Analyzing the Chicana Por Mi Raza Digital Memory Collective

In spring 2016, I taught an English class at Southwestern University titled “Digital Frontiers in American Literature.”  (Check out the Digital Frontiers in American Literature Syllabus here.)

When we think about incorporating an oral history component in teaching, we’re often thinking about oral history projects in which students plan and conduct interviews.  This is an invaluable avenue for student engagement, as evidenced by so many of the course materials, teacher and student reflections, and Library readings on this True Stories blog.  When it comes to identifying the advantages of oral history for interdisciplinary undergraduate education, it’s also important to think about analyzing oral histories that are already up on the internet.  Fantastic oral history projects and collections proliferate across the Web.  How can we harness their power in classroom teaching?

imgresDuring a unit on Helena Maria Viramontes’ Under the Feet of Jesus, I assigned students to put the novel in conversation with oral histories available at the Chicana Por Mi Raza Digital Memory Collective.  The novel centers on the experience of a family of Mexican and Mexican-American farm laborers in the fields of California; the Digital Memory Collective centers on Chicana feminism, which has roots in migrant worker rights movements.  Therefore, the novel and the oral histories valuably contextualize each other.

In response to these Chicana Por Mi Raza Blog Post Guidelines, students wrote blog posts on our course blog to analyze oral history testimony and practice putting it in conversation with course literary texts and themes.  The guidelines walk students through the process of “close-listening” to an oral history, applying critical close-reading skills we prize in the literature classroom to oral history as a unique category of narrative.  Students noted a host of meaningful connections between the novel and the oral histories, ranging from framing of family dynamics to the interweaving of Spanish with English narration.  You can read through the students’ blog posts here.

Video of Webinar with Gabriel Solis of the Texas After Violence Project now available


On Friday, April 22, 2016, the [True] Stories Project and the Latina History Project at Southwestern University co-sponsored a webinar with Gabriel Daniel Solis, Executive Director of the Texas After Violence Project.  Solis discussed his experiences with and reflections on oral history as a mode of social justice practice.  If you couldn’t tune in for the webinar, access the complete video recording below.



Webinar with Gabriel Solis of the Texas After Violence Project

Please join us for a webinar on Friday, 4/22, at 10 AM CST/11 AM EST with Gabriel Daniel Solis of the Texas After Violence Project.  Solis will talk about  his experiences with and reflections on oral history as a mode of social justice practice.  Solis’s bio and details for joining the webinar appear below.


Gabriel Daniel Solis is the Executive Director of the Texas After Violence Project.  Prior to returning to the Texas After Violence Project, where he previously served as Project Coordinator and Associate Director, Solis worked as a post-conviction mitigation investigator for the Texas Office of Capital and Forensic Writs. Gabriel was also a researcher at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and coordinator of the Rule of Law Oral History Project at Columbia University. He has conducted research on policing, mass incarceration, the death penalty, and the effects of violence and trauma on families and communities. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.

Topic: Webinar with Gabe Solis of the Texas After Violence Project
Time: Apr 22, 2016 10:00 AM CST/11:00 AM EST
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
Or iPhone one-tap:  16465588656,471486704# or 14086380968,471486704#
Or Telephone:
    Dial: +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll) or +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll)
    Meeting ID: 471 486 704

Dr. Laura Senio Blair’s Sample Materials for Planning a Class Oral History Project

Are you an instructor who is interested in potentially planning a class oral history project?  Dr. Laura Senio Blair, Professor of Spanish at Southwestern University, recommends the source “Conducting Interviews” in Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide by Donald A. Ritchie to introduce students to best practices for interviewing oral history narrators.  She developed the following project plan/workflow to facilitate an oral history project in her class:

  • 1st assignment: students listened to oral histories (conducted in Spanish) and wrote summaries of 5 stories to turn in as a homework assignment
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  • 2nd assignment: students outlined an article on doing Oral History as a homework assignment. Each member of the group read a different article and shared their outlines with all members of the group.  Sample Student Assignment_Outline_Doing Oral History
  • 3rd assignment: groups filled out proposals with assignment of duties and initial interview questions (in Spanish)
  • 4th assignment: groups made initial contact  with interviewees
  • 5th assignment: students attended an orientation on recording in SU’s sound booth
  • 6th assignment: all students practiced using the equipment during class
  • 7th assignment: groups edited interview questions
  • 8th assignment: groups contacted interviewee with confirmation of date and time
  • 9th assignment: groups had interviewee fill out donor form
  • 10th assignment: groups conducted their interviews (in Spanish)
  • 11th assignment: groups uploaded the interview to the class Google Folder
  • 12th assignment: post-production of interview
 Take a look at Dr. Laura Senio Blair’s Spring 2016 Syllabus to gain a sense of the role the oral history project plays in her class and compare it to your own curriculum.
The following are sample materials from her class which can serve as models for other classroom-centered digital oral history projects.


Dr. Brenda Sendejo to Offer [True] Stories Webinar on Oral History Methods

Please join the [True] Stories Project in partnership with the Latina History Project at Southwestern University for the upcoming speaker event:

brendasendejo_picOral History Methods: A Discussion with Dr. Brenda Sendejo

Time: Friday, April 1, at 10:00am CST/ 11:00am EST

Dr. Sendejo is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Faculty Affiliate in Feminist Studies and Latin American Studies at Southwestern University.

You can join the webinar from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

Or iPhone one-tap: 16465687788,582393907# or 14157629988,582393907#

Or Telephone:
Dial: +1 646 568 7788 (US Toll) or +1 415 762 9988 (US Toll)
Meeting ID: 582 393 907
International numbers available:

A recording of the webinar will be posted on this site following the event.

Welcome to the [True] Stories Project!

The [True] Stories project aims to support classroom-centered, multidisciplinary, and collaborative oral history curricula for undergraduates at three Liberal Arts Colleges (Rollins College, Davidson College, and Southwestern University).  Check out our About page for more details on the project.  Follow our project blog below to see how oral history is playing a role in teaching and learning at all three campuses.

See our Events Calendar for upcoming True Stories webinars, speaker events, and grant documentation deadlines, as well as oral history training, conference, and publishing opportunities.

Are you a faculty or student blogger for True Stories?  See the Blog Guidelines for optional prompts and important login information to get started.