This oral history interview is an intimate conversation between two people, both of whom have generously agreed to share this recording with Oral History Summer School, and with you. Please listen in the spirit with which this was shared.
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Sara Black, 27 years old at the time of interview, is a PhD student studying Geography at the University of Georgia and currently lives in a converted barn in Athens, Georgia. She talks about a need for more space for creativity in her life and work, and about educational experiences. Sara grew up white in Alabama in the 1990s and early 2000s. Her father was an architect and mother worked in medical fields, was unable to work for a span, and later returned to work but in interior design. These shifts changed the family’s finances. Sara describes the differences she noticed between her family’s financial circumstances and those of the affluent area in which they lived, largely through descriptions of homes: of the design, materials, appearance of her Childhood homes, and those of neighbors and friends. Sara has two older sisters, Hannah and Lucy. Her middle sister, Lucy, died from leukemia at age fourteen. While her sister Hannah was at college, Sara, younger, lived with her parents at home. She recalls spending a lot of time in the basement going through the family’s materials and memories: journals, boxes, old furniture. She found a memento box someone had given her sister Hannah, and a cassette tape of her sister Lucy’s voice from when Lucy was a child. She took the box and used it to store the cassette tape, even though she was neither ready to listen, nor had a tape player available for many years. She describes the time she finally listened to the tape, and how she currently wonders how she might want to share her sister’s voice. She and her family have talked of seeing her as the caretaker of family history—its materials and stories.
This interview may be of interest to those interested in exploring: the role of material artifacts and storytelling within families (processes of memory, keeping and passing down of objects and stories, and the role in individual meaning-making and in relationships and kin); experiences and meaning-making of death and loss; material and stylistic experiences of class in the southern United States in the 1990s and 2000s; family dynamics and roles of different children; ways people grapple with managing careers and calling, and space to explore things they are not sure will “pay off” or where they will lead; responses to mental health within families; ways young people come to feel labeled as skilled in certain areas and how this shifts educational and career paths.
Britt Dahlberg, 35 years old at time of interview, met Sara Black three days prior to the interview, through both being students together in the Oral History Summer School in Hudson New York. Britt is an anthropologist who has studied experiences of depression and aging, and environmental risk, place, and displacement. She is currently Director of the Center for Applied History, at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and affiliated faculty at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania. She holds personal and professional interests in processes of artists and writers, and development of new self-directed career paths; and in experiences of place and class (through her experiences growing up in Philadelphia in the 1980s). She is interested in ways of integrating ethnographic and oral history materials in her writing and public programming.
This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.
Oral history is an iterative process. In keeping with oral history values of anti-fixity, interviewees will have an opportunity to add, annotate and reflect upon their lives and interviews in perpetuity. Talking back to the archive is a form of “shared authority.”