In the fall of 2008 I gave my Introduction to African American Studies class an extra credit assignment over the Thanksgiving holiday. The assignment was to interview a family or community member about the Civil Rights movement. The goal of the assignment was to help open up dialogue between generations. In the past, I have been amazed and saddened when I learn students are unfamiliar with events in America's not so distant past. Events, such as the Birmingham Church bombings in '63, or the Watts Riot of '65; or events that took place in their own backyards. In Albany, GA in Thomasville, GA, right here in Athens, GA. While studying the Civil Rights movement with my students I began to realize that the communication, the remembering of these events had, in many cases been sealed. Hidden and obscured in vaults of horror and shame. Wole Soyinka states, "A people who do not preserve their memory are a people who have forfeited their history." These interviews are my students' attempt to preserve the memories of Georgians; their family members and community members, who were directly affected by the atrocities of segregation in America. It is my wish that in preserving these memories we, as an American collective, will never have to repeat our gravest of mistakes.
Elizabeth Fields is a second year MFA Creative Writing student concentrating in poetry. She is the Graduate Assistant at the Institute for African American Studies. Her writing has won several awards including a Puffin Foundation Grant and the Virginia Walters Poetry award. She is moving this fall to pursue her PhD in American Studies at St. Louis University.