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As we’ve examined in dozens of primary sources this semester, you know perspective is essential to the study of history. Historians work to see how others experienced and perceived an era. This project will give you new insights about the 20th and 21st centuries and requires critical thinking and interpersonal skills. Seek out a relative or another individual (neighbor, teacher, coach, friend, religious leader) aged 55 or older to interview.
2. Prepare thoughtful questions that delve into your interview subject’s experience with and perspective on various events, people, movements, and values of the 20th and 21st centuries. Focus your discussion more on the 20th century, particularly those eras and events unfamiliar to you. There are sample questions at this document’s end, but you are by no means limited to these queries. Original questions also are encouraged. Tailor questions to what you know of your interview subject. Compose and submit a written biography of the person you interviewed. The biography should be presented as a formal academic paper (typed, double-spaced, 12 font, 1 inch margins, Times New Roman, etc.) The length should be 3-5 pages. Please adhere to the minimum requirement.
The biography should outline the key historical highlights of a person’s life, but this paper is not a report alone. Be sure to consider your interview subject’s oral history as a primary source, drawing connections to the larger historical context. In other words, there will be analysis as you write how your interview subject was and/or was not typical in experiences and attitudes to others in the same time period. See examples of this at work below: Like many young Americans energized by President Kennedy’s ambition and youthful vigor, Johnny American volunteered to heed his country’s call to service. Johnny American served in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1966-1969.
Unlike many middle-class women in the 1950’s who chiefly worked as homemakers after high school or sometimes college, Jane American worked full-time as a pharmacist in a local drugstore in New Jersey from 1956 until retirement in 1979.Childhood Experience
1. How was your life different as a child than it is for children today?
2. How has family life changed?
3. If you grew up on a farm, what was a typical day like?
4. Can you give examples of the prices you paid for items (loaf bread, pair of shoes, soda, etc.) when you were younger?
5. Who were your role models when you were younger? Why?
6. What is the earliest event or person of historical significance you can remember?
Education
1. How many years did you attend school?
2. Was everyone in your family able to attend school and to what level(s)? Why or why not?
3. How were schools different then than they are now?
4. What subjects can you remember studying?
Historical Events
Question your interviewee as appropriate about some of these historical milestones: Great Depression, New Deal, World War II, Fifties, Cold War, Korean War, Civil Rights Movement, Sixties, JFK’s Assassination, Vietnam War era, Man on the Moon, Watergate, Seventies, Eighties, and more contemporary historical events.
1. Which wars do you remember?
2. What parts did you (or your family and friends) play, either at home or on the battlefield, in these wars?
3. How was your life changed by the wars you were involved in?
4. Were (and how were) you impacted by racial segregation? 5. Do you remember where you were, what you were doing, and your reaction to critical news of the 20th century like Kennedy’s assassination, the man on the moon, or the Iran Hostage Crisis, as examples?
Gender Roles
1. How has the role of women in the home, workplace, and community changed in your lifetime?
2. Based on your gender, what did your family and society expect you to do?
3. Did you embrace or reject these expectations? To what extent?
Society and Economy
1. How has this community (or the one you grew up in) changed since you were a child?
2. In your lifetime, what has been society’s greatest challenge?
3. What kind of work did you do in your lifetime? 4. What observations can you make about the changing American standard of living and economic health?
Politics and Government
1. Who was your favorite president? Why?
2. Who was your least favorite president? Why?
3. Who were the politicians and/or causes you can remember supporting?
4. In your lifetime, which political issues were most important to you?
Technology
1. What inventions have changed your life for the better?
2. What invention or technical advancement has had the most dramatic impact on your life?
Popular Culture
1. How has recreation, or what people do for fun, changed?
2. How have clothing styles changed over the years?
3. How has music changed over the years? Which styles and artists were/are your most beloved?
4. What television shows, movies, and theatrical productions stand out the most in your memory? Why?
Reflections
1. If you could live your life over, what would you do differently?
2. What advice would you give to future generations?

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