The recipe for any success I’ve enjoyed to date might surprise you: insoluble imagination, aggressive innovation and even courageous integrity together, have not been enough.
The will of my hands, head and heart have been harnessed on the dogged determination of my grandmother, the intelligent-savvy of my mother and the kindness of countless other people—mostly black women—who have loved me into being. They willed me into college and pulled me through graduate school. They carried me through periods of under- and unemployment. They believed in me when the odds weren’t favorable; and when the weight of those odds threatened to crush my spirit, they made me believe in myself. They are the reason I believe in the transformative power of stories whether seemingly great or small.
And that’s the reason why as a professional historian, cultural commentator and educational advocate, I am principally a storyteller. The best story I have ever written is my own—and it’s fortunately still unfolding.
As a historian, I believe in the incredible power of stories, and of the tremendous responsibility of storytellers to not only put pen to paper or keystrokes to computer screens, but to contextualize for readers and listeners alike, “the why” associated with the who, when, where and how.
Despite the exceptionalizing of extraordinary behaviors, achievements and sacrifice, human beings are characters and agents affecting the course of the past, present, and future. Human beings are humans doing—doing things good, bad and in between. That is precisely why “the why” matters—because that is where the understanding we seek lies.
That is history’s magic—and that is why history matters, and always will.
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