I just got back from the 2012 Association of Personal Historian’s conference in St. Louis where I enjoyed five days of commiserating with fellow personal historians on all facets of collecting and preserving family histories.
There were so many wonderful presentations (too many to comment on here), but one of my favorites was presented on the last day of the conference. Haliday Douglas, a teacher at City Academy in St. Louis, shared with us a documentary that he and his then sixth-grade students produced two years ago. The Experiences That Shaped Us features interviews with leaders in the Civil Rights Movement in St. Louis. The students interviewed these community leaders about their experiences in the 50s and 60s–experiences that shaped the city of St. Louis and the world these young people inhabit today.
Three of the young filmmakers described how the interviewing experience enriched their appreciation of sacrifices made centuries before they were born–sacrifices that make possible the opportunities they have today. Watching the documentary and listening to Douglas and his students describe their journey was an emotional thought-provoking experience. It brought to mind the powerful history lessons that young people can acquire through studying and writing personal histories. Real life stories are so much richer than homogenized stories found in school history books especially when those stories come from people you know or people who lived in your community.
If you get a chance to view The Experiences That Shaped Us and I certainly hope you will, don’t miss it.