Teller of Life Stories
Oral histories are stories that portray vivid memories or perspectives, important to understanding the overall history of a time period. These histories are generally passed down in families and shared through conversation, family dinners, nighttime stories, or simply an older generation wanting a younger generation to know more about people, places, and events that served as milestones in their lives or the lives of their fore bearers.
Oral histories are always told from the perspective of the teller and often convey a rich essence, personal perspective, and unique details that are often absent from history books. Oral histories provide a personal connection or insight into an overall event, place or time.
Although oral histories are important to understanding an experience, challenges, and circumstances, we must be open to the fact that this information should be considered just one facet of the historical package. In retelling the human experience, understand that some details could be unclear or incorrect, while other details may serve as the missing link in understanding and appreciating the lives of ancestors and important elements in history.
Power in Oral Histories
In a story about Mrs. June Fox Davis of Birmingham, AL, and her personal quest to uncover her past, I wrote, “In search of family and community history, sometimes we find valuable information through in-depth research, sometimes through luck. Important clues exist in the oral histories we’ve heard all our lives; the cherished photographs, furniture and momentos, passed on from generation to generation. Rest assured, in many cases, documents exist, which have the power to confirm, enhance or challenge the stories and precious family heirlooms we keep near.”
“Answers are there for those with the interest in learning from the past to meet present-day and future challenges and to share with their children. The results may or may not be what we would expect. Nevertheless, living history gives us a sacred opportunity to glimpse our ancestor’s lives and living conditions, however simple or complex, joyous or painful, cumbersome or free. The process of discovery, connecting, sharing and passing on affirms the spirits of all involved.”
Majella Chube Hamilton