Oral Histories

Audio recordings were one of the most powerful tools used to document personal stories of Americans in the 20th century. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration sent out teams with tape recorders to document the lives and cultural traditions of ordinary Americans. The American Memory project at the Library of Congress brings together the audio recordings of the American Folklife Center with many other resources to tell American stories. Teach your students to be recorders of their own history.

Online resources, such as this Oral History Step by Step guide, will help you teach your students how to document the experiences of themselves and others. Students can use digital audio to record the stories of family members or others from the larger community. A podcast series of oral histories could easily be tied to service learning and helps students make authentic connections to the world around them.

This Vietnam War Oral Histories project website was produced by Florida students studying the Vietnam War by interviewing veterans. The Foxfire project grew from students interviewing community members, documenting southern Appalachian culture. A similar approach can be used with digital audio and podcasting to make connections between the classroom and the larger community.

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