Saturday, March 19, 2011

Contradiction, struggle, perseverance -a new way to think about history?

I went to a regional "History Day" hosted at Northern Kentucky University and found it to be enjoyable and quite informative. More than that, however, I may have picked up on a new perspective to use when reading about the Civil War or other history.

The speaker, NKU assistant professor Eric Jackson, led a session on how to study the Underground Railroad in the region.It proved to be quite fascinating, and almost made me wish I could take one of his classes. He was very impressive.

One point he made early in his presentation was that, in his opinion, to study African-American history, a student should understand three topics: contradiction, struggle and perseverance.

As I listed to him describe how those applied to studying African-American history (the Declaration of Independence's "all men are created equal" was an obvious place to start), I actually started wondering if those three topics would be applicable to a broader study of history as well, or, at the very least, to the study of the Civil War.

I didn't ponder that question too long, as I wanted to pay attention to the rest of his very fine talk (it was scheduled for 45 minutes, but a few of us in the audience managed to keep him around for about 15 minutes more) but now that I'm home I will have to look at that and think of those three words whenever I'm reading or watching something related to history. Even if they are not totally applicable to other topics, they should at least help me think of new questions to ask or a new way of thinking about what I'm reading or learning.

1. Contradiction
2. Struggle
3. Perseverance

Undoubtedly, there are other such words to use, and probably better ones for different topics, but this will still give me a different way of looking at whatever I happen to read or study.

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