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In Memoriam: Kim Lacy Rogers (1951-2014)

  Kim Lacy Rogers, a leading figure in oral history, unexpectedly died on Friday, February 21 at her home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where she was Professor of History and American Studies at Dickinson College. Although continuing to teach, she had been in declining health. She was a few days shy of her 63rd birthday.

Soon after receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1983, Kim Rogers began authoring what would become an extremely influential collection of oral history-related books and articles. Much of her research involved African American communities in the deep South, particularly in New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. Along with Professor Jerry Ward of Tougaloo College, she directed the Delta Oral History Project, conducting oral history interviews from 1995 through 1998.

Rogers’s work was marked by insight, depth, and capaciousness. Her numerous publications include Righteous Lives: Narratives of the New Orleans Civil Rights Movement (1993); Interactive Oral History Interviewing (co-edited with Eva McMahan) (1994); Trauma and Life Stories: International Perspectives (co-edited with Selma Leydesdorff) (1999); and Life and Death in the Delta: African American Narratives of Violence, Resilience, and Social Change (2006), which won the 2007 Oral History Association Book Award as well as the 2008 National Council on Public History Book Award. Following her interest in Eastern religions, at the time of her death she was researching contemporary religious pluralism in the American Southwest.

Rogers joined the faculty of Dickinson College in 1983 where she taught courses centered on recent American history, urban history, and gender and family history. Along with her colleagues Jeremy Ball and Amy Wlodarski, she was the 2010 recipient of the OHA Postsecondary Teaching Award for the series of courses entitled, “Black Liberation Mosaic: South Africa and Mississippi.” She also served as director of Dickinson’s Community Studies Center, which she was instrumental in founding.

In addition, Rogers played a leading role in the Oral History Association. She chaired the Publications Committee, and served on the OHA Council in the late 1990s and then again as an officer, including as OHA president in 2004-2005. It was because of her efforts that the OHA had its executive office at Dickinson College from 1999 through 2012.

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Blog: Empathy: The Real Common Core

Blog by Cliff Mayotte, OHA Education Committee

“There’s so much to a person we don’t see on first glance that helps define them, and once we hear their story its like they become a different person.” – Student, 826 Chicago

Why don’t we use the word “love” very often as a vital component in teaching and learning? Occasionally, we educators will reference “emotional intelligence” as a way for students to activate prior knowledge or access information, but rarely do we leverage the power of love and empathy as means for students and teachers to learn together. These sensations develop the skills and habits of mind not only related to new Common Core standards, but more importantly lead to, as oral historian Allesandro Portelli describes, a “mutual sighting” between two people. This process of mutual sighting is directly connected to nurturing empathy, civic engagement, identification as a global citizen, and dare I say it, increased capacity for love and understanding. Who knew that the real Common Core was empathy?

We can use the oral history process to explore the connections between empathy and the skills emphasized in the new Common Core standards, and then go even further. As an oral history educator, I have experienced countless times being in the presence of students and teachers actively engaged in each other’s stories—enjoying moments of connection and community in ways that make empathy and compassion palpable. But there is a third thing at work in these moments. Simply put, I would describe it as feelings of love and human connection, which is relatable to, but certainly goes far beyond, what has been adopted as “Common Core.” It takes the best impulses of these standards and explodes them to embrace the idea of global citizenship, providing insight into the question, “What kind of person do I want to be in the world?”

Surely these experiences have a place in our learning communities. The communication skills inherent in conducting oral history bear this out. Active listening, non-judgment towards narrators, and a willingness to see and be seen create an environment that is nurturing, questioning, and democratic. It’s not too big a leap for us to see this idea writ large—in our schools, communities, and beyond. This approach, this kind of oral history-fueled “mutual sighting,” has the capacity to enter contested personal or community space and flourish, even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable social conditions. In fact, I believe that they flourish as a result of acknowledging them, not trying to making them disappear. Active listening, empathy, and compassion are key components of an oral history classroom, and are directly connected to curiosity, critical thinking, analysis, research, and literacy building. These skills are in turn connected to Common Core standards for Speaking and Listening, Language, and Reading History. This approach is a coherent and holistic way for educators to interpret the new standards, while serving as a powerful reminder to us about of the kinds of people we strive to be in the world.

Cliff Mayotte is the Education Program Director for Voice of Witness

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2014 Advanced Oral History Summer Institute Applications Open

UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office is thrilled to announce our 2014 Advanced Oral History Summer Institute, which will be held at UC Berkeley from August 11-15. After taking a hiatus last summer, we have made some changes to our always sold-out program. This year our focus will be on the “lifecycle of an interview” and each day will be organized around different stages in the interview and project process. Daily themes include “Foundational Aspects of Oral History,” “Project Conceptualization and the Role of Oral History,” “The Interview,” “Analytic Strategies and Interpretation,” and “Reflections and Reconceptualization.” Sessions will include standard topics such as Oral History Theory, Legal/Ethical Issues, and Project Planning as well as new sessions including the Anatomy of an Interview, Analysis and Presentation, Digital Humanities, and Funding.

We are pleased to announce that Robin Nagle, who is the Director of New York University’s John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program, will be our 2014 Keynote Speaker. Nagle, who is also the Anthropologist-in-Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), recently publishedPicking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, which has been featured in the New York Times and Mother Jones. Nagle’s work has also been featured onThis American Life, The Believer, and in a recent TED talk she gave. She uses oral history as one of her research methods and founded the DSNY Oral History Archive, which is an expanding collection of interviews with Sanitation workers. We look forward to having her! Along with Nagle, our five Summer Institute faculty from the regular ROHO team are Neil Henry, Martin Meeker, Lisa Rubens, Paul Burnett, and Shanna Farrell. They will be leading sessions and facilitating discussions.

Applications are now open (see the link) and will be accepted on a rolling basis:

Tune in to our blog for updates about the Institute including the week’s schedule, information about panel sessions, and guest presenters.Please contact Shanna Farrell (de.ye1632499486lekre1632499486b.yra1632499486rbil@1632499486llerr1632499486afs1632499486u) with questions.

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Las Vegas African American Experience Project launches

With the click of a mouse, the world now has access to the Las Vegas African American Experience Project, a vast collection of history now on the web.

Claytee White, Director of the Oral History Research Center says a lot effort went into this, from oral interviews to a vast collection of photographs, manuscripts, articles and other documents. The project unfolds a Western civil rights period here in Southern Nevada.

“You hear about African Americans not being able to go into hotel casinos until the 1960s. They can entertain but not stay there. And we hear stories about African Americans not being able to work jobs except those in the back of the house until 1971,” White said.

Read more from News 3.

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Blog: Annual Meeting Scholarships

post by Leslie McCartney, International Committee Web Liaison

The Oral History Association’s annual meeting will be held in Madison, Wisconsin from October 8-12, 2014. Each year the International Committee offers scholarships to international presenters for the annual meeting. We encourage applications from a diverse population of people who might contribute to the association’s annual meeting.  We welcome scholarship applications from students, professionals, and community practitioners. Scholarship applications for the 2014 annual meeting will be posted on the website in January.  For presenter scholarships, papers must demonstrate superior oral history methodology and research to qualify for a scholarship. For non-presenter scholarships, funded applications will demonstrate how attending will benefit the recipient AND how such attendance would further oral history among a particular community or audience. Please read the instructions carefully and complete the application as fully as possible within the word limits indicated. Each year we offer between 5-8 scholarships. Scholarships can only be received once. For more information, visit: Please direct any scholarship related questions to ude.u1632499486sg@ah1632499486o1632499486.

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