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Oral History

We all experience different lives and so all of us have unique stories to tell which are extracted from our day to day life and hence are of great importance. These experiences should be recorded or preserved whether in our memories or in any form so that we can recall them and pass them to the next generations. These experiences when preserved and later recalled are given a form of oral history. Oral history is the systematic method of collecting the proof of the living people’s experiences.

It focuses not on the rich and the famous but on common people living with experiences. Many historians have finally recognized that the everyday memories of common people, not just the rich and famous, have historical importance. Another aspect of recording these experiences is that if we do not record them, then sooner or later these experiences will fade from the memories and then will disappear (Weiss). The word oral means “spoken” rather than written which makes the idea clear that oral history is the history which is told verbally and is not written down.

This method of recording the history is used from ancient times when there was no process of writing history down, so it is the most traditional way of retelling experiences and stories and learning them. At earlier times, it was the only way to pass these stories down in order to preserve the culture and traditions of a group. At that time the historians were those people who use to sit around the fire an evening and recall the stories of their ancestors as far back as they could remember.

In Celtic society, for example, there was a person called a bard who was given the task of creating grand sagas of the tribe’s daring deeds, battles, and other heroic doings that would then be recited at feasts and gatherings. “In this way history was passed on and, in many instances, legends began. All of this occurred before there was such a thing as writing. ” (Sleight-Brennen and Newberg) The history that we read in our text books and other history books, most of the times are that of the conquerors__ those who are in power, or who have done heroic deeds and are legends to the world.

Thus, until about the 1970s or 1980s there were few accounts about the lives of slaves or women in most textbooks. (Hoopes 65) Oral history is the history which focuses on the common men and their stories and experiences which are not necessarily important to the whole world but they are of great importance to a particular group or a society or even to the person who is listening to the person who is telling the story. “Oral History is not only a tool or method for recovering history; it is also a theory of history which maintains that the common folk and the dispossessed have a history and that this history must be written.

” Gary Okihiro – “Oral History and the Writing of Ethnic History” (Sleight-Brennen and Newberg) Every family or a society have its own culture and tradition and therefore they live with their unique experiences and have unique stories to tell. Oral history is the best method of preserving these stories which can be adapted by anyone regardless of age using the techniques of asking and listening to the history and recording it.

We can understand it well if looking at it as a conversation between two individuals about an aspect of the past which is considered by them of historical value and is being recorded purposely so that it can be preserved. This conversation takes a form of an interview which is composed of all the information related to the topic which is in focus, however it can get a little informal to an extent of a friendly conversation but the both of the individual have to remain focused on the topic.

To quote Alessandro Portelli, one of oral history’s most thoughtful practitioners, “Oral history . . . refers [to] what the source [i. e. , the narrator] and the historian [i. e. the interviewer] do together at the moment of their encounter in the interview. ” (Shopes 3) The interview which is conducted between two people in which one is the person who is suppose to ask questions and is known as interviewer and the one from which the questions are being asked and who is telling the story and answering the questions is known as interviewee or narrator.

The questions are composed carefully so that they represent the topic which is in focus without confusing the interviewee, after listening to the question carefully and giving it a thought the narrator gives the answer to it which can consist of a fact or a story containing experiences and this process will be repeated again, while the whole interview is being recorded and then it will be preserved, this can also include pictures related to the topic in discussion.

Musician and teacher William Green, his student Teven Isoardi, and early project interviewee Buddy Collette provided major inspiration for the UCLA Oral History Program’s inaugurating The Central Avenue Sound Oral History Project (Isoardis). In preparing for the interview, Isoardi consulted jazz histories, autobiographies, oral histories, relevant jazz periodicals, documentary film and back issues of the California Eagle and the Loss Angeles Sentinel.

The interview is organized chronologically, covering Farmer’s life through the early 1950s, with the emphasis on his life in Phoenix, Arizona, the Central Avenue jazz scene, his year at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, and his career as a musician (Isoardis). Hence, all in all Oral History plays a vital role in providing us an easier way to have a glimpse into the lives, works, families, communities, prejudices, cultures and traditions of people which are not discussed in a written form. Works Cited Hoopes, James. Oral History: An Introduction for Students. University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

Isoardis, Steven L. Central Avenue Sounds. California, 1995. Shopes, Linda. “History Matters. ” 14 February 2002. Making Sense of Oral History. 25 May 2009 <http://historymatters. gmu. edu/mse/oral/what. html>. Sleight, Sandara and Newberg, Michael. An Oral History Collection Project. 26 May 2009 <http://www. tcomschool. ohiou. edu/cdtm/whatis. htm>. Weiss, Bari. “Listen and Learn: A Brief History of Oral History. ” Wall Street Journal – Eastern Edition Vol. 250 Issue 22 7 July 2007: 13. Business Source Premier. EBSCO. 26 May 2009 <http://search. ebscohost. com/login. aspx? direct=true&db=buh&AN=26057214&site=ehost-live>.

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