Oral History Resources

The following collections are a sampling of oral histories from the voices of Americans during the Great Depression to the "Rodney King Uprising" of the LA riots in 1992, and the intimate recollections of young people incarcerated at the Horizon Academy on Rikers Island. Use these resources for exploring oral history in the classroom.

Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation, by Ira Berlin, Marc Favreau, and Steven Miller
This book and audio set (The New Press, 1999) features transcripts of 124 former slaves interviewed in the 1920s and 1930s along with recently restored recorded interviews from the Library of Congress.

Strange Ground: Americans in Vietnam, 1945-1975, by Harry Maurer
This oral history (Henry Holt, 1989) traces the evolution of American involvement from the last days of World War II to the fall of Saigon three decades later.

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, by Anna Deavere Smith
A compelling play (Anchor Books, 1993) that uses verbatim the words of people who experienced the Los Angeles riots of 1992.

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression, by Studs Terkel
First published in 1970, this classic of oral history (The New Press, 2000) by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist Studs Terkel features the voices of men and women who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, by Studs Terkel
A classic collection (The New Press, 1997) of oral history reflections on the working life from men and women from all walks of life.

Killing the Sky Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4
From Student Press Initiative comes a powerful collection (2005) of oral histories featuring inmates at Horizon Academy on Rikers Island.
Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4

Linking Literature: Using Oral History to Connect Books to the World, by Eighth Grade Students at the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies
A book of student-written oral histories (Student Press Initiative, 2004) that explore thematic connections between historical literary texts and our contemporary society, using Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird as an entry point. Subjects range from the unknown to the famous, and include Holocaust survivors, local political figures and renowned journalist Bill Moyers.

The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining, edited by Eliot Wigginton
This first compilation of oral histories (Anchor Books, 1972) collected by students records and preserves the traditional folk culture of the Southern Appalachians. It is one in a series of subsequent volumes.

Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America, by Judith Sloan and Warren Lehrer
A collection of first-person narratives (W. W. Norton & Co, 2004) from inhabitants of the country's most diverse borough, Queens. First-person narratives that sometimes intertwine several voices (some were broadcast on the public radio program The Next Big Thing) are matched by a bold and colorful layout: large portraits, long-view landscapes, multiple typefaces (sometimes within the same paragraph) and inset graphics or asides This book comes with an audio CD that includes interview excerpts.

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