By Theresa Osborne, SKCTC Appalachian Program Facilitator and KOHC member
“History Alive” is a half-hour radio program that has aired each week for the past six years on WCPM in Cumberland, and twice a month on Appalshop’s WMMT Radio, which also streams live across the Web. The program is based on an oral history format and is a collaborative endeavor between the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College’s (SKCTC) Appalachian Program and the Kentucky Coal Museum. In its early days, the History Alive project was also assisted by the loan of a digital recorder from the Kentucky Oral History Commission.
Theresa Osborne, SKCTC Appalachian Program Facilitator and KOHC member, and Phyllis Sizemore, Kentucky Coal Museum curator, co-host and produce the program. Both Sizemore and Osborne have had a longtime mutual interest in the local history and culture of Harlan County and its region. History Alive was Sizemore’s “brainchild.”
The SKCTC Appalachian Program has a long tradition of collecting and preserving local history through the use of oral history interviews. “History Alive” continues that tradition. The goals that have kept “History Alive” going for the past six years are to:
- Collect local history through the memories and life stories of its people, interviewing not only the most well-known local leaders, but also talking with the everyday people who lived in these places and through these events.
- Use “History Alive” as a way to preserve the local heritage and culture – and hopefully to stimulate an interest in local history for the listening audience.
- Encourage listeners to recognize that our history is being made every day. History is not just something dead to be studied, but History is Alive.
While we talk with people in our area, over the past two years, “History Alive” has been following oral historian Karida Brown as she studies out-migration of African Americans from Harlan County to locations all over the United States. Brown, a PhD candidate from Brown University, received a KOHC project grant in 2014 for her work. She is tracing the stories of people who left the area as well as those who stayed.
Brown arrived in Harlan County shortly after she received her grant. She agreed to be a guest on “History Alive” at the very beginning of her project. This spring as Brown was finishing her doctoral research, she returned to Harlan County. She agreed to come back for another visit with “History Alive” to talk about her oral history project, her research (both personally and professionally), what she had learned and the outcomes of the project.
(Editor’s Note: The Kentucky Oral History Commission commemorates its 40th year in 2016. The only commission of its kind in the United States dedicated to providing financial and technical assistance to oral history repositories and oral historians, KOHC has positioned Kentucky historical organizations, libraries and archives to lead the way in collecting and preserving oral histories, like these. The Kentucky Historical Society administers and houses KOHC.)