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University Relations

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Feb. 27, 2009
Contact: Victor Bailey, Hall Center for the Humanities, (785) 864-7822.

Hall Center to host 10th annual Oral History Workshop on March 13

Alessandro Portelli

LAWRENCE — Stories of steel strikes in Italy, World War II nurses, an African-American judge and the gay community in Kansas will highlight the 10th anniversary of the Hall Center for the Humanities’ Oral History Workshop at the University of Kansas.

“Learning to Hear the Stories X: A Ten-Year Retrospective” will take place 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, March 13, at the Kansas Union ballroom. The workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is required; visit to sign up.

Stephanie Stokes Oliver

One of the world’s leading scholars of oral history, Alessandro Portelli, a distinguished professor of American literature at the University of Rome-La Sapienza, will give the keynote address, titled “Globalization and Democracy: the Terni (Umbria, Italy) Steel Strikes of 2004-5.” His books include “The Order Has Been Carried Out: History, Memory and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome” (2007) and “The Voice and the Text” (1994).

Oral history is the history of experience — the stories of average people and how they thought about or reacted to their times. Oral histories not only can reveal much about the culture of a group but also can illuminate experiences of groups commonly ignored in conventional histories.

This year’s workshop will include Moya Peterson, a clinical associate professor of nursing at KU, reporting on “The History of Army Nurses of the 77th Evacuation Hospital in World War II” and Tami Albin, undergraduate instruction and outreach librarian at KU, discussing “Under the Rainbow: Oral Histories of GLBTIQ People in Kansas.”

A special how-to session will feature Stephanie Stokes Oliver of Lee’s Summit, Mo., discussing the process she used to write a memoir of her father, Charles M. Stokes, a 1931 African-American graduate of KU’s law school. Her father rose to prominence in the Republican party and in Washington state as the first black district court judge.

Her 2004 book, “Song for My Father, Memoir of an All-American Family,” is a tribute to her father and the story of a family’s struggles and successes during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Born in Fredonia in 1903, Charles Stokes lived in Paola and Pratt as a child and attended the Kansas Vocational School in Topeka before deciding to attend KU in the 1920s. Oliver includes notes about her father’s ability to stretch the $2 a week he earned as a law student cutting grass during summer months for Alpha Chi Omega sorority. When the sorority sisters learned that Stokes couldn’t afford student housing, they got permission for him to live in a nearby storage area. After graduating from KU, Stokes worked briefly in Leavenworth and Topeka before moving to Seattle, where he raised his family and blazed trails for black leadership. The book also recalls his daughter’s visit in 2003 to Pratt, where her grandfather had been a minister.

KU and Haskell Indian Nations University students who have conducted oral history interviews and ethnographic research will conduct a special session titled “Are We There Yet: An Undergraduate Rite of Passage.”


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