Who writes history?
It is time to re-examine traditional narratives and do some inclusive re-writes.
For example, I would have bet money that my very “white” NH town had always been so. But I fell down a rabbit hole while looking for a rabbit, and found also that my town had the highest percentage of free blacks in the entire state directly after the Revolutionary War (4.7%). It is unclear why. The NH blacks who fought in the war earned their freedom, pensions and then settled in my town buying homes, opening businesses and starting families. I was astonished to learn this! The black community they established was erased within 100 years, both from the actual town and also in the memory of the citizens.
My town of Exeter was the Revolutionary capital of NH then and home to various military officers and their funding. Perhaps they made promises to the black soldiers? Perhaps those promises are why blacks made up 4.7% of the citizenry in 1790? It is unclear. Why is it unclear? Because those writing the town’s grand, white and male, history back then did not include it. Or perhaps it was purposely excluded? I don’t know. But what I do know it that it is time to re-examine and redress – by including.
My town is all the poorer for not letting that community flourish. I can only imagine the interesting contributions those ladies and gentlemen would have made here. In the four or so generations that the community existed (mainly near the west bank of the Squamscott River) there were many blacks that influenced the culture of this town. For example, in the following small report I give you the exploits and achievements of one family as they began their uphill climb from slavery.
Down in that rabbit hole I met James Monroe Whitfield, a black abolitionist poet who was born in 1822 on Whitfield’s Lane, later renamed to Elliot Street. His 1853 book America and other poems was held in the Library of Congress, but curiously, was not in any of our libraries. His name was virtually unknown in our town. But I invite you now to read my small report james monroe whitfield family lineage and then join me in saying: “Welcome home James”!
During my research I noticed that both people of color and women were glaringly missing from the history of my town, as published on Wikipedia. So I learned how to submit to Wikipedia -thus writing in a bit of herstory and theirstory back into history.
On January 25 and February 15 the “Where The Future Came From” symposium encourages people to join them in an Art & Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thon to make history more inclusive. Why don’t you give it a try too?