Personal History

The recollection of one's own life. May or may not include Oral History, but it's closely related.

Slaves In the Family

I’ve mentioned it previously, but having just finished reading it, I have to mention it again: Edward Ball’s Slaves in the Family. It’s history, memoir, oral history; a re-telling of American History through the events of one slave-owning family in South Carolina. I found more: a 30-minute radio documentary (Sept 28,2000 episode, scroll half way down. Real Player). The documentary was produced by David Isay (what a coincidence! Isay is from Sound Portraits productions; he’s founder of the StoryCorps Project).

An excerpt from the book’s beginning. Reading group guide.

Edward Ball interviewed: PBS Newshour upon his book winning the National Book Award
The Paula Gordon Show. Radio interview. Summary of interviews, short (3:25) audio excerpt (no transcripts or full audio file, alas)

CNN: A Warrior in Scholar’s Clothing

I’m trying to put a finger on what it is about Slaves in the Family that’s so striking: Certainly the history of the United States as told through the thread of a single family both fascinated and illuminated. It’s been a long time since I studied the American Revolution, when I did, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New England were where it’s at. Those southern states? Not so ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 30, 2006 in • Personal History
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Tangled Roots

For African-Americans, genealogy is harder. “‘The major difference is as a white person you won’t be looking for your people as property of somebody else,’ said Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, a genealogy researcher…” Oral History is an important key. And sharing research—whites with blacks and vice-versa.

This article sparked my attention, because I’m reading a book called Slaves in the Family, by Edward Ball. Ball is the descendant of the plantation-owning Balls from South Carolina. He examines the history of his slave-owning, in his family, breaking familial taboos (one cousin told him, “What you are doing can only cause trouble!”) and breaking new ground in uniting current-day African-Americans with records of their forbears.

Here’s a short excerpt from the book where Ball visits the elderly Katie Roper and her two 40-ish daughters, Delores and Charlotte. Katie is the granddaughter of Bright Ma, a Ball family slave. Edward Ball shares information from the plantation records with ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 21, 2006 in • Personal History
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The Remembering Site

The Remembering Site —Sharing our collective memories— is a website where you can join, and be presented with a host of questions to answer. It’s like writing a personal memoir, in small stages. The site is primarily devoted to text and writing recollections. But the nonprofit foundation offers audio recording services, too. One co-founder, DG Fulford (together with her brother Bob Greene) wrote a book To Our Chidren’s Children, an excellent book of questions to spark memory and recollection.

You sign up for the site, pay $10, and are guided to answer as many or as few of the myriad questions presented. Here are a few from the page of sample questions (that’s 4 of 32; go the page for all of ‘em). I like them for the way that they pull for specifics and sensory details, but if you’re going to be asking questions in a conversation, I wouldn’t ask multiple-point questions:

Did your grandparents live nearby? How often did you visit their homes? Did the house have a special cooking smell? Onions? Cookies? What did their couch feel like? How big was the kitchen?

Do you remember “getting” a concept in school? Cursive writing, maybe? Do you remember the moment when you first ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 09, 2006 in • InterviewingLinksPersonal History
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