Oral History Review

“Interview with Marion Dobbins”

Blog Post 1:

Interview with Marion Dobbins

“The model I like to use is, I try to speak for those who have no voice, those who were enslaved, who could not speak for themselves, but even deeper than that with this project I want to speak for those whose voices are lost”

Marian Dobbins

This remarkable quote from Marion Dobbins, an oral historian who was interviewed by George Mason’s Folklore and Ethnography Archive, was one of her many reasons for working on the project Northern Virginia Civil Rights Archive, as a student intern working with Congressman Gerald E. Connolly. This interview entitled, “Interview with Marion Dobbins” is a 2 segment 12:23 and 2-minute videotaped interview. She tells many stories of why the history of segregation of African Americans in Virginia is important, and how it has shaped her into who she is today. She recounts stories from her mother and her grandmother and the encounters they endured during the segregation period. 

The one story that really stood out in this interview was when Ms. Dobbins explains when she was in fourth grade her teacher assigned the class to do a report on Virginia history. Ms. Dobbins proceeds to ask her grandmother about their ancestors being enslaved, her grandmother begins to tell her stories of her own grandmother and the struggles she went through. When young Ms. Dobbins goes to present her report, her teacher would not let her read it until the end of class when all the students were leaving because she found out that it was about slavery. This was a pivotal moment in Dobbins’ life and marks the moment she knew she wanted to help bring to light the stories of African Americans. Time Stamp: 6:20-7:58 

One of Dobbins’ goals for the project and for her work as an ethnographer is to tell the stories who may not have been able to speak for themselves. To expose the history of segregation in Virginia through stories of people who have gone through it and how their lives were affected. It is important to recount and record these stories of history because later we can look back and get an idea of the challenges these people had to endure during segregation. Today, when the idea of segregation comes up, it seems so far in the past, but in reality it is not so far. Our duty by viewing these interviews and ethnographies of such stories is to learn from the mistakes of the past and make sure it never happens again.  

The link to the Oral History “Interview with Marion Dobbins” from George Mason University’s Mason Folklore and Ethnography Archive.

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