How to Conduct Your Oral Histories

You will conduct an oral history with someone in your social network (a family member or friend) about police violence and the mass protests that are currently sweeping our city and nation. Each student will be required to record an interview on their phone of at least 15 Mins.

I have created a video found in this assignment on Blackboard that discusses exactly what I expect for this project. You must follow the procedures for a good interview found in the reading, Conducting Interviews and outlined in the next section. The central thing you are seeking is stories!!!

Choosing Someone to Interview

  • Ideally you would find someone to interview who is directly involved in the protest movement. This can be one of your classmates who has protested in the streets, one of your family members who is a police officer, a community member involved in local politics, or a friend who is organizing digitally by sharing ideas and information to other protesters.
  • If you cannot find someone directly involved in what’s going on since May 2020 to interview, find a family member or friend who is strongly opinionated about the protest movement.
  • Find someone willing to donate this oral history to the Guttman Community College Undergraduate Scholars Oral History Collection.

Preparing the Questions

  • Look over list of questions provided in the next section and, if necessary, change the language to accommodate how you like to express yourself.
  • Create at least five of your own questions, keeping in mind who your interviewee is and what insights they might or might not be able to offer.
    • For instance, if you are interviewing someone who got arrested for peacefully protesting, you need to ask about that experience. If you are interviewing a police officer, you would ask questions related to their job in the context of these protests.
  • Avoid yes and no questions, the goal is to get stories from your interviewee.

Going Over the Consent Form

  • Download Consent Form Here
  • With your interviewee read over the consent forms and explain that the interview will be recorded and made available to the public.
  • Make sure your interviewee is comfortable with their story being shared with the public.
    • If they are not comfortable sharing their story for legal or personal reasons, please try to find someone different to interview.
  • If you are uncomfortable donating the oral history, please let me know and we will figure out a different assignment. Your grade will not be negatively impacted.
  • Both you and the interviewee must sign and date the consent forms. Typing your name is not sufficient to donate the oral history.

Recording the Interview

  • Figure out which application you will be using to record the interview.
    • You can record a zoom call, which is probably the easiest way.
    • Both iPhone and android phones have built-in software to record, however, if you are interviewing someone over the phone, which I would recommend unless they live in your household, you will either need to use two phones (One to record and the other to make the call on speaker phone) or download an application that allows you to record calls.
  • Practice using your recording equipment.
  • While the interview is going on make sure the equipment is working.

Arranging a Meeting

  • Verify time/date/location of oral history interview with your interviewee (avoid loud places)
  • If the interview is over the phone, make sure they know you will be recording the interview.
  • Go over the consent forms with your interviewee before the interview.

During the Interview

  • Don’t be judgmental of their responses.
  • Try not to give positive or negative feedback.
  • Be casual

Being an Active Listener

  • Give cues that you are listening.
  • Remember to ask follow-up questions. If their feels like there is more to what they are saying, ask them to share more.
  • Take notes on things you find interesting or important. This both helps you formulate follow-up questions and will remind you later of your preliminary thoughts.
  • After you finish, ask your interviewee if there is anything you should have asked but did not ask.
  • Ask if they would share a picture.

After the Interview

  • Immediately jot down any thoughts or ideas you had from the interview.
  • Follow-up with the interviewee and send a note of thanks.
  • Send the interviewee a copy of the essay and/or recording.

Submitting the Interview

  • Set up a free dropbox account with your email address. If you already have a dropbox account that is full, please create a new gmail account to use for this project.
  • Place the following things in a folder titled with your full name. Within this folder place…
    • The recording of the interview
    • A Photo of the Interviewee
    • The Signed Consent Form
  • Share the folder with the email finesurrey@gmail.com.

NOTE: It is totally acceptable—and in some instances encouraged—to record this oral history in another language, however, if the language is not Spanish, you are responsible for translating key quotes for your presentation and paper.

The Script

The Script

NOTE: Feel free to alter the language of any question as long as the same information is gathered.

Before you begin recording the interview remind the interviewee that they do not have to answer any questions they are uncomfortable answering.


  1. “My name is (INTERVIEWER NAME) and I am interviewing (INTERVIEWEE NAME) in (LOCATION) on (DATE). Do you give me permission to record and distribute this oral history?”
  2. Please fill in as much basic information as you are willing to share:
    • Name? ______________________
    • Age? ____________________
    • Occupation? _______________
    • Neighborhood? _______________
    • Place of Origin? ________________
    • First Language? _____________
    • Racial Identity? _______________
    • Gender Identity? ____________
    • Sexual Orientation? ____________
    • Where are you from? ___________________
  3. Tell me the long story of how you, or your family ended up in New York City.


  1. How are you coping with the Pandemic?
    • Do you have a self-care routine?
  2. What was your initial response to COVID and how has it changed overtime?
  3. How has the Coronavirus changed your life?
    • Have you or someone close to you gotten Covid?
      • What was that like?
    • Did you lose anyone close to you?
      • Could you tell me a little bit about them?
    • How are you coping financially?
  4. What was it like to be home so often?
  5. How did it impact you socially, mentally and emotionally?
  6. How did it impact your family?
  7. Are people in your household working?
    • Follow up
  8. What have you learned about yourself and your family since the beginning of this crisis?
  9. What has been the hardest part of this pandemic for you?
  10. Has there been anything positive to come out of the pandemic for you?
    • What’s been your favorite thing to do in lockdown?
  11. How has COVID19 changed how you think about the relationship between our health as individuals and our health as a society?
  12. How do you think the government handled the COVID crisis?
  13. How would you grade the job the government did in rolling out the vaccine?
    • Will you be getting the vaccine? Why or why not?
  14. How are you feeling about the world reopening?
  15. What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you have your freedom from the Pandemic?
  16. How do you think the world will be changed when we come out of this pandemic?

 BLM Protest

  1. Do you remember where you were and what you thought when you first saw or heard about (Pick one: George Floyd’s, Trevon Martin’s, Sandra Blake’s, Eric Garner’s, Brianna Taylor’s, Michael Brown’s) murder?
  2. Explain to me why you think these anti-racist protests erupted?
    • What are some of the reasons that you think protesting Black Americans and their non-black allies are angry about conditions in the United States?
    • Do you believe there are issues with the criminal justice system in the United States that have helped flame these protests?
      • What are those issues?
      • When did you become aware of those issues?
  3. Do you think the history of race and racism in the United States impacts the BLM movement?
    • In what ways?
  4. How do you explain the persistence of racism in the United States generally and NYC specifically?
  5. Why do you think NYC became an epicenter of the protests?
  6. How have the uprisings across the country shifted how you think about your ethnic identity and your place in US society?
  7. Do you have any stories you are willing to share about encounters you have had with racism or the police?
    • Are more stories among friends and family members being shared about racism and the police since the protests started?
    • Have you learned about an experience of someone close to you?
  8. Were you active in the protests at all in a digital or in person way over the last 6 months?
      • If So…
        • How so?
        • Why did you decide to get involved?
  9. Do you have any stories or experiences about being involved in the protests that were impactful to you?
  10. How has BLM shifted the culture?
  11. How have the past few months changed how you think about police and racism in the US?
  12. Did you learn more about the history of racism in this country since the protests started?
    • What have you learned?
  13. What have you seen your peers doing that inspires you?
  14. Why do you think there is so much backlash to BLM?
  15. How do you explain the looting and destruction of property that took place during the protests?
  16. How do you explain folks who respond to BLM with “All Lives Matter”?
  17. How would you like to see this movement resolved?
    • Do you believe we’re any closer than when George Floyd was murdered?
  18. Is there anything else about the anti-racist uprisings you’d like to share?


  1. What was going through your mind when you first heard the U.S Capital was invaded?
  2. What are your reactions to the invasion of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021?
    • What do you think led these people to attempt to violently overthrow the government?
    • Were you surprised how they were treated by the police?
      • There have been reports that members of the groups that stormed the U.S. Capitol included police officers, elected officials and members of the U.S. military. What, if anything, should we as a society do with the information that segments of U.S. law enforcement, elected officials and the armed forces tried to overthrow U.S. Democracy?
    • What did you think about President Trump’s reaction to the invasion?
  3. What do you think about the impeachment trial of former President Trump?
  4. How do you explain the lack hostility between the two political parties?
  5. If Trump was a woman or non-white, how would the impeachment trial have been the same or different?