Airdate: Jan 14, 2016
Scientist: David Cline
The stories of everyday people form an important and often overlooked part of our history.
Cline: It's the power of stories. It's the power of hearing from an individual who experienced something.
The stories of everyday people form an important and often overlooked part of our history. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. David Cline is an assistant professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech. As an Oral Historian, he specializes in finding untold stories.
Cline: There are also cases where oral histories are the only way to get to stories, because for one reason or another no records were kept. For example I worked on a project in Amherst Massachusetts about illegal abortion, and of course those who are working - this is pre-Roe versus Wade - those who are working in this field did not keep written records because they were breaking the law. So in order to get the stories of what actually happened, oral histories can take you there.
Cline: So for example, we could tell many stories about the American South. One story might be the loss of the textile industry. In order to get to that story we could tell it through economic lenses, right? We could tell it as business history. We could tell it from the point of view of owners of mills. However, one could also talk about the culture of the mill village, of what it was like to live in a factory owned home, to live within the sound of the whistle that called you to work, to live communally and closely with your neighbors, to go to work at five in the morning and be deafened by the sound of the shuttles going back and forth. So we can get stories that are just as compelling, just as important to economic history, but told from bottom up, told from through a different lens, from a different perspective. That can be very very compelling history.
We'll hear more on Oral Histories in future programs. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.