interpret the time period or event in question. How do you better understand the event/time period after the interview? What opinions or biases did the person you interviewed lend to the time period or event in question? What new perspective did you gain? How did this interview help you to better understand American history?
• To receive up to 20 points of extra credit, please turn in your paper by the date of the final exam.
Possible Topics you may want to consider:
• The Great Depression, the New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt
• WWII, the Civil Rights Movement
• The Cold War, anti-communism, the “nuclear age,” life in the 1950s
• The 1960s: social reform, social radicalism, feminism, the Vietnam War
• The 1970s: Watergate/Nixon, the energy crisis, rise of conservatism
• The 1980s: Ronald Reagan, ending of the Cold War
• The 1990s: George H.W. Bush, the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm)