Preserving Oral Histories and Creating New Experiences Around the Civil Rights Movement
Assistant Professor of History
Krochmal preserves the voices and memories of Texas freedom fighters and offers opportunities for his students to experience the civil rights movement first-hand.
From chronicling the stories of African American and Mexican American freedom fighters to traveling to key civil rights landmarks with his students, Max Krochmal makes the important struggles of the past inform the policies and social events of the modern day.
While many perceive Texas as a place dominated by “cowboy conservativism,” Assistant History Professor Max Krochmal has uncovered evidence of a robust liberal tradition in the Lone Star State.
For almost a decade, Krochmal has conducted oral history interviews with African American and Mexican American civil rights activists, recording their stories for posterity. Now he has expanded the project and built a research team of faculty, staff, and students from TCU, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas.
“No project has yet to look at the entire state of Texas and its role in African American and Mexican American civil rights movements,” he said.
Titled Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Oral Histories of the Multiracial Freedom Struggle of Texas, 1954-Present, the digital humanities project lives online as a free database of digital clips that allows users to search for detailed information and add tags to help future researchers. After starting the research in the DFW area, Krochmal and his team are now fanning out across Texas to collect new interviews from the eastern Piney Woods to the Rio Grande Valley.
A hallmark of TCU’s academic culture is the teacher-scholar model, which encourages faculty to not only be exceptional researchers but also engaged teachers, and vice-versa. In this spirit, Krochmal offers a class in which undergraduate students have the opportunity to conduct their own oral history interviews that contribute to the larger project.
He has also merged his research focusing on the civil rights movement with the establishment of an annual bus tour to key historical sites of the civil rights movement.
The TCU Civil Rights Bus Tour travels throughout Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama, giving students an opportunity to explore landmarks and meet different people touched by the movement. The experiential learning program aims to help students learn about social change and social justice outside of the classroom.
“This is the one trip that I would dare to say should be mandatory for all students, no matter their field of interest,” said Alex Turner, who participated in the tour in 2011, to TCU 360. “I say this because this trip informs its participants of the missing pieces of American history—the pieces keenly left out by those who construct the textbooks for our public school system.”
The tour is now a key component of an upper-level history course, The Civil Rights Movement in America, also taught by Krochmal.
“Because TCU has such a strong emphasis on how students can make a difference, this program really has a profound impact on people,” he said. “We look at the past to learn about the present and to help the students change the future.”