*Chances are you will see traces of your own Sunday school teacher in Miss Lizzie Devine, the subject of a new PBS vignette in which two cousins – now grown – recall their favorite memories of the fearsome woman who taught them bible stories as children in Bradenton, Florida.
The POV clip – an animated recreation of the memories narrated by cousins James Ransom and Cherie Johnson – is part of a massive oral history project called StoryCorps, where anyone can record 40 minutes of their childhood memories that will enter the Library of Congress – so that one day your great-great-great-great-grandkids will be able to hear your story, in your own voice.
Ransom explained to us in January how he and his cousin Cherie entered one of StoryCorps’ traveling recording booths to recall their childhood memories for the project.
“We talked for almost an hour. So what you hear in ‘Miss Devine’s’ segment is a smaller part of our larger conversation,” he said. “And throughout our conversation, we just remembered the things as adults – like corporal punishment was sort of okay. Miss Devine was the keeper of corporal punishment, as far as we were concerned, for my mother and my mother’s sisters and brothers and everybody else. She seemed to have this superpower that was unique.”
“We talk about more things she did, plaiting hair a certain way, you know, which was — for girls, if you’ve ever had your hair plaited, she plaited hair for my cousins, the girls, where their eyes would be back like this,” said Ransom, pushing his skin toward his hairline. [See photo below.] “They would sleep on several pillows at night. But, you know, there were lessons learned for us as children, growing up in that community. We enjoyed it.”
Ransom explains the emotion of hearing his voice along with the animation that was created to bring himself, his cousin and Miss Devine to life.
“It’s kind of overwhelming for me; I would never have thought it would be something like it has become,” he said. “But it is really a gift to our country to be a part of what StoryCorps has developed and POV has allowed us to do with this thing. And I’m just glad to be one of the people out of thousands that can share this part of America.
Following “Miss Devine’s” PBS premiere on Tuesday (Aug. 23), the entire vignette is available in its entirety online beginning today. Scroll down to watch.
In the audio bonus below, Ransom talks about two other StoryCorps projects that have moved him personally.