“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.” ― Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings
Does it strike you that family elders among us today may be the last generation who can connect with oral history of ancestors who were freed from slavery?
It certainly seems that way to us, and that is what drives us to get records out on the Internet – get them out there while there are elders alive who can make sense of them, recognize the names of enslaved ancestors, and share the stories behind the names on the page.
It is in the stories of elders that we begin to hear our ancestors’ voices. Learning about how they lived, we learn what their values were. Learning about customs and traditions, we learn about their culture. Learning about their struggles and the challenges they faced, we gain perspective on our own lives.
When we begin hearing our ancestors’ voices, we learn who we are and how we inherited our world.
The generation of elders among us today can connect us, via oral history, to the stories of our ancestors. But our elders are leaving us every day. There’s no better time than now to begin to learn the stories our elders can tell, and preserve those stories for future generations.
StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening resources can help you get started on learning the stories of your ancestors. Their free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide will lead you through what you need to know to interview elders and learn more about their lives and their memories of those who came before you.
Friday, November 23, 2012 is the fifth annual National Day of Listening, a new national holiday devoted to oral history.
Each year, Story Corps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.
We hope you will celebrate and enjoy the National Day of Listening this year. Why not start a new family tradition and create some great holiday memories at the same time?
For more information on how you can celebrate the National Day of Listening, please view our article 5 Ways to Celebrate the National Day of Listening, and visit StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening website.