The Game is Changing
This article is part of “Inheritance,” a project about American history and Black life.
To research and write the stories of Black and white southerners is to undertake almost two entirely different tasks. Black artifacts and records have long been systematically destroyed and marginalized. Like water fountains and public schools, the creation of historical archives was once racially segregated. Archives are usually supported by state governments or private institutions and include a wide range of personal, organizational, and government documents. Extant collections typically reflect the prejudice of past white southern archivists who didn’t believe that the Black people who shared their society lived lives worth studying. When white archivists set out to collect documents they thought future historians would find most important, they often gathered only the photographs, ledgers, diaries, and letters produced by wealthy, white citizens. Most of these archivists didn’t think someone might someday want to study the lives of African Americans. Their racism prevented them from imagining that someone like me could ever exist. - Story by William Sturkey