During the last few weeks of my internship, I had the pleasure of interviewing a past KJHS member, Sarah “Suzie” (Orrahood) Hall who, in 1971, was the second female president of KYHA (Kentucky Young Historians Association - it wasn’t known as the Kentucky Junior Historical Society until 1976). Sarah was very active during high school in her Owensboro KYHA chapter, organizing projects to clean up local cemeteries and entering projects into the essay contest at the state convention.
Campaigning for state office was always one of Sarah’s favorite activities in KYHA. She campaigned very hard in high school to be elected state historian, then state secretary, until finally she became state president in 1971 in the twelfth grade. Sarah’s campaign slogan was “A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits.” Becoming president was one of Sarah’s fondest memories, and one of her greatest achievements.
After leaving KYHA, Sarah continued to be active in the organization by mentoring women that also wanted to become state president. Sarah continued her interest in the past by majoring in history at Western Kentucky University and eventually practicing law. Sarah said that she became a lawyer because the campaigning in KYHA inspired her to pursue that profession. In the 90’s Sarah would return to the Kentucky Historical Society to provide legal council.
I asked Sarah why she thought it is important for today’s students to participate in KJHS. Her answer helped to put me to put history into a better perspective. “History is cyclical,” and “only with an understanding of global events in history can children understand what is going on in the nation.” Sarah is a substitute history teacher in Lexington and she is worried that current students might not be able to connect the past events of history with the present.
Sarah is currently organizing a walking tour of an African-American cemetery in Lexington and an outreach program for young African-American school children to visit historic sites. Programs such as this give children a chance to view history in their community.
Interviews help to prove that history isn’t simply just an event—it’s an ongoing process involving the entire community. While interviewing Sarah I remembered a book I read in graduate school called Presence of the Past by Roy Rosenweig. In the book, Rosenweig explains that there are two types of history; History (national and global events that effect us all, that are recorded) and history (events that shape all of our lives, though on a much more local or mundane aspect of life, that aren’t necessarily recorded). For me the connection came when I realized that everything we do is history. The events, documents and organizations that we create as a society may not make the history books, but they are just as important because they shape the lives of future generations of people in our community. Organizations such as KJHS and the Kentucky Historical Society, though created years ago, still continue to influence members of the community through their actions.
In the case with Sarah Hall, her passion for history still influences the community today. It is this passion that will continue to serve the community, and also inspire other children to pursue their interest in history.
1.) KYHS chapter outside building in Hodgenville, ca. 1963.