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Society project spotlights local black voices

WARREN — The Trumbull County Historical Society this week launched it’s “Voices” oral history project, which looks to preserve the experiences of elders in Warren’s black community.

So far, the website, www. voicesoftc.org, includes more than 100 interview clips, and it soon also will hold a gallery of items scanned during a Black History Month community event held in February.

The project began in 2017 when the historical society made the move to ensure it was representing the entire community. The society realized its collections, archives and programs were telling the history of a wealthy elite that was not relatable to many residents.

“Nonprofits like TCHS are tax exempt because we provide services to the community — the whole community,” Meghan Reed, historical society director, said. “In 2017, we only held 10 items in our collection that represented the black community. With a black population of roughly 30 percent in Warren, that was unacceptable.”

The project was made possible through a grant from The Raymond John Wean Foundation’s community investment program, which allowed the historical society to create a steering committee comprised of black residents and to hire an education and outreach manager.

The steering committee did 17 interviews out of a list of 45 people before COVID-19 halted the process in March. The interviews touch on a wide range of topics including memories of family life, moving to Warren from the South and racism seen by local law enforcement.

Interviewees include those who worked in Warren’s steel mills when they were segregated, successful sports starts and civil rights activists.

“There are so many life stories that have been silenced over the years,” Stacey Adger, project sterring committee member and local genealogist, said. “Each ancestor who passes away takes their unique story with them — their experiences, perceptions, beliefs. I usually say we have lost a tree because their knowledge and the things that shaped their life are no more.”

Before kicking off the project, the historical society reached out to residents and attended meetings and community events to gauge the desire for the project, and found a desire to show the larger community how racism affected the community in the past and continues to have consequences today.

“We had, and still have, a lot of listening and learning to do,” Reed said.

The next step of the project is to record more interviews when COVID-19 restrictions allow, according to education and outreach manager Sarah Moell. Then, the project hopes to create educational resources for teachers to integrate the interviews into classrooms.

“Getting this knowledge into the schools is a top priority,” Moell said.

For more information, visit the Trumbull County Historical Society online at www.trumbullcounthistory .org.

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