"Iím Proud to Know What I Know"óThe Oral History Component
of the Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead Project
Beginning in 2007, the Texas Department of Transportation and Prewitt and Associates, Inc. conducted archival research and archeological investigations at the Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead Project in southern Travis County. The Williamsís were African American landowners who lived and raised their family on a 45-acre farm along Bear Creek from 1871 to 1905. The Williams family had connections to the freedmen community of Antioch Colony, near Buda in Hays County, as well as African American communities in Manchaca and East Austin of Travis County. In order to involve the descendant community in this archeological project, we planned an oral history project component that would focus on gathering historical data via oral history interviews. The people we sought to interview were those who had connections with the Williams family (i.e., direct descendants and relatives) or were associated with African American communities at Antioch Colony, Manchaca, and East Austin.
The first step was to develop a series of interview topics and questions that focused on how people lived on rural farms and ranches or in urban East Austin in the first half of the twentieth century. The questions related to a wide variety of issues, such as social organization and family relationships, household economy, material culture and use of space, religion and education, socialization and identity, and race relations.
The oral history project was very successful in getting support from the descendant community, and we found many people willing to share their stories in interviews. We ultimately interviewed 27 people and obtained over 46 hours of digital audio recordings. The interviews were conducted mainly by Dr. Maria Franklin (Department of Anthropology and the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, University of Texas at Austin), with a few interviews done by Nedra Lee, one of Dr. Franklinís students and a PhD candidate in anthropology. AfterWords Transcription Service of Austin transcribed all the interviews, and then the transcripts were reviewed by the interviewer and sent to the interviewee for final approval.
All of the interview transcripts have been compiled into a 2-volume book titled:
"Iím Proud to Know What I Know"
Oral Narratives of Travis and Hays Counties, Texas, ca. 1920sĖ1960s.
by Maria Franklin
LINK TO REPORT
This 1035-page book that contains introductory and interpretive chapters, written by Dr. Franklin, that provide background for the oral history project and the historical perspectives for understanding the interviews. The subject matter in the book is African American life in central Texas during the early twentieth-century. In many ways, the recollections of twentieth-century rural life in this book demonstrate a high degree of continuity with the nineteenth-century farm life experienced by the Williams family.
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