Middle Tennessee State University To Create Oral Black History Archives

Black families in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, will have a chance to participate in a vast collection of local history archives during the city’s Juneteenth celebration, courtesy of a researcher at Middle Tennessee State University who strives to preserve Middle Tennessee’s Black History.

According to AP NewsJason McGowan, an oral history research associate with MTSU’s Albert Gore Research Center, has been working on a yearlong oral history project since February, collecting interviews with Middle Tennessee African American families. The project, dubbed the “Middle Tennessee African American Oral History Project,” was advanced through a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to the Gore Center, which functions as an institution dedicated to studying modern American politics, education, and Southern U.S. history.

“African American history is full of vibrant narratives of joy, hardships, and continued perseverance,” as stated on the project’s website. “Yet, society often presents and teaches the stories and experiences of this rich culture in a condensed form. The Albert Gore Research Center believes there should be no restriction on accessing African American history.”

For its Juneteenth celebration, McGown will connect with families at the longstanding Bradley Academy Museum and Cultural Center to capture and preserve family stories of Black residents in the area. The project aims to “assemble and preserve a vast collection of local African American history by recording interviews that chronicle the lives and diverse experiences of African Americans who resided in Middle Tennessee during legal segregation through the implementation of integration,” as per the project’s website.

“Like with anything, some people are going to be excited to participate, while others may decline or just need reassurance, and that’s why I like to do what we call the pre-interviewing because it’s the key to building those relationships … and reassuring them that what we’re doing here is not just for MTSU, not just for academia, but it’s for you — you and your family. You’re simply allowing us to share your experiences,” explains McGowan, a Murfreesboro native who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MTSU, according to university news.

With MTSU’S backing, McGowan’s commitment to this project will create an archive that aims to serve as a permanent celebration of African American families, communities, and achievements in Middle Tennessee. According to McGowan, the project is not only for the MTSU community but for the people who deserve to have their stories commemorated as a vital portion of local history.

“Oral history just provides a medium to preserve family genealogy, record one’s relationship with their families, with their communities, and with the era in which they live,” McGowan said in a news release, as per AP News. “You’re simply allowing us to share your experiences.”

For more information on how to participate, please visit this website.