Oberlin: Woman preserves black history one story at a time

1:49 PM, Feb 10, 2011   |    comments
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But if you need some information that requires a little more digging, all you have to do is ask Margaret Christian.

She's easy to find. She's at the library in town each day for at least three hours.

"When I don't come here, I am just nuts," Christian laughs.

As a teenager, she was angry and not able to understand why equality didn't exist.

She says watching her father serve the nation in the military when blacks were being lynched and race riots were happening was extremely difficult.

"There were places in Cleveland we couldn't go," Christian said.

"No one could tell me why people were treating each other the way they were."

Her great-grandmother was a slave, emancipated when she was just 10-years-old. It's stories like hers, and so many others that came before her, and settled in Oberlin, that Christian is working to tell.

"You are not a disconnect from another time," she said, "We are looking backwards, but we are moving forward. But you always have to see that mirror, and see that background, because it is why you are where you are."

Christian says when she retired in 1996, she thought she'd be able to read all about black history just by going to the library.

However, in her opinion, names and valuable stories were missing from the history books.

"Blacks in Oberlin, and their history, it will never repeat itself, this is the end. "That said more and more to me you have to document, and you have to get things down."

She's put together several collections that go in a special section at Oberlin's library.

It's a section for African American and Underground Railroad history she helped the librarian create about ten years ago.

Her books feature black veterans, one is dedicated to those who served in the Civil War.

Another is a collection of newspaper articles, programs and pictures of Natalie Hinderas. Born Natalie Henderson, in Oberlin, she was a musical prodigy. Later in life she paved the way for other black composers.

"I did this book because I was so upset no one remembered her," she said about Hinderas.

While she continues to compile information for the shelves at the library, which is a great task, there is another responsibility out there that she also takes very seriously.

"The hardest thing is to relate your time to the young people and my great-granddaughters are going through the teenage years too and their world view is very different than mine.

"I don't want them, I don't want them to forget there were people who paved the way for you to be able to do, that that didn't just happen."


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