Bill Jeffway

Founder, principal of HistorySpeaks

I like to say that, “history speaks, if we care to listen“… and does so in powerful and relevant ways. Local history, in particular, can bring broad historical concepts into a sharper, personal definition and relatable form.

The pursuit of historical truth is an age old concept powerfully advanced by Vassar College Professor Lucy Salmon over a century ago through her writings about the need to rewrite history. Salmon calls this a historians most important job, and challenges us to continually rewrite history in a constant effort to get to a closer and closer truth by identifying and sharing source material that underlies any historical interpretation or narrative.

This pursuit of historical truth, more recently, is prompting us as a society to get past the old notion that “the victors write the history.” If only the victors write the history, then only one voice is heard, to the exclusion of many others.

Whenever and wherever historical narratives are told, our first inclination should be to ask, “How do we know that?” The second step is advisedly the question, “Are we hearing from a diverse range of vocies?”

Embracing a broader range of voices is part of the longstanding work of the historian to continually move to a closer and closer truth. To do anything less than this diminished the value of history to the living, and to future generations.

HistorySpeaks is a workspace and publishing platform focusing on the Mid-Hudson Valley that supports the approach just described: one that is relentless in look for source material, and open to listening to a diverse range of voices.

These are the same principles that give us the power of critical thinking to be effective, engaged members of society and democracy. What are the facts? What do we hear if we listen to a range of diverse voices?

This is an archive of some of my work done directly through HistorySpeaks or in other roles, like my role as Executive Director of the Dutchess County Historical Society. I serve on the research committee of Celebrating the African Spirit.