Although I grew up in the piedmont of North Carolina, my mother and her family hails from the north Georgia mountains deep in Appalachia. The Foxfire books, which captured the oral history, crafts, and traditions of Appalachian culture, were a constant in our household. Imagine my delight upon discovering that south-central Illinois has its own version, Tales from the General Store, and that they are accessible for FREE through the Digital Public Library of America.
Like the Foxfire books, Tales from the General Store was an educational opportunity for students. Undertaken primarily in the late 1980s and 1990s, The Tales project was created by author and educator Ray Elliot for high school and college students to gain hands-on journalism experience. The project published 27 newsprint issues that were distributed in newspapers throughout Crawford and Clark counties. Through interviews and well-researched stories the history and culture of everyday people in south-central Illinois remains preserved for all of us to enjoy.
For a Champaign County connection I recommend reading Kami Blackwell's profile of Ben E. Cox, former Urbana High School African-American history teacher and Freedom Rider. The piece was originally published in The Echo, Urbana High School's newspaper but was picked up and included the Tales from the General Store. (You will need to scroll to page 6 of the document for Blackwell's article.)
The public accessibility of the collection was made possible by the Illinois State Library (together with partner organizations: the Chicago Public Library, the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), which serves as a DPLA hub to host, aggregate or otherwise bring together digital assets from libraries, archives, museums and other cultural heritage institutions.
- Sherrie B.