Assistant professor of history Max Krochmal created the Texas Communities Oral History Project (TX-COHP), a program that aims to preserve the history of the civil rights movement in Fort Worth.
Krochmal said he ran into problems doing research in the field because many subjects did not leave behind written records.
TX-COHP was born out of his interest in the civil rights movement and the fact that many people from that era are dying. The Institute for Urban Living and Innovation at Addran College and the Center for Community Involvement & Service-Learning support the project alongside students and community partners.
“The great thing about community-based research is that it serves a need in the community in addition to fulfilling an academic need and providing a fun, experiential education for students,” Krochmal said. “Some of the questions of who to interview, and what kinds of questions to ask, and what do you do, with the answers are shaped by our community partners.”
President of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. Kyev Tatum, heard Krochmal speak at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. A few months later, Tatum contacted him with the idea of a civil rights museum after the home of Marion Jackson Brooks, a former civil rights leader, went up for sale.
Tatum said he was using the museum as motivation to bring people together. He said he believed the museum will excite the community to come together from both sides of Interstate-35 to advance the Morningside neighborhood.
He said the students he has spoken with are excited, and he hoped that their energy ignites a fire within the community to come together.
“It was not until students got involved in the civil rights movement that they really began to move beyond just the protesting,” Tatum said. “We’re hoping some 50 years later that we can use that same kind of method to excite students to get involved with something that preserves the past, but give them something to be a part of that plays into the posterity of this community.”
Senior political science major Saria Hawkins said she thought the project was an opportunity to preserve a part of history.
“I feel like it’s a chance to reach out to the community and have people whose voices were not previously heard, to be heard now,” Hawkins said.
The opportunity to work on the TX-COHP is open to all majors. Interested students can enroll in Krochmal’s classes in the spring. Introduction to Oral History and Recent U.S. Urban History: Race, Space and Community Activism are the two courses being offered next semester.
“TCU’s slogan is learning to change the world,” Krochmal said. “This is a perfect example of how students can go out and do service learning, do community-based research and learn first-hand about social change and how people created it in the past.”