For Black History Month honor elders by recording their stories

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was
the first black woman elected to
U.S. Congress and the first woman
to run for president on the Democratic ticket.

There is a ong-term oral history project
being conducted in her honor at Brooklyn College.
Click here to visit the Chisholm Project website.

Public domain photo

History isn’t just in books and museums. It’s in the stories we tell.

History often seems to recede in the distance, like an image in a rearview mirror. But it is as close as your grandmother’s stories about growing up on a farm, or your classmate’s memories of a refugee camp.

It is as present as the old man at church who fought in Vietnam, or the nurse whose family fled the terror of civil war in Liberia.

In honor of Black History month, ThreeSixty Journalism shares the stories of three African-American elders who came to Minnesota as young adults from the Jim Crow South.

Matthew Little, Annie Baldwin and Betty Ellison-Harpole grew up in the South when laws required blacks and whites to attend separate schools and drink from separate water fountains. Blacks weren’t allowed to try on shoes at department stores. If they wanted to watch a movie, they had to sit in the balcony.

At the same time, these three people found ferocious support in their families and communities. They embraced education as a path to better lives. In the South and in Minnesota, they challenged the discrimination they found.

Along with reading their stories, we invite you to create your own history. Here are two ways:

Talk to someone whose story you’d like to hear

Use the questions and guidance in this package to interview a person whose life is very different from yours. Record their answers and explore how their life connects to more famous historical events. You’ll get valuable experience at asking questions and really listening.

Please share the most surprising or fascinating thing you learn on ThreeSixty Journalism’s fan page on Facebook.

Help the Minnesota Historical Society and ThreeSixty Journalism create a digital portrait of Minnesota teens

History tends to be written by people in power, so the voices of teens are missing from much of Minnesota’s history. In an effort to create a well-rounded picture of Minnesota teens today – what they think about, hope for, and how they communicate.

To fill that silence, ThreeSixty Journalism and the Minnesota Historical Society are calling teens to complete an online survey. Results will be entered in the collections of the Historical Society. Click here and take 10 minutes to go down in history.

Annie Baldwin

In the South, you know where you stand

There was a lot of that going on because the Woolworth’s would not allow us to eat at the lunch counter — they had a separate lunch counter for us. The fellows were the ones who integrated the lunch counter. The females did not participate in the sit-ins at the lunch counter. We supported them, maybe doing papers or taking notes and making sure they didn’t get behind in the classes.

Matthew Little

Looking back at 90: A complete change in America

In the South, where I was born and educated, it was an established mores that African Americans, and to an extent, other minorities too, were basically inferior human beings.

Betty Ellison-Harpole

Growing up in the Jim Crow South: Prepared for racism

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, the seventh of eight children. I went to a segregated kindergarten, grade school, and high school. I had all African American teachers. They were very good. We lived in an African American neighborhood, where the people were very supportive of each other. At home they would tell us what we could expect out in the world and how we might be treated.

Betty Ellison-Harpole

Here are 12 "Do" and "Don't do" tips for a great interview

“Hearing Ms. Ellison’s stories of growing up in a time when there was such a thing as white water and how she overcame the hatred and discrimination to become a life-changing woman was invaluable.” — South H.S. junior Maddie Colbert on why teens should interview others.