The Courage of Conviction
Conduct Your Own Oral History Project
An oral history project preserves part of a person’s life history—as viewed through that person’s eyes, experiences, and memories. In general, oral history projects add to the knowledge we share about our lives and also add details to our understanding of the past. History is not simply a series of isolated events that you read about in text books. History is truly made up of the life experiences of individuals just like you.
To gather oral history, it is important to conduct a good interview and to take good notes.
Get Started: This activity can be done with a friend or two—while one person interviews by asking questions the others can take written notes or record what is said on tape. Successful oral history inter- views will cause the person being interviewed to start telling colorful stories—just like those captured on film and in the book form of Glory Road.
You, too, can capture the story of a person who has acted on his or her beliefs or convictions.
Think about someone you know who has done something wonderful, overcome a hardship, or committed an act of courage.
Make an appointment to talk with this person and to interview them. Tell the person you will need about an hour of their time. Be sure to bring a note pad. A tape recorder would also be help- ful, if you have one. You may also wish to bring a camera to take a picture of the person you are interviewing. And, bring a friend or two to help if possible.
Before you go, make a list of questions that you would like to ask. 10-12 questions are about the right number. Here are a few oral history questions you might use:
- What is your full name? Did you have a nickname when you were growing up?
- Where were you born and when?
- What would you consider to be the most important inventions that have been made during your lifetime?
- How is the world now different from what it was like when you were a child?
- Do you remember your friends and/or family discussing world events and politics? What did you talk about?
- Who was the person that had the most positive influence on your life? What did this person do?
- Is there a person that really changed the course of your life by something that he or she did? Who was it and why?
- Do you remember someone saying something to you that had a big impact on how you lived your life? What was it?
- What were the hardest choices that you ever had to make? Do you feel like you made the right choices? What would you do differently?
- Have you done something that you feel especially proud of? Please describe it.
- As you see it, what are the biggest problems that face our nation today and how do you think they could be solved?
- Describe a time and place when you remember feeling truly at peace and happy to be alive. Where were you? What were you doing?
Be sure to thank the person you have interviewed and let them know that you will share what you write. Remember to ask permission to share their story with others. You could even write them a thank you note!
Now, write or record the stories you heard during the interview in a way that will be of interest to other young people.
If granted permission by the person you interviewed, be sure to share your oral history with others—adults, your peers, younger children or your local paper!