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Todd Sonkin collecting stories

Using Oral History

Lesson Overview

Teacher Material | Student Lesson | Primary Source Sets

This lesson presents social history content and topics through the voices of ordinary people. It draws on primary sources from the American Memory Collection, American Life Histories, 1936-1940.

Using excerpts from the collection, students study social history topics through interviews that recount the lives of ordinary Americans. Based on these excerpts and further research in the collections, students develop their own research questions. They then plan and conduct oral history interviews with members of their communities.

Teacher Material


Materials and Preparation

Instructional Procedure

Evaluation and Extension

Student Lesson

Introduction to Social History

Oral History and The Federal Writers' Project

Analyzing Oral Histories

Background Research for Oral History Interviews

Guidelines for Oral History Interviews

Download Lesson Materials

woman in factory

Primary Source Set A: Working Women in the 1930s

I Ain't No Midwife (1939)

Packinghouse Workers (1939)

Italian Feed (1940)

Miss Henrietta C. Dozier (1939)

couples dancing

Primary Source Set B:
Dancing as a Form of Recreation, 1890s-1930s

Charles Cole (1939)

Mrs. Charley Huyck (1939)

Old Time Dance Calls (1938)

car at gas station

Primary Source Set C:
Americans and the Automobile

Roy A. Morse (1938)

Yankee Innkeeper (undated)

Dunnell #13 (1939)

Transportation (1939)


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Last updated 09/26/2002