Oral History helps reveal how Connecticut town influenced young Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. Getty Images. 1999-2011. Photo by Reg Lancaster / Express/ Getty Images Early life influences on Martin Luther King revealed through oral history and research in the town of Simsbury, Connecticut. What was already known: MLK spent part of his youth working in the tobacco fields in Connecticut to earn money for school. What was recently discovered: his leadership among his peers and the experience of equality shaped his life. High school students researched how their home town played a key role in shaping the life of this Atlanta teenager.

[Simsbury High School students John] Conard-Malley and [Nicole] Beyer led the research project, which included going through books and old articles, and gathering oral history from people like 105-year-old Bernice Martin who says King went to her church in Simsbury.

“He had a good voice,” Martin said. “He sang in the choir.”

They put their findings in a video. It tells the story of King’s two summers in Simsbury - at the age of 15 and again at 18 - when he lived here in the dorms provided by the tobacco company.

Simsbury, Connecticut: The location where Martin Luther King Jr. spent a couple of summers working in the tobacco fields. Today in Simsbury, the video was premiered for the town in its local commemoration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Tying together news accounts from ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 17, 2011 in • Oral history in the news
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Your turn (Open thread): Did you interview anyone over the holidays?

Vintage microphone on a well-worn surface Did you interview anyone over the holidays? Who did you interview? What happened? How’d it go? What did you use to capture what the person said? (paper and pen? an audio recorder? a video recorder?)

Here’s an open thread for you: Tell your story about getting someone else to tell a story over the holidays.

I’ll start with an oh-so-brief recap:

There were three interview events between Thanksgiving and New Year’s:

Charlie McCarthy Doll

  1. Thanksgiving: I put one of the suggestions from this roundup to use: Helped my nieces think up questions to ask everyone. She wrote them on 3x5 cards, shuffled them, and then began asking questions. I had the recorder on and recording, and we all learned new things about each other. (more on that experience to come.)
  2. Last week: I attended a memorial service for a man who was a mentor to my mother, and a teacher to my brother and me. I recorded the audio of the service. At the reception, I set up a dual mic at a table where people could sit down and offer their ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 05, 2011 in • Interviewing
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My Christmas: A Shrine to Obsolete Technology

Sony Walkman Tape Player The centerpiece of my Christmas was inspired by a two-month old news story: Sony Walkman Cassette Player Dies In Japan, Lives On in U.S.

Launched in 1979, the 31-year-old portable media player will no longer be sold in Japan. (It will continue to be available in the U.S., but not indefinitely)

How did that news story turn into a work of art celebrating obsolete magnetic media technology?

Background

I saw the story. “Hey, Doc M, Sony has stopped making the Walkman tape player.”

(No, I don’t call him Doc M; I call him by his real name. But Doc M is the ablogymous name I use for him when I write about him on the internets.)

Doc M: “I have a Walkman. I wanted to sell it on eBay, but it’s busted. So now it’s just a piece of junk. Typical.”

Susan: “Oooh. Can I see it? Can I photograph it?”

Doc M emerges from the other room with the player.

Susan: “When did you get this?”

Doc M: “I’m not sure exactly. It was top of the line in, like, the early 90s.”

We pause, looking at the black and silver case. It feels heavy and solid. Green surrounds the play button.

Susan: ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 03, 2011 in • AudioDigitalityObsolecence
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