Happy November! Here at SOHP we are thankful for all of our amazing narrators, supporters, interns, and of course staff! This month, Danielle Dulken is sharing her staff picks. Danielle is a second year PhD student in American Studies. Her research interests are reproductive justice and race in southern Appalachia.
For her oral history pick, she chose just one interview. The interview is with narrator Loretta Ross, a leader of the reproductive justice movement, and interviewer Cynthia Greenlee-Donnell, an independent scholar who researches and advocates for reproductive justice.* This interview stuck out to Danielle for a few reasons. First, she has a shared interest in the topic. She found hearing the movement leader talk about her reproductive justice experiences more illuminating than many of the books or articles she had read on the topic. For Danielle, this oral history felt like a testament to the reproductive justice movement.
Another reason Danielle was drawn to this interview is the relationship created the between narrator and interviewer. As an interviewer herself, she was struck by how Cynthia facilitated a dynamic that encouraged and supported Loretta’s experience with difficult topics, like sexual assault and rape. In fact, the rapport they share makes the listener feel as though they’re witnessing a conversation between great friends. This interview could help oral historians think about how to frame questions on sexual assault, abortion, rape, and similarly difficult subjects as well as how to respond to comments about sexual assault and rape. It makes one ask: How can oral historians create an environment in which the narrator feels comfortable sharing a difficult past? And how can they support narrators through thoughtful responses but also through archival skills to ensure their story gets the attention and care it deserves?
This interview is lengthy at almost three hours long, but it demonstrates the way oral history not only informs but also creates personal connections between the oral history and audience. During the interview, Danielle laughed, cried, and even revisited some of her own work. We at SOHP hope the interview can help you learn about reproductive justice as well as help you grow in your practice as an oral historian.
*We would like to let those that are interested in this interview know that this interview includes detailed conversations about rape and sexual assault.
Along with an oral history pick, Danielle has included some recommendations for oral history-related readings.
- Alessandro Portelli, “What Make’s Oral History Different?”
- “This read is a classic and a great starter for those interested in oral history. It explores the complex dynamics of oral history that separates it from other research practices. In it, the author responds to the field’s critics and states, not only do we oral historians acknowledge these tensions, like subjectivity and the fallibility of memory, we celebrate them!”
- David Cline, Creating Choice: A Community Responds to the Need for Abortion and Birth Control, 1961-1973
- “If you’re interested in reproductive health, activism, and oral history, this book is a must. Cline creates an oral history project and subsequent book that reflect a community’s response to the lack of abortion access in a small town pre-Wade. The book is interesting in content and format. Klein organizes the text into groupings of people, like religious leaders or activists, then let’s the transcripts more-or-less speak for themselves with limited interpretation.”
- Katherine Borland, “That’s Not What I Said”
- “I was assigned this reading in grad school and I assign it to my students. It’s a great example that the interview is a shared and ongoing project. And that interpretation sometimes requires further intervention between you and the narrator.”
- Della Pollock, Remembering: Oral History Performance
- “This is a great little anthology to help oral historians imagine the broad scope of possibility for their oral history projects. I firmly believe different oral histories demand different treatments. Sometimes textual interpretation works and other times something like performance might serve the project better. Also, a book like this really helps oral historians open their minds to new and creative project outcomes.”
- DoVeanna Fulton, Speaking Power: Black Women’s Orality in Women’s Narratives of Slavery
- “At the Oral History Association 2016 meeting, my friend and oral history hero, Donelle Boose, a PhD student at American University, proposed we rethink the genealogy of the field citing Fulton’s work. I couldn’t agree more.”