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Students take journey through race and reconciliation



Denize Springer
SF State Office of Public Affairs & Publications
(415) 405-3803
(415) 338-1665

Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications


Project created by SF State faculty and local oral historian allows high school students to examine South African apartheid and the struggle for civil rights in the United States

SAN FRANCISCO, June 21, 2007 -- A San Francisco State University faculty member is giving Bay Area and South African high school students the opportunity to learn and document new perspectives on the struggles for equality. The Journeys of Reconciliation project allows students from Johannesburg and Marin to conduct oral history interviews with ordinary people who fought for civil rights in the United States and against Apartheid in South Africa. Initiated by Trevor Getz, SF State associate professor of world and African history, and Kelly Philpott Brisbois, an oral historian, the project will culminate with a documentary film and curriculum for middle and high school students.

Six South African and seven U.S. students, from Branson, San Rafael and Marin Catholic high schools and St. Mark's school in Marin County, were selected to participate by their teachers. The U.S. students traveled to South Africa last year and conducted interviews on camera with several persons including an activist who had participated in the 1976 Soweto youth uprisings, an Afrikaner from a farming family, and people of different faiths who grew up in the midst of apartheid.

The students will reunite with their South African counterparts on the SF State campus on June 28 for discussions and lectures on the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s, the Black Panthers and race and identity. All of the students will conduct interviews with Bay Area activists including civil rights attorneys, ethnic community leaders, a speechwriter for Martin Luther King, Jr., an American Indian tribal leader and a San Francisco man who was interned at the San Bruno Japanese internment camp during World War II. In addition, the students will view Martin Luther King, Jr. papers at Stanford University, visit the Museum of the African Diaspora and take an oral history workshop at the University of San Francisco.

"This cross-cultural and intergenerational exchange between the students and older generations of anti-racism activists will give the students -- and anyone who views their work -- a perspective that no history book could," said Getz, who is also associate producer of the documentary film about the project and the author of books and articles on the Atlantic slave trade, slavery and reform in West Africa and civil rights.

"The power of oral history is learning about the past through open and honest dialogue," said Brisbois. "What the students experience is a healthy discussion about race and reconciliation. We hope to build a classroom model for exchange on these topics." Brisbois was curator of a 2004 Marin County History museum oral history exhibit of World War II veterans, which was also based on interviews conducted by students. For more information about the Journeys of Reconciliation project, visit:

SF State is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls about 29,000 students each year and graduates about 7,000 annually. With nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields -- from creative writing, cinema and biology to history, broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies -- the University's more than 120,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond.


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Last modified June 22, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications