Field Notes

The Dalton Interviews

Dalton Vocational School was a trade school for black students that operated in Chariton County, Missouri from 1905-1956. Their alumnae stories deserve to preserved and shared as a way to hear first-hand the stories of life in Missouri under segregation. During the summer of 2021, a few colleagues and I interviewed former students and alumni about their time at the school. I remain grateful to have been part of the documentation of these Missourians’ stories.

The interview subjects were all in their late 80s. They are a shrinking group of people who can tell us first-hand what it was like to attend an all-black school during America’s era of racial segregation. The Dalton alumni were honest about what they had and did not have during those years. The folks we talked with were universally proud of their school. They expressed confidence as they described how tiny Dalton Vocational School prepared them for success later in life. I am grateful for being allowed to preserve their stories.

The Dalton interviews were also humbling. There was no tangible benefit for the Dalton alumni to talk with me. None of them knew what a podcast is nor were they familiar with the county historical society where their stories will be shared with visitors. I am moved that they let me record their memories. When Madelyn Payne, William Payne, Gladys Mann, Leroy Jackson, jr., Virgil Redding and Diane Pippens saw that my collaborators and I were sincere about preserving the memory of their school, they invited us into their homes and for that I will forever be grateful.

Some of the Dalton audio recordings ended up as an episode of my Mo’ Curious podcast. I am also editing the videos for part of an upcoming display about Dalton Vocational School at the Chariton County Historical Society museum in Salisbury. I am adding video edits of these interviews to my Recollection Agency YouTube page as I get them complete.

Thank you to Lizzy Kalinka and Jennifer Thornburg for their partnership in collecting and sharing these important Missouri oral histories.

By Trevor Harris

I got involved in community radio back in 1990 and later worked in public radio. I enjoy listening to people's stories. Collecting them seemed like a logical marriage of my love of audio gathering and preserving the stories of those around me.

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