The 3H Blog: History, Home, Horizons

Old Mountains


American Spirit Motel sign


One of the truest lines in the play Cherokee by Lisa D’Amour comes early on: “These are old mountains,” a character says. This line brought to mind for me the memory of my visits to the mountainous Cherokee homelands of North Carolina and Georgia. I have spent immeasurable hours in that region, doing research, thinking, and writing. I could not help but be conscious there, of myself as well as my surroundings. Continue reading

My Meeting with a Muse

Last week I dropped my three kids off at school and then stopped by a historic mansion. What a way to end my week — I know. I adore old houses. They enthrall me. I cannot help but be drawn into the mystery of who lived inside these buildings and what shape their experiences took in the dramatic sway of U.S. history. I was at this particular mansion on a cold but bright January morning to check out the place for a possible overnight stay.

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Westward Bound

I am sitting down to write this post before a magnificent mountain view at the end of the first month of the new year: 2015. I can’t believe that my last post appeared on Valentine’s Day of last year. Time moves with a steady rapidity that amazes me sometimes; the days fly by like hours. My last blog post described the development of ECO Girls, the environmental education program for girls in urban areas that I started as a faculty member at the University of Michigan. At the end of my last post, I explained that I was halting the program for a time, as I was preparing to move out West for a year. Well, here I am, in lovely Bozeman, the “Valley of the Flowers” in southwest Montana. Continue reading

An ECO Girls Origin Story

I often say that I am an unlikely person to have founded the ECO Girls project. I am a humanities professor whose research focuses on African American and Native American women’s histories. I have appreciated nature and enjoyed the company of trees since I was a young girl, but I did not realize that environmental issues should be important to me until I attended an academic conference in 2005. The 35th Anniversary Conference of the Department of Afroamerican & African Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor became a turning point. Continue reading

A View of Public History: Taking It to the Streets

When I was a little girl, my father used to take me on uncharted neighborhood adventures. “Come on, Baby Girl,” he would say, “Let’s hit the streets.” This meant that we would be heading out of the house and meandering through our neighborhood and beyond. On our way to wherever we would end up, we always stopped at the corner store down the block, where Daddy would buy a Sugar Daddy candy bar for himself and a packet of Sugar Babies – my favorites – for me. On our long walks through the Cincinnati city streets and parks, cutting through back alleys and wooded byways, my father would teach me lessons. He taught me the Greek alphabet on these adventures, for example, challenging me to recite the letters as we tramped along. “Alpha, beta, gamma, delta epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, lambda . . .” I can remember chanting these letters in a child’s sing-song voice to the beat my dad had taught me, my mouth full of chocolate-caramel Sugar Babies. (My father’s affection for his Black College years and Kappa fraternity brothers proved to be the unexpected foundation of my study of the ancient Greek language later on in high school.) Continue reading

The Terrain of History

Excerpted from a lecture I gave at Berea College (what a charming campus) in winter 2013: The Carter G. Woodson Memorial Lecture.

The realm of the past, the terrain of history, is a mysterious place. It is not here, but there – off in the hazy distance of time. History is unrecoverable in its fullness. We cannot ever really know what happened back then. We can only grasp the shape of the past by looking for traces left behind by the people who came before us, our ancestors, our ancestors relations, and our ancestors’ adversaries – written documents that have been preserved, oral stories that have been told, buildings and objects that have been restored, still images and photographs. Carl Becker, a Cornel historian who thought deeply about the purpose of doing history, wrote in 1932: “the greater part of these events we can know nothing about, not even that they occurred; many of them we can only know imperfectly; and even the few events that we think we know for sure we can never be absolutely certain of, since we can never revive them, never observe or test them directly. The event itself once occurred, but as an actual event it has disappeared” (“Everyman,” 221). Continue reading

An Introduction

Hello! Welcome to my very first blog post. I look forward to connecting with you here on the thoughts that tumble through my mind when I’m walking the dog, cleaning the house, or shopping for my kids’ Halloween costumes – going about the daily work and experience of life, that is. I’ve titled the blog “3H: History, Home, Horizons,” because those words evoke the main themes that I think about these days: History in all of its diversity, difficulty, richness, and magic; Home as the place(s) where we dwell and build our identities – from the close and fragrant corners of our grandmothers’ kitchens to the vast and simultaneously finite space of the planet Earth; and finally, Horizons, the quest to imagine a view beyond the rocky hillsides – the serious social and environmental issues that we face today. This blog post is not edited. It is me writing to you, usually in front of the window of my second-floor study at home in Ann Arbor, usually with a child calling “Mama!” in the background and a cat scratching at the door. Thanks for being here with me. Please do not expect perfection.