Welcome to the world of ACTIVHISTorians: using history as a tool to solve today's problems.
ACTIVHISTorian, Pamela Stewart, earned several academic degrees but after 20 years in higher education, she escaped, determined to expand her practice beyond the classroom to the community at large. Stewart's quest is to find new and better ways to do what she does. What does she do? Democratize the historian's tool kit so that everyone--individuals, communities, non-profits, companies, and government entities--can work to address today's problems. Basically: If we don't know the history, we can't solve the problem. The history matters.
BLOG-ACTIVHIST questions, comments, and wonderings: What's to come?
It is tempting to think that problems are today-specific. Why think about the past if the problems we notice seem to have more connections to our current technologies, polarized viewpoints, and new ideas? But while something can seem new--and may even be unknown to someone not attuned to noticing history--it is rarely as new as it seems. The technology may seem at the root of problems, but if we dig deeper . . . the political landscape can seem unprecedented, but if we question, even wonder if it is . . . Just try it: pick a challenge you, your workplace, your community is facing. We'll cover a variety of possibilities in coming BLOG-ACTIVHIST posts. But for now, see what connections you notice between the present and the past, even when specifics can seem quite different. Or do they?
Food for ACTIVHISTorian Thoughts: Migrant Flights North
When the governors of Florida and Texas decided to ship recent border crossers north to D.C., New York, and even the small and very elite enclave of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, they noted various reasons for doing so. But did they know that something similar--and potentially equally-disingenuous--had been tried decades earlier? But that time, the focus was on African Americans in the same region. As 73-year-old, Mr. Peola Denham Jr., commented, "What really took me back is that when the people got to their destinations, they didn't get what they were promised." His recollections as a 12-year-old boy of being shipped on a train with his father, stepmother, and nine siblings provided the parallels. If you want to know more, check out the NPR report (9/17/22), "Before Migrants Were Sent to Martha's Vineyard, There Were the 'Reverse Freedom Rides' or this New York Times article (10/14/22), "When Segregationists Offered One-Way Tickets to Black Southerners." If you'd like to hear from the grandson of someone who was part of the "Reverse Freedom Rides," even as the history had remained unclear, take a listen to This American Life |"Family Dig" | Episode 2: "The Great Lie-Gration" (10/14/22)
For those who may think 1962 is a different world than 2022, that one situation is about citizens and one about non-citizens, they are correct in many ways. But history can be a stubborn thing--and often uncomfortable. So sometimes it's easier if we find a more comfortable version of the story, work hard to notice only differences--or simply ignore it. For those who are curious and want to address problems, not just move the food around the plate (like I used to do as a kid), we can start by scratching the surface and at least pose the question: what might history tell us? And beyond the particulars of the topic mentioned here: Just try it: pick a challenge you, your workplace, your community is facing. Then think about when you think it started--or when it started to matter.
Future BLOG-ACTIVHIST posts will offer opportunities for follow-up. And I realize that some reputable news sites allow only for limited access/downloads of articles. But if you are associated with a college or university--or even a public library--you might find out if your institution offers free access. Or google related terms and see what you find. If you are associated with Arizona State University, check out this page for free access to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to reach out via the CONTACT page.