HISTORY SPEAKS. Listen. Learn.

Bill Jeffway’s online workspace

You can influence the future by understanding the past. I have long felt history has more to do with the present and future, than the past. What (and who) we choose to remember and memorialize today is what (and who) is remembered tomorrow. What gets passively forgotten through neglect? What gets actively erased? What gets molded into a different story? The past allows for there to be a second point relative to the present. You get a trajectory that can imply the future, suggesting what might be needed to stay the course, or what may be needed if a change of course is preferred.

Embrace multiple perspectives. I believe the single biggest, most fundamental change going on at the moment, is a greater interest in understanding multiple perspectives. This would challenge the old saying that “history is written by the victorious,” and suggest that historical narratives are valid, valuable and worth hearing and preserving from a range of persons and communities. By definition, this presents conflicting views. But I believe understanding this profound lesson is among history’s most important lessons, which is about the biases any of us can bring to an expression of history.

How history can stray from the truth over time

Erased

Neglected

Recast

Look for the “undiscovered.” As a result, I have put a particular focus on research and writing related to what I feel are lesser told histories, such as the stories and voices of women, immigrants, Black history and and persons of color. I focus on both traditional and new ways of speaking about local history by supporting documentary theater, advocating for physical monuments and memorials, creating teaching aids, speaking to students individually and in groups, being active as a Wikipedia contributor, and supporting all forms of digital communication which can offer broad access at less cost.

Seek the truth. Rewrite history. Rewrite it again. Our perception of the past, what we call history, is not  fixed, nor should it be. The facts, the past, what actually happened is fixed. But the narratives that evolve generation to generation after the fact are stories, and as such can reflect intentional bias, accidental omission, or simple circumstantial conditions. History needs to be constantly rewritten, as the historian Lucy Maynard Salmon described so eloquently a century ago. She calls on us to continually “clear away the mists that have obscured the truth.”

This an open workspace, please feel free to comment. Bill Jeffway, Found, HistorySpeaks.

Come to understand the deeper story behind the 1940 Rhinebeck (NY) Post Office Murals by Olin Dows