For this paper, you will be engaging in a short oral history project involving data collection, analysis and presentation. Please choose a particular event in African-American history (or American history that is relevant to the African-American experience) between 1920 and 2016 that is particularly memorable.
Choosing an obscure topic can often result in a more fascinating, and paradoxically, easier-to-write paper. Your interview subjects must have lived during the event in question and should have memories of the event (i.e. they shouldn’t be so young as to not remember it well.)
All events relevant to the American experience are relevant to the specifically African-American experience. Whatever event you choose, you should examine it from the perspective of how it influenced, shaped, impacted, was inspired by, drew strength from, or otherwise involved the African-American experience in the United States.
a) Define the event (or series of events, or period)
b) Find individuals living during the period who remember the event
c) Determine what questions should be asked of those individuals about the event
d) Pool the data and questions about the event collected and present it in a short analytical report using outside sources.
You should interview no fewer than two people about the event, and you should attempt to have your subjects be as diverse as possible. I will leave the choice of subjects up to you.
Interviews need not be in person, and can be done over email, phone, etc. Follow-up interviews may be necessary to clarify certain points raised in the initial interview, and which come up during creation of the paper.
The questions need not be complex, but each interviewer must have a historical knowledge of the event such that they know how to talk about the event, they know how to listen to the subject concerning the event, and perhaps know how to respond with follow-up questions that may not be on the group’s prepared list of questions.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When we talk about African-American history, it is important to understand that every American’s history is inextricably bound up with “African-American” history. Every event in American history is, in some way, also an event in African-American history. So, you do not need to limit yourself to events that are of primary importance to African-American history, such as events in the Civil Rights movement or the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. You can choose, for instance, the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency in 1980, or even the first Iraq War. However, you should choose your interview subjects and relate your questions to the event as the event may pertain to African-American history. For instance, the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency in 1980 had a major effect on American social policy towards African Americans. How did the African-American community react to the election? Who was the community’s generally preferred candidate and why? etc. These are all potential questions. Of course, every war impacts the African-American experience as well.
Older interview subjects are particularly preferred, i.e. grandparents, because their knowledge is more in danger of being lost. But you can ask your next-door neighbor, your relative living overseas, or your sister. Just get two good subjects.
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