Thursday, March 31, 2011

Peggy Terry and Oral History of the Great Depression

In today's class, Dr. Dujovny lectured on Ethnohistory and the practice of oral history, what the Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History calls "the systematic collection of living people's testimony about their own experiences."

American author, historian, broadcaster, and actor, Studs Terkel (1912-2008) was one of the most well known collectors of human testimony. Although he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1985, he is better remembered for his recordings of the oral histories of common Americans, many of which were featured on his long-running radio program aired on WFMT in Chicago.

According to the Chicago History Museum website,
Turkel was interested in interviewing people in order to uncover "the relationship between their personal plight and values and their awareness of national issues and society’s values" [much like an anthropologist]. Accordingly, he interviewed people about their hopes and dreams and about their experiences of such events as the Great Depression and WWII. He also interviewed them about issues of race and civil rights, religion and faith, work, and many other topics of central importance to everyday people living in in the United States in the 20th Century.

"Terkel interviewed hundreds of people across the United States for his book on the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1973, he selected several interviews that were included in his book to be broadcast in eleven parts on the Studs Terkel Program on WFMT radio (Chicago, IL)."

To get a sense of both oral history and Terkel's work, listen to one very powerful interview with Peggy Terry (in 2 parts):
File Name: terkel-a0a0l5-b.rm;


Interview with Peggy Terry, a migrant farm worker, on being unemployed, bread lines, soup kitchens, and homeless camps.

soup kitchens, Bread lines, Unemployed, Depressions -- 1929, Terry, Peggy, homeless camps
Interviewer(s): Terkel, Studs
Interviewee(s): Terry, Peggy

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