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Vol. 22, No. 1: Documentary Arts

On the Participatory Archive: The Formation of the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project

by Karida L. Brown

“They warned me that I’d never get the real history the way I was going about it. They said I needed to capture the story. I listened. And I stepped on a wellspring.”

January 2013, Chicago, Illinois. I was sitting in Mr. William Schaffer’s apartment conducting my survey. He was eighty-six years old at the time and had lived alone for the last fifty years. His home was meticulous, yet filled with a lifetime of memories. During the interview, I asked him about his high school education. He got up and lumbered to his bedroom and brought back a copy of his high school diploma and all of his report cards from the Lynch Colored Public School. I asked him if he had ever served in the military. He reached over to his drawer and pulled out a picture of himself serving in Germany during World War II. Once I finished, he said, “ You know, once I die, all of this stuff will end up in a dumpster. I don’t have any children or living siblings. I hope you will come back and take some of this so you can get the story right.”

This article appears as an abstract above, the complete article can be accessed in Project Muse
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