February 1st marks the beginning of Black History Month, a time we give special attention to learning about the contributions, history and life stories of African Americans. One great resource to help us celebrate this month is The StoryCorps Griot Initiative.
Unique to Western Africa, a Griot (pronounced gree-oh) is a genealogist, a historian, a storyteller – who passes down family and community history to the next generation. In this spirit, StoryCorps spent a year (2007-2008) travelling around the US with their mobile recording booth recording and preserving the life stories of African American families.
The Griot recordings are archived at the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress. This ensures that these invaluable stories are not only preserved but also presented with dignity. Many of these recordings are available on YouTube (type “Storycorps Griot” into the search engine). Here are a couple of favorites we recommend. Enjoy!
Brigadier General Robert Crear
BG General Robert Crear, commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is interviewed in his hometown of Vicksburg, MS. The General speaks about his desire, at an early age, to become a successful member of the army, his projects in the Corps of Engineers and his current position as the first African American President of the Mississippi River Commission.
Charles Blue Sr.
Charles J. Blue Sr. is interviewed by his son about his personal history that led him to become a church organist and choir director. Notably, his interaction and involvement with Dr. Martin King Luther Jr.’s march in Greensboro and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement is discussed.