my history with history

I watched the movie "The Great Debaters" last night. Liking it, I went online to do some research on the actual Wiley College debate team from 1935. And I'm glad that I did. While the movie is based on a true story, I found this article, written by a daughter of one of the real debaters. She reveals some key truths about History vs. Hollywood (i.e. Wiley's triumph was over the University of Southern California, not Harvard).

I'm embarrassed to admit that, until recently, I haven't had much of an interest in history. In fact, I've been satisfied for the better part of my life to live in complete ignorance on the subject. (I didn't help myself out much by sleeping through my college history class... but seriously, when you have 200+ kids in a lecture hall, it is an invitation to nap.) The past few weeks though, as I've been watching HBO's WWII miniseries Band of Brothers, I've become keenly aware of two truths: 1) I'm even more ignorant about U.S. history that I thought, and 2) any piece of history can be interesting if it is told in a compelling manner. (Because what little historical knowledge I do have was obtained through novels, lit classes, documentaries, movies, etc.)

Sometimes I feel I live my life on a soapbox, but I guess it's better than the alternative (not having an opinion). But the simple fact that as little as 53 years ago an African American woman could be imprisoned for keeping her seat and today we have an African American presidential candidate, makes me both grateful and ashamed in the same breath. Ashamed because, any way you twist it, America has an ugly past... and 1955 wasn't that long ago. But grateful that for every individual in our history who has acted out of hate and violence, there has been an individual brave enough and strong enough to stand up for liberty, justice and equality. The fact that a nation such as ours can undergo tremendous change in just 53 years gives me hope for mankind. In the words of W.E.B Du Bois, "As you live, believe in life. Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.”
[Du Bois's house in Accra, Ghana, which I visited in 2005. Among other things, he was the first African American to receive a Ph.D from Harvard in 1895. Du Bois lived in Ghana from 1961 until his death in 1963. He died the day before Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Washington, where participants held a moment of silence to honor his memory.]

I'm setting a new goal to learn a thing or two about U.S. history. So if you have any recommendations (books, documentaries, etc.) I'll gladly take them.

1 comment:

Pam said...

Just think.....only 88 short years ago a woman, any woman, did not have the right to vote! We have come a long way, shameful as some that way was. Thank you for always giving me food for thought. I love you more. Aunt Pam.