Bonding with History through Interviews

And now we come to the MOST exciting part of my project! INTERVIEWS!!!!! I was thrilled! Now I would be able to understand the full extent of what my aunt had been telling me for years!

Now, keep in mind that I’m new at this whole oral history thing. So don’t laugh when I say that my hopes initially centered on my aunt’s testimony. Thank heaven for Divine intervention! About a week before I went to do my interviews my godmother just returned home from a medical procedure. As is my mother’s custom, she wanted to go visit her while we were down for the interview process. On our way to my godmother’s house my mother suggested that I interview my godmother as she too had desegregated along with my aunt. I thought, why not? The more the merrier!

Thankfully, my godmother was up for the task and we set up the interview space in her room. Even though I was excited I was very nervous. This was my first interview ever and I had just learned how to use the recorder I had brought  the day before. But this had to be done, so I went ahead. I began by introducing the interviewee (my godmother) and the subject we were going to talk about. I was just about to ask the first question when one of my godmother’s visitors came in and announced that someone had brought in chicken wings! As you would expect, we had to start again, this time with the door closed to other visitors!

As I began the interview again I used the method Ms. Brown suggested. I asked my godmother what schools (segregated and desegregated) she attended and what years. Then I asked her what her family life was like. I asked what her community was like at the time she went to these schools. I also asked what her relationships (with teachers and classmates) were like at school. These questions afforded me the opportunity to get more than just facts and data; I was able to get to the human element of the situation. Although I received the information I wanted (what schools were attended, when, etc.), I was also able to attain a deeper understanding of the impact of segregation and desegregation on not only the student, but the community as well.

When we were done with my godmother’s interview (which went very well thank God!) she said, “Hey I know some teachers who taught around this time, would you like to talk to them?”

Now you know I said yes!

And that is how I got to interview Ms. Marthea Morant and Ms. Annie Bellamy. They told me about how they worked to get the desegregated students to work together and understand one another. At the same time they reported how they were also working hard to understand and cooperate with teachers that didn’t understand them and their culture.

Later on I also got to interview my grandmother, who was a parent at the time of desegregation. With her interview I gained insight on how the parents of the Horry County community reacted to desegregation.

Finally, I got to interview my aunt and uncle. Their testimonies gave a little more detail into the conflicts of desegregation than my godmother’s. They described encounters with teachers, fellow students, and other members of the community that really made desegregation difficult in the beginning.

These interviews were the greatest part of conducting my research project. I guess most people would classify oral history as just another form of storytelling. But for me it was a way of understanding history on a personal level. It made the subject more alive and gave an explanation for things I couldn’t understand in my research. It also created more questions that I would like to explore with more research later on.