|Long before oral history was a research methodology among academic practices, communities and families have preserved a shared history through an oral tradition. Despite how academics write and document community histories, speaking one's own history is a powerful means of understanding and shaping the dynamic between self and place: a dynamic in which one struggles to define one's identity. For many black communities who have had their histories misrepresented, if written at all, oral history offers a vital approach to expressing identity from and within an African-American context. If writing one's history is significant, then expressing it is necessary.
As an archival tool, this methodology preserves many histories that otherwise, over time, would become lost. As a process of reflection and remembrance, oral history opens a space where past and present conceptions of community and place coalesce. The oral history methodology, unlike many methods of social science research, hinges more on the narrative space and possibility of memory than in any absolute value of that memory. This project does not interview subjects in a study, but rather conducts spaces for voices: it is within these spaces - within this terrain of possibility - that this project gains its momentum.
Although some academics would contend that memory alone is not History, we must first ask through which interpretive framework should we filter memory to achieve History? Since this project has accelerated into multithreaded narratives rather than resolved on a summary point, the prospect of a single History has already collapsed. Because this site originates from a thesis in progress, one which requires a structured argument, I do provide a notion of history; a notion which, for better or worse, is interpretive rather than absolute. Criticisms are welcome.
Although I have not created the interviews and histories found in this site, I certainly have selected and edited which portions I include in the narrative. Thus, questions regarding this presentation should be directed toward me, rather than the families who have helped this project.
A brief example of a history: this Project formally began with research conducted in the 1995 seminar instructed by Dr. Rich Schein in the UK Department of Geography entitled Race and the Southern City. After many torqued manifestations, the research was further augmented the following semester in an African-American Historiography seminar led by Dr. Gerald Smith in the Department of History. In March during that semester, I attended the Kentucky Oral History Conference in Louisville for the first time and was enthralled by possibilities of oral history. Although I had recorded my first oral history with "Scoop" Brown a few months earlier, the day after Christmas with the Director of Lexington City Archives, I realized that spring that oral history was far more than transcriptions and a $12 dollar cassette recorder. A voice was recorded; something ephemeral, yet unique, powerful and alive.
Throughout the summer I visited and played in the parks, making sketches, photographs, and notes in an attempt to achieve a better familiarity with these spaces. Because I found little resources describing these traditionally black parks, or segregated parks more generally, and felt that the City was doing little to acknowledge these spaces, I committed myself to writing about the park history. Lacking primary written resources, I submitted a grant proposal to the Kentucky Oral History Commission to acquire funds for the collection of oral histories. With that proposal now funded, I am working closely with Harold Barker, the Director of the City Archives, to collect and preserve these significant histories.
please contact Boyd Shearer