How Jean Stein Reinvented the Oral History

Submitted by Blake on Sun, 05/14/2017 - 12:59
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As anyone who’s read Stein’s books knows, her approach encourages her subjects to air their grievances; as people opened up to her, they revealed stories of turbulence and violence, plus the tensions of classism, sexism, racism, and ageism. McNeil and McCain, who are currently working on an oral history of 1969, have noticed this in their interviews, too, and it may be Stein’s most remarkable legacy: the creation of a form that championed a mosaiclike reality, where every person’s account carries an equal weight as “truth.” Her “oral narrative” carves out a place where history is illuminated by people who had a hand in shaping it, yet had never been so much asked for their opinions, and are held up as sacred as the deeds that line history textbooks. “You can really document injustice and the way things went down so well,” McNeil notes. “I think Jean Stein deserves a medal for that.”
From How Jean Stein Reinvented the Oral History