I first began conducting oral history interviews in 2004 as a part of the research for my MA thesis. Since that time, I have interviewed hundreds of individuals including fishermen in Lower Alabama; black students who desegregated Southern school systems; coal miners in Appalachia; Confederate re-enactors in South Carolina; emeritus professors and business leaders.
In the process, I have learned that very few of us are heroes or villains. History is the story of human beings, individuals who respond in fear and bravery to events they set in motion and yet never controlled. And many of them end up doing things they never expected, sometimes for the good of those around them and at other times doing injury to people they love. These stories can be hard to reconstruct from newspaper accounts or other sources, but they form the heart of our individual memories. They are key to how we understand our communities. They hold power over us as we imagine the future.
Below are some clips from oral histories I conducted with the students who desegregated Clinton High.