Oral history Project Reveals Interesting Details for Students

Posted on: Friday, April 26th, 2013
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by Brent Treash

This semester Emory & Henry students enrolled in Appalachian Literature, taught by Dr. Nicole Drewitz-Crockett, participated in an oral history project that focused on conducting interviews with residents of Glade Spring, Va. The interviews gave the students an opportunity to learn more about the town located just minutes from campus and to collect and study historical information about individuals, families and events.

Students who participated in the project joined their interviewees on Sunday, April 28, at Glade Spring Public Library to celebrate the completion of twelve oral history interviews, and to view photographic portraits of the interviewees made by Emory & Henry College professors Charles Goolsby and Michael Wright. “A Celebration of the People of Glade Spring, Virginia” was sponsored by Emory & Henry College’s Appalachian Center for Community Service, Passawatami Book Club and the Town of Glade Spring.

Interviewees from the community and the E&H students who conducted the interviews are as follows: Gerald Norris by Danielle Demaree; Sylvia White by Anna Blydenburgh; Rachael Nutter by Andrew Griffith; Chester Poore by Jeremiah Jessee; Ruby White by Mallory Cox; Prince Coleman by Abi Smith; Carolyn Bolden by Sabrina Vaccarino; Bill Reames by Zachary Rhoades; Marian Bailey by Jennifer Gobble; Nancy Williams by Jordan Remy; Mary Davenport by Stacy Sivinski; and Mary Jo Price by Robin Grossman, director of service-learning placements, partnerships and support in the Appalachian Center for Community Service.

The process of completing this project took dedication and hard work, and many students found the experience enjoyable, and sometimes even surprising. Each student prepared a list of questions and interviewed a local resident, encouraging him or her to recall details from the past. Through the personal stories, students received a deeper understanding of both the history of the town and the people who have helped shape its future.

Students who conducted the oral history project listened to their interviewees’ insightful tales about the changes that have taken place in Glade Spring, as well as personal stories about their own lives and the lessons they have learned along the way. Entertaining tales of hog killings and forest adventures introduced the students to a different culture that existed decades ago. Their stories covered a wide range of topics, causing students to laugh along with them at an amusing memory or nod in compassion when the recollections were emotional. No doubt, these conversations left a significant impact on the students who participated in the project.

“I really enjoyed the project,” said class member Zachary Rhoades. “It’s good because you get to focus on history that would otherwise be lost without projects like this.”

There is great value to stories, traditions, songs and pictures that are shared by people during oral history interviews. Sometimes the information collected from oral histories exists nowhere else. The project has helped me, as well as the other students, to understand the past, and to learn information that is often missed in textbooks.

E&H student Anna Blydenburgh believes the oral history project will build a stronger community between Emory and Glade Spring. Students participating in the project support the ties that Emory & Henry is forming with the town. Glade Spring is a welcoming community, and projects like the one produced by the Appalachian Literature course help strengthen that partnership.

The interviews conducted for the oral history project weave together a series of stories that illuminate the unique past of Glade Spring, and demonstrate how those elements have influenced the town’s modern-day character. Although people and businesses come and go in Glade Spring, the region possesses a vibrant and solid history of family, friendship, and community that provides the town with a stable foundation.