Sources and Stories

The other day one of the librarians at my school shared with me this story from the Smithsonian website. The article features archeologists who are working to unearth stories about fugitive slaves fighting for freedom.

She pointed me to this quote:

“By downplaying American marronage, and valorizing white involvement in the Underground Railroad, historians have shown a racial bias, in Sayers’ opinion, a reluctance to acknowledge the strength of black resistance and initiative. They’ve also revealed the shortcomings of their methods: ‘Historians are limited to source documents. When it comes to maroons, there isn’t that much on paper. But that doesn’t mean their story should be ignored or overlooked. As archaeologists, we can read it in the ground.'”

The quote and the article connected beautifully to one of the things we’re focusing on in APUSH: stories that don’t get told. Dominant narratives highlight some actors and keep others in the shadows, but they also arise naturally when we focus on the written historical record. What stories come to the fore when we focus explicitly on what doesn’t get written down?

I’m grateful to have interested and interesting research librarians (at my high school!!) around to point me to this stuff!


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