Your Oral History Is Needed – Part 2


“My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind.”
Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

The first thing you need to know about giving an oral history is that you DO NOT have to know or talk about the larger story that surrounds the time period. Oral histories are about personal memories.

Waterlogue 1.3.1 (72) Preset Style = Travelogue Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = None Format Border = Straight Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Heavy Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Auto Paint Intensity = More Water = Orange Juice Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Fine Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Medium Paper = Buff Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Medium Options Faces = Enhance FacesMilton & Cora West were the first Mill Family I wrote about on this blog, as told through the eyes of Jackie Howell Wall, oldest of their 18 grandchildren. Click here to read about Milton & Cora. The second Mill Family was Annie & Jim Casey, remembered by their daughter ‘Maggie,”Mary Casey Langrehr.  Click here to read about Annie & Jim Casey. Both stories were greeted with great interest and appreciation, because in some sense, they were everyone’s story that grew up in the Mill Village, or worked at the Mill. It triggered many precious stories.

Here is all you need to do.  Gather several friends, or relatives, and sit together REMEMBERING. It’s easier to tell family stories among your peers with everyone jumping in to add their version of the memory. Of course, you are welcome to give an oral history by yourself if you prefer. Set aside about 45 minutes. E-mail Elijah Gaddis and arrange a time for your gathering or individual spot.  The Community History Program from UNC will come to you.  That’s it! Please share this post with your Mill network. Help get the word out about this opportunity.

In Part One of this series, I introduced you to Elijah Gaddis, Project Manager with, He and his associates have started a series of conversations with former RMM workers, their families, and other community members. Once they have recorded these stories and memories, they will use them to make digital exhibits where you can hear, read, see, and learn more about the history of Rocky Mount Mills. This will insure that those connected with the Mill will live on. I am convinced all of us wonder what will be remembered of us when we are gone. Help with this noble undertaking of archiving memories of RMM so that its history will not be lost. Your family stories will be shared widely with school children, college students, libraries, and future exhibits. These stories of all these good folks can serve as a moral compass for those who are building a future for the RMM, and who live in the Village. Don’t miss this opportunity to insure that something of you and yours are remembered and treasured into the future.

Visit: OR contact Elijah Gaddis at

Who Is Elijah Gaddis? – Setting The Stage – Part 1

As part of some research I’m doing for a new novel, I am in love again! or should I say, as usual. This time it is a man named Chris Rose who once worked for the Times Picayune in New Orleans. He wrote a series of columns in 2005-06 recounting the aftermath of Katrina, and published them in a book, 1 Dead in Attic. Rose is out of the “Studs” Terkel tradition who is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a radio show in Chicago. Rose is that good! One of the many Katrina stories Rose tells is about a man that started collecting magnets off the ruined refrigerators that had been hauled to the curb for pick up. Rose wrote …there is also something noble about archiving the personal details of our citizenry, particularly when those details were otherwise bound for the dump. 


You ask, what does this have to do with  Elijah Gaddis? He may not be collecting magnets, but he collects stories, and is a young man with a noble calling. He is from rural Cabarrus County, NC in the heart of textile country. Growing up, he heard little about the surrounding mills nor did his schooling provide any education on the matter. Yet today, his imagination and heart are captivated by the history and stories connected with the Rocky Mount Mills. He is Projects Manager for gathering your information.

Trained as an oral historian, his academic background has prepared him for the work that brings him to us through a program Capital Broadcasting has initiated at RMM. With a degree in English, a MA in Folklore and soon a PhD in American studies, both from UNC, he has worked as a public historian for the last ten years. His work connects communities to their own histories and helps them share this valuable information with broader publics. Some of you have already had the pleasure of meeting with Elijah to share your Mill memories.  Here is the link to an earlier post about this story gathering.

Coming tomorrow -Part 2: What Are Oral Histories All About?

Visit:                                                                 OR contact Elijah Gaddis at