History buffs to record oral history

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 24, 2000

A group of local history buffs is determined that the colorful stories older Adams County residents have to offer not be lost.

So with the help of a $2,000 state grant and the guidance of a University of Southern Mississippi oral history director, they will interview dozens of those residents in the upcoming months as part of an oral history project.

&uot;Oral accounts give you a different feel from what you would get from looking through an old minutes book or newspaper,&uot; said Mimi Miller, director of the Historic Natchez Foundation. &uot;You get a personal connection to history.&uot;

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More than a dozen local historians and history buffs met Monday for the group’s kick-off meeting at the Foundation’s offices.

&uot;It’s important to do this because we’ve already lost people who could have told us so much,&uot;&160;said Christy Williams, one of the Pilgrimage Garden Club members at the meeting.

&uot;I do a lot of research in black history, … including oral histories, and that is my interest in this,&uot;&160;said Ozelle Fisher, who works for the City of Natchez.

Before its next meeting, set for 1 p.m. Feb. 28 at the foundation’s offices, the group will work to identify what oral histories of Natchez already exist.

Such accounts include those compiled by Project Southern Cross, USM and Natchez High teacher Frances Doss and her students. Others were collected for various books and television programs and for a film shown at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

&uot;You might find that what you’ll be doing is filling in gaps in what is already out there,&uot;&160;said Charles Bolton, director of USM’s Oral History Project, who will be guiding the effort and teaching them interviewing skills.

Although most in attendance Monday said they will interview residents, the group will be looking for more volunteers. The group will also have to decide how the information will be used. Some possibilities discussed include a walking tour that would include audiotaped interviews; creating a Web site with sound files of Natchezians telling their stories; residents telling their stories to audiences; and making tapes and transcripts available to schools.

&uot;I hope it will be something that is accessible, not just stored away somewhere in a box,&uot;&160;Williams said.

Planning of the project is sponsored by the Legislature through the Mississippi Humanities Council and the Department of Archives and History. Local sponsors are the Historic Natchez Foundation, the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African-American Culture, the Natchez Garden Club and the Pilgrimage Garden Club.