When we think of oral history, most of us immediately think of people sitting around a fire telling stories of the past, or spiritual songs sung during times of trouble, but most importantly, we most likely think of people hundreds of years ago. What we don’t think about is how much oral history affects us today, and how we are contributors to spreading the next generation of oral history.
Paul Thompson writes on page 29 of his book, “In some fields, oral history can result not merely in a shift of focus, but also in the opening up of important new areas of inquiry.” This is a good explanation to something I’ve been noticing a lot recently.
As a frequent social media user – Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, etc – During the hype of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve noticed a lot of talk about Black histories we never learned about and how only “the white man’s history” has been included in our textbooks and that’s all we were taught in school growing up. This was a quite shocking revelation for me, to think that there was a whole other side of history I never even knew about, and never even thought to know about because I thought I was being taught all there was – After all, I’m white, and I was being taught the history of other white people, I never even considered anyone else. What an eye opener. This oral history of my own generation has taught me so much I never knew, and has inspired me to learn more for myself.
When researching further, I found that there was an entire tag on Tumblr dedicated to “Black history you didn’t learn in school.” Most of it consisted of screen shots of tweets from people who were posting about this history.
This showed me that there were entire twitter pages and feeds dedicated to just this! It was incredible. Instead of seeing people my age bitching or fighting on social media, I saw people making a change and trying to learn and inform each other for the better.
I even found some articles about this issue – here.
Just like Thompson said, “Where no history is readily at hand, it will be created.” My generation is creating its own oral history. It is making sure that kids in future generations know about both sides of history, not just the white side. We are making sure to tell the truth. Black men and women of my generation want to be heard and understood and seen in history as more than what we typically learn about (slavery). There are more sides to history than you think or than you’re told. Make sure you’re willing to listen.