Middle Eastern Studies and Information Science graduate student
Martha Jenks

Martha JenksMy class with Dr. Martha Norkunas introduced me to the theory and methodology of oral history. Our project as a class was to document the African American history of the city of Austin by conducting in-depth interviews with members of the African American community. I worked with Dorothy Banks, a writer, photographer, and poet who has worked for many years at The Villager, a newspaper that serves the African American community. Dorothy generously shared with me how racism and segregation have affected her educational and career paths and her political views. My interviews with Dorothy not only allowed me to get to know someone I might never have met otherwise, but also enabled Dorothy to share her life experiences with people who are unfamiliar with the African American experience in East Austin.

In addition to teaching us how to conduct and edit interviews, Dr. Norkunas also trained us to think systematically about the uses of oral history, and to compare oral history with traditional written history. As a result of this class, I now feel that I could conduct an oral history project on my own.