• 117 Commercial St. NE, Ste. 210, Salem, OR 97301
  • (503) 540-4063
  • 117 Commercial St. NE, Ste. 210, Salem, OR 97301
  • (503) 540-4063

Gwen Carr dreams of creating a speakers bureau to highlight the stories of Oregon Black Pioneers

Linn County Historical Museum Telling Untold Stories with Gwen Car
Gwen Carr at the Linn County Historical Museum describes interpreting the African American story for updated displays: “Telling Untold Stories, Linn County’s Black Pioneers”

They say that one of the greatest fears that people have, is fear of speaking in front of an audience.  While I would agree that it can be frightening, I must admit that I also find it exhilarating and one of the most fulfilling activities that I do on behalf of Oregon Black Pioneers.    It is with these black history presentations that I am able to honor the people and tell the stories of people whose lives would likely go unnoticed if not for our work.


I must admit that I love the look on the faces in the audience as I reveal parts of Oregon’s history that are little known.  From grade school kids to high level executives, I can feel the excitement and interest in them as they learn new information and quietly wonder why they don’t already know this.  Although not trained as a teacher, I can now identify with how they must feel in their classrooms as they reveal new information and observe the light of learning in the eyes of their students.


During the year, Oregon Black Pioneers is invited to provide historical presentations across the state in a variety of venues for a variety of audiences; from grade school classrooms and university lecture halls to civic and historical organizations, libraries, churches and even correctional institutions.  It is my privilege to work to connect the historical information with pictures and stories to make the presentation interesting and compelling for the listener.


One of the challenges for being able to say yes to these presentations is simply time available and capacity.   To this point, our presentations are done by a very small number of board members who can make time available largely during the day and on a weekday.  Since most of our board is still in the work force this has been an ongoing issue for us.  Efforts to develop a Speakers Bureau model with volunteers have not been successful as yet.


Some people may believe that they need to be an “expert” to do presentations but I tell them that part of the fun is learning the material and then simply telling the stories to others.  I don’t consider myself an expert but a learner and a storyteller.  When I don’t know something I just say so and keep going.  Presenting requires a certain level of honesty, humility and reverence for the material.


I am hopeful that in the months and years to come more people step up and say I want to help tell those stories too.   If this is you, I would love to talk with you about this.  Contact me at gwen@oregonblackpioneers.org.