History Harvest: Community Collectives

New York TimesThe January 2013 issue of the Perspectives on History highlighted a project of the students and faculty of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln called History Harvest.  The article called to me about a way to collect the information that is most often lost- that of the community in which we all live.  Everyone has those personal historical documents tucked away in a closet, attic, or basement that we think about rarely (or sometimes often).  These documents have a personal value, but also a historical value regarding culture and social of our given communities.  It’s a shame to let those documents sit, forgotten, tucked away when they could be digitized for use by historians and students.

The co-directors William G. Thomas and Patrick D. Jones started this project “to create a popular movement to democratize and open American history by utilizing digital technologies to share the experiences and artifacts of everyday people and local historical institutions.”  People from the community are invited to these harvest gatherings with their personal items and histories to have them digitized with photographs and digital stories.  Local organizations, museums, and others are also welcome to bring items to be digitized.

Students are heavily involved, creating, planning, and advertising for their harvest.  Its an excellent hands on experience for the students to learn what history means to people in their community and how everyone can contribute in some way.  It’s a fascinating project that begs for duplication in communities across the United States and the world.

Needless to say, I would be highly interested in starting my own “History Harvest” in my community with students.  If you would be too, you can contact the co-directors via the links on their names above or contacting them through their website at: http://historyharvest.unl.edu/

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Book Review: Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War

Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black VeteransBloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral Histoy by Wallace Terry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War: An Oral History by Wallace Terry is one of the most powerful and moving books from the point of view of the soldiers who fought the battles day in and day out. Terry is the renowned authority on the African American soldier and experience in Vietnam. He was on the ground with the troops, interviewing them, creating the only documentary from the battlefield entitled Guess Who’s Coming Home: Black Fighting Men Recorded Live in Vietnam, released in 1972.

The African American men in Bloods tell their story in their own words, the way they experienced it. Their dialects show through the written speech. Each chapter is more moving and emotional than the next, dragging the reader down into the depths of war, creating an emotional investment in each person mentioned. But the stories are not only about the battle on the front lines but the battle inside themselves, behind the lines, and back at home. Each soldier discusses their views on the Civil Rights movement that is happening while they were away and its impact on them while they are at war. The emotions are still heavy as they tell stories of black, white, Hispanic, Asian, an American soldier is a brother. Others run into different scenarios of racism behind the line and sometimes their abilities to overcome it.

Even though Bloods was originally published in 1984, many words of the men who told their stories can still ring true today. Armchair historians, military fans, young adults, and anyone interested in a true horror story should read this oral history, but a minor amount of previous knowledge of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement is recommended for true comprehension. These men should be honored for being willing to share with the world their experiences in such a sensitive and life-changing time period. No doubt the rapport and trust built between the men and Terry while they were in the battlefield contributed greatly to their willingness to be interviewed after their return stateside. It is through that bond of trust that the public is graced with a rich primary resource such as Bloods.

For more information, please visit Wallace Terry’s website

To purchase Bloods, please click here.

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