How We Remember: Putting History in its Place

Who remembers the stories you learned in your American history classes?

Who were the good guys? And the bad guys? (And, yes, they were most often men.)

Why do you think historical memory creates such distinct sides, as if we’re cheering for a sports team and not the events that make up the shaping of this nation?

Though I have realized how skewed history could be, it wasn’t until I started researching for the public art show RACE AND REVOLUTION that I realized how incredibly complicated it is. The art show will use historical documents from the American Revolution to show parallels between racism during the time the United States was being shaped with racism today because there is a lot of overlap between violence and disenfranchisement then and today.

My realization has become (and it’s still a work in progress) that the American Revolution isn’t about dates and battles. It is about individuals trying to get what they think is rightfully theirs – freedom, independence, land, agency. No matter the individual, this is why the war was fought, and this is why the war included Native Americans – fighting on both sides – and free and enslaved African Americans – fighting on both sides. In fact, history is kind of like reality TV: the public sees the individuals and what happens through the eyes of the producers and directors.

The banner photo is of a Mohawk named Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant), a man who history has revered as a brave Mohawk chief who fought on the side of the British. More thorough research has taught me that he was only revered by the British, not by his Mohawk peers.

As preparations for this summer’s art exhibition continue, I will talk a bit more about the research, but what I really want to know is what you all think about the way history is written and what that has to do with the roles individuals play out in society today.


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