Case Study: Boston Radio Pilot
Every youth history project is different. The following case study offers just one example of how you can work with young people and history. Because the WGBH Outreach staff has been working on this project for several years, we have developed strategies for engaging youth in this history as well as knowledge of many resources. You may want to adapt aspects of our model as you develop your project.
The Boston Radio Pilot was a six-week project to create youth-produced history spots. The group consisted of 11 young people who are part of the Youth Voice Collaborative, an organization that specializes in media training; members of the Africans in America Youth Council; a volunteer producer from WGBH Radio; and the WGBH Outreach staff. We met after school once a week for about two hours.
The WGBH Outreach staff sparked youth interest with film clips and discussion, and then provided some resources (excerpts from primary sources and sample Web sites) to get them started. You can find primary sources in the Resource Bank Index of the Africans in America Web site. Your local historical society may also have sources more relevant to your local history. We have included selected Web site addresses. We found that young people loved surfing the Web, and they went far beyond our suggestions.
1. Before the first meeting, youth were asked to write a one-page essay about their identity and personal history.
2. We introduced the series and radio project, and then shared our personal histories.
3. We viewed three separate video clips from the Africans in America series that provided profiles of African American resistance. The first focused on Frederick Douglass, the second on Gabriel's rebellion, and the third on the response of African Americans to the attempted repatriation of black people to Africa by the American Colonization Society.
4. We also introduced Boston historical figures not in the series: Prince Hall, Maria Stewart, and Shadrach Minkins. Small group discussion focused on excerpts from primary sources that revealed more about these people.
5. We asked participants to think more about ideas and favorite historical stories they would like to share through the radio spots for the next meeting.
1. As a group, we walked Boston's Black Heritage Trail to get a sense of the place surrounding the Shadrach Minkins rescue. Minkins was the first runaway to be arrested in New England under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law; he was rescued by a band of Boston abolitionists and taken to Canada.
2. Under the direction of a Park Ranger, participants reenacted the Minkins rescue. Part of the National Parks Service, Park Rangers offer walking tours of the Black Heritage Trail.
3. We gave participants a list of Web sites for further research. They were assigned to write a paragraph about a character they researched for the next meeting.
1. Participants toured the radio production studios.
2. We viewed the Gabriel's rebellion film clip and discussed it, supported by youth research. Participants then talked about how sounds enhanced the story in the video clip, and what types of sounds they might use to tell the story on radio.
3. The research assignment for the next meeting focused on Elizabeth Freeman (also known as Mum Bett), who won her freedom by legally challenging the Massachusetts Bill of Rights' contradictory application to African Americans. Her case resulted in the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.
1. Participants read excerpts about Elizabeth Freeman and discussed their research.
2. Youth brainstormed sounds that evoke images of her story.
3. We reviewed the format of the radio spots and assigned Olaudah Equiano as the research focus for the next meeting.
1. We discussed Equiano. Group members were recorded doing dramatic readings of excerpts from Equiano's narrative, Gabriel's rebellion, and the Declaration of Independence. We then recorded them responding to these excerpts as well as telling their favorite historical story in their own words.
2. The next week's assignment was an interview exercise. Each group member asked a peer and an older person how they thought race affected their lives today. Then participants had to think about how their interview responses might be linked to slavery or its legacy.
1. Youth viewed the series promotional film clip that focuses on how early American history has defined race in this country.
2. Participants shared the results of their interview assignment on race in contemporary America. Discussion was audiotaped for later editing.
3. Youth read more historical quotes for the radio spots.
4. Project wrap-up: Youth were invited to take part in editing and post-production.
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