Why History Matters

I used to sit in classrooms bored to tears in history class.  Before three weeks ago, if I had to rank all the subjects by how much I was interested in them, I would have ranked history dead last.  I felt disconnected from it.  It was just a bunch of facts I had to memorize for tests – at least that’s what it was like in school.  Contrast this with the subject of math.  You can see math super early and see how it’s going to be useful for life.  I have to credit Genealogy for igniting my interest in history.  Genealogy connects the historical facts and events with you and I.

I was on my local library’s website just clunking around and saw that they added hella online resources due to Covid-19.  One of those resources was Ancestry.com.  It was now online for free through my library.  I searched for my name on Ancestry.com, and I was there.  I searched for other people’s names, and most were there too.

Eventually, I stumble on my great great uncle’s death certificate. The moment I read it was from the Houston Negro Hospital, that’s when shit got real.  Segregation got real.  Seeing that sparked all types of questions.  What was the Houston Negro Hospital like?  What else could I find on here?  Can anyone confirm this?  Who, in my family, knows this and who doesn’t know this?  Who was his father?  How did he interact with his brother (my great great grandfather)?

These questions eventually lead me to historical context questions.  What was it like during that time?  How did he end up in Texas?  Why did he move?  How did he move?

After finding that certificate, I went on to find A LOT more information, all courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Turns out there’s a running show that does this work with people called Finding Your Roots on PBS.  Who knew?!!!  I’ve seen several episodes, and I like the historical context they give when they dive deep into someone’s history.  I also like how they corroborate their record-based information with living people and DNA.

Ultimately today, it all brings me to a bigger question – How is history showing up today?

When you ask someone why they do the things they do,  they might tell you some version of “that’s how I was raised”.  Sometimes it’s a coping mechanism to deal with “how they were raised”.  I’ve lived life enough to see how cultures, attitudes, ways of thinking, behaviors, and traumas can get passed down from generation to generation.  What got passed down from history and again, how is it showing up today?

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