Here in Virginia, there are some pretty strong views on history. It isn’t merely in the past, it is occurring in the present as well. This can easily perpetuate the stereotype that Southerners are still fighting the Civil War, or as it is known to some of my relatives, the War of Northern Aggression. However, this view of history in the present tense can be put to good use to dismantle assumptions, rethink the past, and keep cultural institutions relevant.
The most recent episode of The Abolitionists on PBS focused heavily on Frederick Douglass. Reading his 1845 memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in school years ago was my first encounter with the realities of slavery, as I imagine it may be for many people. Somehow, seeing the scene in which William Lloyd Garrison, a prominent abolitionist, and Frederick Douglass first meet brought to mind again how wonderful it is to see these events and documents geographically located on the Abolitionist Map of America. Zoom in on Nantucket, Massachusetts, and you can view the video clip from the series as well as contemporary photographs and documents. Somehow, plotting things on a map makes them more concrete, more believable, not just backstory.
As we continue this project, we are still uncovering relevant abolitionist materials at the Library … read more »