I love history. It is the reason I write so many historical novels. I used to sit for hours listening to my grandmothers talk about when they were younger…of their families…of how they lived.
I listened to how my grandparents met. I was even flabbergasted to discover that my grandmother married in a black dress in her father’s living room. Until then I thought everyone married in a flowing white dress in a church. I learned of the hardships faced during the depression…of the hatred of carpetbaggers that still simmered in their hearts long after the civil war…I can recite the tale how my Grandmother’s brother, Troy, saved her during a tornado that destroyed their community. I still see the love emanating from my grandmother’s eyes when she talked of her beloved brother. The first book I ever wrote was a biography of my father (He was an amazing high school basketball coach). I wanted my children to have a piece of my father that they never got to know.
I wanted my children to have a connection to their past.
History helps form our lives. Don’t misunderstand me. History doesn’t make who we are, but our history…our ancestors define our existence. Let me explain with the example of Prince William. If his grandmother wasn’t Queen Elizabeth, would we know who he was? Would he be in line for the throne of England? The same is said for us all. Whatever circumstances we are born into defines who we become.
Growing up, I admired many men and women: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Audy Murphy (To Hell and Back), Douglas MacArthur, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, and Clara Barton… What do all these people have in common? I read their autobiographies. Somewhere in history, someone thought them so important that their lives were memorialized by the written word.
Then, as I grew older, I began to comprehend that not all heroes were acknowledged for their sacrifices and deeds. The question becomes—Who was lost in the pages of history…has the keeper of history failed mankind?
The first such omission I realized was Martin Luther King. I truly admire anyone who can stand up for their beliefs and willing risk their life for the betterment of others. When I grew up, I really didn’t realize what Martin Luther King had accomplished. I will openly admit I even heard his name scorned. Now, thankfully, his deeds have been acknowledged.
When I began researching for my series, Southern Legacy, I discovered more figures of the past that deeds had not been acknowledged in the light they should have been. We have all heard of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the effect her book had on calling attention to the plight of slaves. I had heard of Harriet Tubman, but never fully understood the extent of her work or her courage. There were others, but one, William Still, stood out to me so much so I included a character loosely based on him in Southern Legacy.
During the turmoil of the past few years concerning race, perhaps we should understand why some African Americans hold so much resentment and frustration. It is easy for most of us to say that slavery was abolished over a hundred and fifty years ago. Why are these African-Americans holding on to something that is no more?
I can’t answer for someone else, but I suspect it comes from being denied their heritage…from being denied the acknowledgement of their past. There is power in the truth.
No one has ever denied that there was slavery. But how slavery was presented, I believe, is the many objection. We, Caucasian Americans, skim over the fact of how horrifically awful the practice was because it does not reflect well upon us. Slavery never does. History went so far as not to emphasize potential heroes and their deeds of those that opposed slavery.
The past cannot be undone. No one living today should be held accountable for the deeds of others in the past. We are not responsible for slavery…BUT we are responsible for acknowledging what was done and that it still has an effect on their descendants today.
We need to hold in admiration those that fought against the practice—back then it was an unpopular stance, not only in the South, but the North as well. We need to acknowledge those that displayed courage and bravery in the face of death. They, too, should stand with other true American heroes.
Harriet Tubb, William Still, Frederick Douglass, The Grimke Sisters
Denying African-American history is denying American history. The reason America is a great country is because it embodies all its citizens. This should never be forgotten. While America is not perfect, America’s Constitution allows for change and to correct wrongs.
I recommend watching Underground, the tv series, for everyone to watch.
Don’t forget those that came before us. Remember the path they took…the sacrifices they made for us all. American heroes are not defined by race. There should not be a division of white heroes and African-American heroes. American heroes are just simply—American.
For America to survive…to thrive…we need to remember ALL who help define our great nation.