St. Andrew’s Students Add 75 Interviews to Pre-Collegiate Oral History Collection, Largest in North America at 1,415
by St. Andrew's Communications Staff
St. Andrew’s hosted the 23rd annual Oral History Night on Tuesday evening, a celebration of a year-long project by members of the junior class. The St. Andrew’s Oral History Project is the largest pre-collegiate collection of oral histories in North America, and with the addition of 75 new primary source interviews on Tuesday, it now sits at a robust 1,415.
The Oral History Project challenges students to practice the skills of a historian. Each 11th grade student identifies an interview subject, writes a scholarly research paper on the historical context of that interviewee's life story, and, through the interview and subsequent transcription, analysis paper, and presentation, creates a primary source to add to the historical record. The collection is publicly accessible and interviews conducted over the past 23 years have even been studied by current students as they complete their Oral History Project.
On Tuesday night, students and their parents heard from Brian Bies ‘14, who shared how his interview with Ralph Baer, who invented the first home video game system, inspired him to write and publish his first book. Five students presented on their topics – Mutunga Lamin, who interviewed Dr. Horace Campbell on the 1974 Pan-African Congress in Tanzania; Fiona Gallagher, who spoke with Barbara Ives on her experience as a member of the first female graduating class at the Naval Academy in 1980; Zara Blake, who interviewed Chandra Voetsch on the Sri Lankan Civil War; Edith Eriksson, who spoke with Jane Fisher-Byrialsen on the Central Park 5/Exonerated 5 case; and Ashton Rubley, who interviewed Frances Townsend on homeland security measures following 9/11. Other notable subjects interviewed this year include Rep. Jim Clyburn, Ted Koppel, and Bishop Gene Robinson.
The Oral History Project at St. Andrew’s began in 1998 and was founded by Glenn Whitman, then a history teacher and now the Dean of Studies and Director of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, and author of "Dialogue with the Past: Engaging Students and Meeting Standards through Oral History." Among the more famous past interview subjects are John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Colin Powell, Sandra Day O’Connor, Marion Barry, Doug Williams, Peter Berg, Helen Thomas, Charlie Wilson and Pierre Omidyar (St. Andrew’s Class of 1984). Interviews for the oral history project currently reside in the Civil Rights Museum (Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine), and the National Baseball Hall of Fame (Ernest Burke, a former Negro League Player).