“An oral historian does many things. Primarily, the first job of an oral historian is interviewing to collect oral records of history. We focus on life history interviews. We also maintain archives of oral histories, audio-edit interviews to use the transcripts to do original writing, and educate, as well. It varies; it depends on the role.

To be honest, I got into it by chance. I studied anthropology in undergrad and took an oral history class just to fill up my quota during my senior year. I thought it seemed easy enough. And I did learn a lot of interesting things. But after I graduated, I had no intention of being a historian in any sense. It was not until six years later that I found out about a master’s program at my alma mater and decided it was worth applying to. It looked like an interesting field, and I had always wanted to go back to school. So, I gave it a shot. My application was accepted and I got a small award, so I guessed that was what I was going to be doing. When I got into the program, I really learned and realized what oral history was, what it meant to me and the ways that I could use my skillsets with my interest in stories and people to do something for my community.

I want to have a hand in highlighting the roles that Black people have played in American history and history at large. And I want our stories to be not just a focus, but to be of use to other people as well. I want to have a career that helps bring our stories to life.”

– Alissa Rae, oral historian at the Margaret Walker Center