Listening For Our Past : A Lay Guide To African American Oral History Interviewing

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9780964732100: Listening For Our Past : A Lay Guide To African American Oral History Interviewing

Sprinkled with 6 family photographs and some personal anecdotal accounts, this 40-page book (actually a work booklet) can be especially useful for African-ancestored people interested in getting started at researching their own genealogies and family histories. In bite-size conversational sections, the author covers the “why,” “who,” “when,” and “how” aspects of conducting African American oral history interviews, a most essential part of one’s family research process. Readers are reminded that several hundred years of enslavement of African-ancestored families often necessitates questions to insure coverage of that part of a family's history, if known.

The cornerstone section, titled, “Some Questions You May Want Answered,” includes over 170 sample questions from which the reader can choose for each prospective interviewee. Among those samples are inquiries designed to extract any family oral history related to the enslavement period and any subsequent discrimination and/or segregation. “This entire list of questions can be reviewed in preparation for an interview, “ asserts Mr. Nelson, “just to make sure one is prepared to one's own satisfaction. It’s also helpful to decide beforehand which questions are priorities to have answered. Readers are also encouraged to use any personal knowledge and relationships to formulate other questions. To that end, the author added 7 blank “Personal Worksheet Pages” for writing one’s own questions, reminders, notes, etc. Readers are also encouraged to re-word or re-phrase questions to fit their own personalities and styles.

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About the Author:

Hasker Nelson, Jr. is a retired television Public Affairs Director whose former job included functioning as Producer/Host for the weekly half-hour program, "BLACK MEMO." He founded the program in January, 1974. It aired continuously through the end of December, 1999 on WCPO-TV (Channel 9) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Many believe ‘BLACK MEMO' was the longest continuously running local Black-focus TV program in the country.

During his twenty-six year career at the station, Mr. Nelson also spent three years as a reporter. He says that experience, coupled with previous job experience as a Lab Technician, taught him some skills in "information/fact gathering and organizing."

"Genealogy" slowly became a passion as he began delving into his own family histories (both sides) in the mid-1980's. "The more I learned," Mr. Nelson asserts, "the more I felt a spiritual connection to previous generations of individual family members I'd never met. I don't believe that "connectedness feeling" is unique to me. I believe it's waiting for anyone. It's especially important for African-ancestored people in the Western Hemisphere, because most of our families were deliberately disconnected."

Mr. Nelson also conducts interactive "African American Oral History Interviewing" workshops and seminars.

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