Professor Maria Grazia De Angelis Wins Grant for Oral History Project

Professor Maria Grazia De Angelis (World Languages and Cultures Department) has won a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation in support of her oral history project working with the Italian immigrants in the Bay Area.

Over the past 12 years, students in Professor Maria Grazia’s Italian class have examined historical and contemporary issues connected with Italian immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area. Students in the class conduct life history interviews with members of the Italian community and create videos to record their memories. To date, this project has resulted in more than 100 hours of interviews conducted over a 12-year period from 2009 to 2021. The documentaries include stories of the immigrants’ lives, with photos, letters, and descriptions of the cities where they were born.

With this grant, Professor Maria Grazia De Angelis will create a documentary that will be available online, along with an online Story Map for future researchers.

This project benefits both the students who participate in it and the Italian American community, while at the same time creating a vital historical record. Talking with the immigrants is culturally eye opening for the students, and motivates them to improve their Italian language skills. For the immigrants, talking with students and having their stories recorded gives them the gift of history, having their life stories recorded for posterity. For the future researchers, the final documentaries and Story Map on the website will be a rich resource of the immigrant stories of the Italians in the Bay Area.   

According to Professor De Angelis, "My hope with this project is that even if my students forget the Italian language five or ten years from now, they will remember that they were deeply connected with an immigrant, they opened their hearts to immigrants’ stories, they understood culture in a more realistic way, and they made a difference in someone’s life. I also hope that the videos we create will be viewed by the immigrants, their family and friends, and future generations as a celebration of their identity. This grant will help us build an archive of documentary interviews. We will also create a map of Italy on a website using ArcGIS software with pop ups windows that allow users to see where immigrants came from and hear their stories. "

Professor Maria Grazia De Angelis also received a summer e-grant to co-write an article about this topic together with one of her students, Audrey Edmondo, who actively participated on this project.