By MEG WAGNER
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 5:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 5:05 p.m.
Guy Hudspeth had done his homework.
When he learned he'd be interviewing his friend Lizzie Robinson Jenkins, he read the four books she had written. He filled several pages of a reporter's notebook with notes on her life as an elementary teacher in Alachua County. He developed a list of questions he'd like to ask her about her life in Archer.
Hudspeth's interview with Jenkins was part of StoryCorps, a national nonprofit, project to record and preserve interviews with people around the country. The group's visit to Gainesville started Thursday and runs through Saturday.
"I just don't want to goof it up," said Hudspeth, the manager for the Archer branch of the Alachua County Library District.
"You can't goof up history," Jenkins, 73, told him.
The two spent 40 minutes in the Alachua County Library District Headquarters talking about Jenkins' family's history. In one of the private library rooms, only the recording equipment and a StoryCorps facilitator heard their conversation.
All StoryCorps interviews are conducted between a pair of friends or family members — one is the interviewer, the other, the interviewee. They are free to talk about anything, from childhood memories to historic events.
Jenkins discussed with Hudspeth how her great grandmother, a woman enslaved in 1839, walked from Jackson, Miss., to Archer over the course of six months.
They chatted about how her aunt survived the Rosewood massacre in 1923, a now-famous racial conflict in which at least eight died. They talked about her relationship with her mother.
"Her family story is so unique and significant," Hudspeth said, "and her personal life is so important. I wanted to touch on all of the stories that shaped her into the woman she is today."
StoryCorps' visit to Gainesville includes 18 interviews between pairs of locals.
The goal of StoryCorps is to not only preserve history through the stories of everyday citizens, but also to encourage communication between individuals, said John White, a StoryCorps facilitator.
"In this day and age, you can text. You can email. You have all these things to stay connected, but there's still this physical distance," White said. "Having a 40-minute one-on-one conversation is unfortunately a novelty."
Since its foundation in 2003, StoryCorps has recorded more than 40,000 interviews, giving more than 80,000 participants the opportunity to tell their stories.
StoryCorps interviews are archived in the Library of Congress. Clips of certain interviews are published on the group's website and air on NPR's Morning Edition.
The interviews recorded during StoryCorps' trip to Gainesville will also be kept on file at the Alachua County District Library, said Nickie Kortus, the marketing and public relations manager for the library.
"You don't find a lot of that on the library shelves," Kortus said. "We're making sure our local history is preserved."
The library is also partnering with WUFT-FM to air clips from the Gainesville interviews in upcoming months.
Kortus said StoryCorps interviews are important because they record history from the perspective of the "average citizen."
"What an everyday citizen will tell you is different from what a historian will tell you in a textbook," she said.
For Jenkins and Hudspeth, their interview was a chance to preserve Alachua County history in a personal manner.
"You can read a history textbook any day, but you don't always get to hear someone talking about events as they lived them," Hudspeth said. ‘It may not mean much now, but in 50 years it's going to be really special to have these recordings."
Listen to Lizzie Jenkins' Interview Here:
Please check out other interviews recorded by StoryCorps.
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