Citizen Historian of the Month: Amanda Lau
Tell History relies upon a network of dedicated citizen historians to collect important memories–stories that are all around us, but need to be collected, preserved and shared. Every month we recognize one of our amazing citizen historians who makes the effort to save stories and fill the gaps in history.
This month, we celebrate Amanda Lau as our Citizen Historian of the Month. As a student at Sarah Lawrence College, she says that history has always been part of her. Amanda has been collecting the stories of people’s memories of September 11 as well as talking to people in the US with experience of immigration. We have interviewed the 21-year-old as part of our Citizen Historian monthly profiles.
When did you first get interested in history?
History has always been a part of me. Ever since I was young I wanted to understand the world more clearly and my dad would talk to me about the news and explain to me what was happening in different countries.
In High School I was fortunate enough to have amazing History teachers who not only allowed me to relate to specific time periods but explained the essence of history as a study of humanity in which people understand past mistakes in order to not make the same mistakes in the future. Today I’m still studying mostly American History and Latin American History. My professors have taught me that everything in history is true but arguable.
Are there people, groups, or historical events that you think don’t get enough attention?
I think in the United States a lot of Muslims have been stereotyped and are given negative stereotypes that do not define who they are. I think media needs to respect everyone’s religion and culture in order to create a more equal world. Every ethnicity is equal and each voice should be heard.
What histories have you been focussed on collecting so far?
I have collected stories on September 11, 2001 because I believe that this day should not be forgotten by the next generation of Americans. It’s a day of sadness and mourning but this day made Americans stronger. I am also collecting stories about immigration and adaptation to a new society. Furthermore, I’m interested in understanding how people unite when there is a natural disaster.
These stories interest me because they create a theme of overcoming struggles and becoming a stronger person today. People as well learn from their past struggles in order to prevent them from reoccurring.
We know from talking before that there are many histories that you would like to collect in the future — can you tell us about some of them?
I want to collect stories about the Great Depression in the 1930s or about the Cuban revolution in 1959 and how that affected not only American government but Latin America and the Soviet Union.
I’d like to record the stories of refugees in the future, as I believe the stories of refugees will be the most valuable resources for humans to learn from in the future.
I want to record more stories about Martin Luther King and Human Rights in the 1960s. Also I want to record more about Latin American history like the Dirty War, and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez rule in 1995.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about starting to become a citizen historian?
If you want to become a citizen historian you have to read the news, be interested in what other people have to say, and acknowledge that everyone has an important story that has yet to be heard.
Be comfortable and confident when speaking to people and make sure that you are always listening to what they want and need. One has to be convincing but one has to take into consideration that not everyone likes to be videotaped. Also don’t be afraid to ask people for interviews because the worst thing they can say is no.
Personally, I have learned about the Francisco Franco dictatorship in Spain. I have learned to listen to what people have to say and help them if they feel uncomfortable. Lastly, I learned that history is not supposed to be told by just historians but by people like us, who have been through dictatorships, wars, depression, etc.
Thank you so much Amanda! We’re really excited to see what histories you are going to collect and share with us next!