Stephanie Walrath, Megan Crutcher and Taylor Noakes, Liberal Arts

According to the United Nations, the world is currently experiencing the largest migrant and refugee crisis since the end of WWII. As more and more people seek refuge in the United States and in Pittsburgh, a team of graduate students from Duquesne's public history graduate program partnered with Pittsburgh-area African refugees to help collect and share their stories.

The Pittsburgh Refugee Stories Oral History Initiative aims to understand the refugee crisis from individuals who have survived it. The team and its community partners conduct, transcribe and edit audio interviews with African refugees living in Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  

"Our role as oral historians is to act as facilitators and to support the project with our community partners," says Crutcher, a May 2020 public history graduate. "The community members have vital interest in preserving their stories and the stories of others who have traversed the refugee experience."  

public history students with a community partner

The team says that while the project serves as an excellent primary source for historical researchers, the broader goal is to make the stories accessible to the general public to increase awareness of the refugee crisis.  

"This project is a window into the crisis from the perspective that matters most: its victims," says Walrath, a May 2020 public history graduate. "In addition to informing the public and activating empathy within those who have never experienced this kind of desperation, it is our hope that the interview and publication process gives our narrators a sense of agency and opportunity to reclaim, reframe and give meaning to their stories."   

The group was initially planning to travel to a refugee settlement in Uganda with a community partner during the summer of 2020, but the plans are on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  

While Walrath and Crutcher graduated in May 2020, the group has applied to present at the Oral History Association's (OHA) annual meeting in October.  

To hear oral histories of African refugees in Pittsburgh and for more information, visit the Pittsburgh Refugee Stories Oral History Initiative webpage.  

Media Contact: Emily Stock 412.277.9273