Would your great-grandchildren know any more about you today than what you post on your Facebook page? Is that the picture you want to leave them with? Even in this information age, we don’t always take time to preserve family history for our loved ones.
When I recently had the chance to sit down with civil rights activist Avon Rollins to hear his perspective on the latest historical project with ties to Beck Cultural Exchange Center, he reminded me that I should be saving my own family history for my children. Rollins had accolades for how Knoxville author Eugene Thomas had gathered information to write about band leader St. Clair Cobb. He also noted that the Center offers dozens of historical volumes about East Tennessee. You can find a library of books, galleries of artwork, plus other hard-to-find historical documents of African American history, available there for public viewing.
Rollins says video and audio recordings are also important to keep. “We have the voices of our elders who are no longer here to tell their stories.” An estimated 70- to 80-thousand people visit the historical center each year, learning about local African American history, the struggle for civil rights, and the accomplishments of many who came before them.
Rollins suggests that we all start with the basics as family historians:
*Record video and audio of grandparents and ask them to tell their stories.
*Ask older family members to write down their memories to share with the children.
*Use your local libraries and historical centers to learn more about the times in which previous generations of your family lived.