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Arts & Culture

A Story: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

Wesley Hogan
Christopher Sims, via

Wesley Hogan's interest in storytelling stretches back to her childhood. 

From her grandfather, she learned how stories can shape the way we view the world.  When she learned that she and her grandfather, a World War II veteran, had differing views on Hiroshima, Hogan became aware of the way perspective shapes a story.

“As a young person I grew fascinated, not only with history, but in finding different perspectives, in particular, marginal perspectives—perspectives that might not be in the textbooks I was exposed to,” said Hogan in an interview with Frank Stasio on The State of Things. 

She carried that interest in storytelling and history throughout her career.  Hogan is best known for her work as a historian documenting the Civil Rights movement.  Over a decade, Hogan interviewed 150 activists from Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an activist group that played a major role in sit-ins and freedom rides. 

“Each time I thought there can’t be a more amazing person than the person I just interviewed.  Then they’d direct me to the next person, who of course blew my hair back again,” Hogan said.

Her interest in history and storytelling ultimately led her to Durham, where she became the director of the Center for Documentary Studies this summer.  She took over for Tom Rankin, the previous director who stepped down after 15 years at the helm of CDS.  

“One of the things I’m most looking forward to is learning the communities that surround the institution and to try to figure out what are the issues that are important to people there,” Hogan said. “How can we collaborate in a productive matter?”

Hogan wants CDS to connect more with the Durham community at large, even as it sits at the crossroads of academia and the documentary community. 

Both journalism and academia contribute to “our expansion of knowledge, our understanding what’s going on with our government, our society, our day to day lives,” said Hogan.

According to Hogan, while academicians and journalists face different day to day realities, at CDS the two disciplines come together.  

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