StoryCorps keeps moving forward, finding new ways to help us share our stories with the world. Looking at its site and at posts in the blogosphere, I learned the organization has launched an app for the iPhone, developed by BottleRocket. Now listeners have another convenient way to hear their favorite StoryCorps stories as well as the program's weekly stories.
Through StoryCorps's work, anyone can share her family history, and through family stories--including memories of historic events--national and world history becomes more personal. What can we learn through listening to the courage of others and the sweet slices of life that help us connect to the whole?
While StoryCorps works with NPR and focuses more on oral storytelling, it sometimes presents equally moving narratives through images. Recently it posted this slideshow about the Orangeburg Massacre, the 1968 South Carolina tragedy that occurred when police opened fire on young people protesting a segregated bowling alley. The audio aired on NPR, the story of two sisters who recalled the death of their brother.
StoryCorps also has an animation project underway. Here is background on its animated story I've posted below.
In early 2006, 12-year-old Joshua Littman, who has Asperger’s syndrome, interviewed his mother, Sarah, at StoryCorps. Their one-of-a-kind conversation covered everything from cockroaches to Sarah’s feelings about Joshua as a son.
This video truly touches me. It's being used in the PBS documentary POV.
What is StoryCorps?
StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, over 50,000 everyday people have interviewed family and friends through StoryCorps. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and on our Listen pages.
... The heart of StoryCorps is the conversation between two people who are important to each other: a son asking his mother about her childhood, an immigrant telling his friend about coming to America, or a couple reminiscing on their 50th wedding anniversary. By helping people to connect, and to talk about the questions that matter, the StoryCorps experience is powerful and sometimes even life-changing. (Read more)
I remember hearing about its work when it started in 2003. Later, in 2005, I heard about its MobileBooths. They are "recording studios housed in Airstream trailers" that travel around the country collecting stories about the lives of ordinary Americans. As soon as I heard about these trailers, I wished I could collect stories in one and become a folklorists. I thought it would be a great way to learn more about how we connect through storytelling and for me, as a writer, to hone my ear for dialogue. But it was not to be. I was a woman with two children, stuck in New Jersey, going through a divorce back then.
When StoryCorps returned to New Orleans this spring to collect post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding and progress stories, I wanted drop by the booth with my 89-year-old father and let him tell how he made it through Hurricane Katrina, about having to take a thieving contractor to court for not completing work on the family home that flooded, and how he feels about his life now that the house has been refurbished but my mother, his wife of almost 50 years, is gone. She died in 2008. However, he wasn't keen on the idea of going to a trailer with his walker to tell anyone anything.
So, it's a benefit for us that StoryCorps offers other ways to record memories. It provides at its site a "Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide to record your own interview at home, in the classroom, or library" and also Rent a StoryKits.
... a limited number of portable recording equipment packages (are) available for rent through our StoryKit program. These packages accommodate 1-4 individual interviews of 40 minutes each, and since they are recorded on our special equipment, these interviews can be issued to you in CD form, included in StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and be considered for broadcast on public radio.
In addition to helping us tell our stories, StoryCorps also encourages us to learn how to listen. The organization has a best-selling book, Listening is an Act of Love.
StoryCorps founder Dave Isay has selected some of the most remarkable stories from our already vast collection and arranged them thematically into a moving portrait of American life. Purchase your copy of the book and CD (sold separately) and download a free discussion guide. ...“Listening Is an Act of Love will make you laugh, cry and think. These stories come from the souls of individual Americans. Collectively, they are who we are as a people. You cannot read this book without feeling proud of your country.” – Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley
StoryCorps has published another book as well, Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps. You can listen to a story from that book here, "How did you get by? -- Jerry Johnson interviews his mother, Carrie Conley, about raising six children as a single mother."
I was young when I first heard of these kinds of interviews, drawing stories from ordinary people. I fell in love with the work of the late Studs Terkel. He wrote about how people work in America and recorded workers' stories, and their storytelling intrigued me more than what some expert said on the nightly news.
As I told Gena Haskett on her post "Why Do We Tell Stories?," I am fascinated by this stuff, story theory, the why and how of telling, and self-mythology. Of late I've valued recording stories even more.
As I research my ancestry, find family names in the Census, as have so many others, I find myself sometimes saddened that no one took the time to interview my family members who've passed on. My deepest regret is that I didn't interview and record my mother before she developed Alzheimer's. She brimmed over with family tales, both tall and small.
I've found solace recently in learning that some of my ancestors' stories have been preserved in the work of Zora Neale Hurston. When she writes about Sarah Potts, her grandmother who was a slave, she's talking about my great-great-great grandmother, who raised my maternal great-grandmother, Pinkie Potts Mott. Hurston's stories about the Potts family give me some insight into tales I heard growing up about Pinkie Potts as a hard disciplinarian, a trait she most likely developed living under Sarah and passed on to my grandmother, Mamie Mott Reddix. Now what if a tape recorder had been available to capture the memories of those women in their own voices back then?
More on StoryCorps
- Janice at Okefenokee Book Club
- Once there was a girl talks about taking her parents to hear Dave Isay, StoryCorps founder, speak on her birthday.
- Chick With Books looks at StoryCorps for Memoir Monday
- StoryCorps New Orleans: Lower 9th Ward residents reflect on the power of people
- StoryCorps at NPR
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