Chapter II.

Tips for Listening to the Tapes/Broadcasts

Listen Once without Stopping: Set aside enough time (about one hour for each part) to listen to each part in its entirety without pausing. This will help you better concentrate on and appreciate the full impact of the interviews. Listen to the tapes/broadcasts from beginning to end without stopping -- even if you miss something, don't understand something, or want to hear something again. If you own the tapes, you can always go back and re-play some or all of them later. You can also consult the transcript of the tapes/broadcasts in the appendix of the book portion of Remembering Slavery.

Picture It: The first time you listen to each tape, concentrate on visualizing the events and images the slaves describe rather than on language. Sit with your eyes closed, and try to picture what the interviewee is talking about; this will create a more lasting impression that you're more likely to retain. Also, concentrate on the main events the former slaves describe, rather than the smaller details.

Just Listen, Don't Worry: Don't worry at first about words or phrases you don't understand or can't hear clearly. If you become too preoccupied about these words and phrases, you'll lose the gist of the discussion and the overall impact of the recordings. Just listen to each part of the tape/broadcast all the way through, and concentrate on visualizing the big picture. Even if some of the language is unfamiliar, you should still be able to gain a pretty accurate sense of the overall content of the interviews. If some word or phrase particularly interests you or seems important, quickly jot it down. Later on, when you have more time, you can look it up.

Concentrate: Many people have difficulty listening because they don't acknowledge that listening takes effort and concentration. While it's clear that reading and writing require doing something to make it happen, people mistakenly assume listening just occurs automatically. That's simply not the case; while you can hear something without necessarily making an effort, listening requires your full attention. So be prepared to work at concentrating while you listen to the tapes. It helps to do whatever you can to minimize outside distractions.

Listen Again: If you have the tapes, you can listen to them a second time, or you can read sections of the broadcast transcript in the book. You'll be amazed at how many more details you pick up after a repeat listen. This time, though, you can listen more leisurely, stopping to take notes, have discussions with fellow listeners, or take breaks. You can also listen to some sections repeatedly; each time, you'll discover something new. Repeated listenings provide time to go beyond the big picture, listening for and noting the many details and nuances of the narratives.

Write a Listener's Response: It's extremely important to take time to reflect more deeply upon what you hear. Writing a response is the ideal way to focus upon and articulate your thoughts and opinions as well as identify remaining questions after you've encountered the dramatic and richly varied materials on the tapes -- almost like having a discussion about the tapes with yourself. Take the time to "freewrite" a response after each listening session. Sit with blank sheets of paper or a journal and write down whatever thoughts come into your head, without worrying about punctuation or grammar. You can also respond to the questions included in the Listening Guide below.

Form a Discussion Group/Share the Experience with Others: While you can certainly get a great deal out of the taped materials by listening and reflecting on them on your own, also consider trying to listen to the tapes/broadcast along with friends and/or family members and then have an open discussion. This will make the process more fun, interesting, memorable, and informative. You can learn a great deal from others, who can share their knowledge of particular aspects of the narratives with which you might be unfamiliar, as well as opinions and perspectives different from your own. Discussion with others, at the same time, can help you better pinpoint your own ideas, questions, and opinions.

If you form a group, make arrangements to listen to the tapes or broadcasts together. You'll probably want to have several meetings to listen to different parts of the recordings. After listening to the tapes/broadcasts, begin to discuss your responses together. To keep things organized, you might choose a group facilitator for each meeting. You can use the questions outlined in the Listening Guide as a focus for your discussion, or come up with your own. Don't worry if it takes a few minutes to get a discussion going and for everyone to feel comfortable. Start with some activity in which everyone will say something: you might begin, for example, by having everyone share a question they had about the tape/broadcast. You can also start by writing private responses to some questions, perhaps from the Listening Guide, and then share excerpts of that writing out loud with each other. Once people get over the initial discomfort of speaking, you'll probably find the meeting moves along smoothly.

Use the Listening Guide: The Listening Guide that follows for each part of the tape/broadcast includes questions and activities to help you concentrate on important issues and better pinpoint your own thoughts, feelings, and opinions in response. For each part, you'll find here:

A Note on Free Writing

For any of the questions in the Remembering Slavery Study Guide, it is recommended you first "freewrite" in response before discussing them with others or trying to write a more formal essay or research project. Freewriting means you set a time limit (usually about 5 to 10 minutes) during which you put on paper whatever comes to mind as you consider the questions. This writing is for your eyes only, so you don't need to worry about grammar or punctuation, or what others will think. This activity helps you begin processing the complex material you've encountered and more formally articulate your response and questions than if you simply walked away after reading or listening to the interviews with former slaves. If you are discussing the tapes/broadcasts or book with others, you'll also find that the opportunity to freewrite in response to questions prior to talking generates a much more interesting discussion; when you open the questions up for discussion, everyone will already have a great deal to express to the group.

Creating Your Own Dramatic Readings

As the tapes/broadcasts vividly demonstrate, the interviews and narratives in Remembering Slavery naturally lend themselves to dramatic readings and performances. You might consider creating your own staged reading of narratives; this can be an especially informative, interesting and engaging activity for a community or educational group. To develop a script, you can use the transcript of the radio broadcasts (the appendix in the book portion of Remembering Slavery) as a model.

You have many options for organizing the performance and should feel free to experiment. You might, for example, select a few of the more dramatic narratives from each of the book's five chapters to have a performance that addresses a wide range of themes. On the other hand, you might opt for a more focused performance in which all of the narratives depict a particular issue or theme (such as family life in slavery). You also can choose to have reader/performers go one at a time reciting each narrative in its entirety, or have several performers on stage taking turns reading several lines at a time from their selected narrative, to have a more multi-vocal performance. You can further dramatize the reading by including such theatrical elements as music (live or taped) as background and for transitions from one narrative to another, and projections/slides, perhaps of period photographs. Feel free to be creative; you might, for example, try staging events from the narratives while someone reads in pantomime or dance. No matter how polished or rough your dramatic reading performance, rest assured that the power of the narratives will make for a successful event.

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