Students’ Migration Stories: The Power of Oral History

Sam Cralli

After learning about Chicago’s history and the Great Migration, students interviewed a family member to find out how their families arrived in Chicago. Students then wrote an essay about their family member’s journey to the city. Afterwards, they presented their family story to the class. Many students’ families were a part of the Great Migration, moving North for new opportunities and a chance at equality. Many students gained a deep appreciation for the sacrifices their families’ have made. Four students were selected to share their families’ stories at StoryCorp, where they were recorded for the Library of Congress.14494634_10209936326627445_6768527082814164580_n


One thought on “Students’ Migration Stories: The Power of Oral History

  1. Dear Ms. Cralli:

    Congratulations to you, your students, and Village Leadership Academy on your magnificent and beautiful Migration stories. I could only read two (Aubrey and Jamilah Hobbs) because the others were in too small letters—even though I tried to look over all of them. What I did see and read, I loved. Everyone did a great job.

    The student stories were not only loving and interesting, they were insightful and instructive. When the students wrote and spoke of their parents and grandparents, their gaze was not stuck backward in the past, rather forward-looking, happy and even optimistic—offering their families and the human potential admiration for making a difference. The students did not insist or even suggest that a “shameful past” is an explanation of our current social problems. No, instead their innocent yet profound insight draws us in to a healthy exploration of values and reinstatements of our past. Your students encourage us to see the past not with guilt, but to “feel felt” in the present—so we can reach a consensus from which a vision of the future can emerge.

    Your students, Jamilah Hobbs—who wrote about her great grandmother, Lillie May, and Aubrey—who wrote about her Australian dad and her mom from Louisiana—did not speak about larger-than-life figures. These are ordinary persons of extraordinary touch, words, and commitment to “meet life” with self-respect, self-knowledge, self-critique, self-correction, and self-sufficiency.

    How do we know that? Mark Twain said it best: “Aint nothing on our ‘outside’ that can whip any of us, but there’s a whole bunch on our ‘inside’ that can mess with most all of us.”

    Congratulations again and continued success be to you now and always.

    Rick Martinez, M.D., Ph.D., MBA
    Glendale, CA

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