Riley examines the strengths and weaknesses of oral history in providing accurate evidence of the inner workings of the executive branch of government in the U.S. He uses the current White House as an example of the “black box” (187). The term “black box” originated during the Cold War when historians weren’t aware of the inner workings of the Russian government due to a lack of free-flowing information (187). Today in the U.S., senior executive officers no longer keep detailed written records of their thoughts and activities due to reasons such as national security anxiety or just neglect (188). As a result, oral histories have became very valuable resource because of a lack of other primary sources (188). Communication to the public through media or spokespeople has become a priority amongst the American public (189). Oral histories compensate in areas that lack written documentation (195). However, one reality of oral histories of president’s is that information can often times be omitted (196). Good oral histories are conducted with a historian who is friendly, professional, and speaks openly and candidly (201).
Author Archives: Nikki McCormick
Joseph Heathcott, “Reading the Accidental Archive”
Heathcott’s article examines the case study of a middle-class family living in St. Louis. In his article, he studies the transformation of urban public culture by examining the artifacts left in the Aufderheide family’s home. Many artifacts of theirs had been collected during the early 20th century by means of the family’s laundry chute. Paper ephemera like bills, newspapers, tickets, letters, etc. had been collected through a small cavity in the chute for 15 years; this formed their “accidental archive”. Healthcott’s purpose is to relate their “accidental archive” to how urban public culture has changed (239). He states that the artifacts “reveal a household actively occupied in shaping a middle-class identity that engaged, but also distanced itself from, elite and working-class families through civic, commercial, and infrastructural connectivity (241). The architecture of the house also served as a context for the culture. Healthcott identifies that contexts such as material culture studies, architectural history, and urban history (240). St. Louis itself was booming during the 20th century, being the fourth most populous city in the U.S.; the city underwent development and expansion of urban architectural networks (243). The neighborhood around Tower Grove Park consisted of ethnically diverse families; however, there were no African Americans living there. This was because of racial covenants and real estate agreements in South St. Louis. Most of these families were German Americans or were European descendants (247). Heathcott refers to the house and the artifacts as a “dual archive” and state that they both “reveal a visual and material culture of images and things, an interpenetration of consumer goods, advertisements, billets, and receipts that connected the household to the wider world” (253). These depict that the Aufderheide family, like many others, strived to form a richly layered urban public culture; they connected themselves to the civic and commercial world (267). However, these families still faced the challenges of urban public society such as labor unrest, racial and ethnic panic of the world powers, and international trade worries (267).
Liebmann, “Rebuilding the Pueblo World, 1681-1683”
Liebmann continues his focus on unwritten sources throughout this chapter. He begins by re-instating a similar theme in the introduction: that archaeology fills in the gaps of historical evidence where written documentation is non-existent and oral traditions are kept private amongst the remaining Jemez descendants (83). Material culture can allow for historians to understand the history of the Jemez people. Following the burning of Spanish missions, the Jemez migrated away from colonized sites to rebuild their pueblos (85). The first new pueblo was called Patokwa; historians are confident that the Jemez migrated here after the revolt at Walatowa because of oral tradition, ceramic evidence, and Spanish documentation (85). Liebmann was able to conduct his own research on the site with a device called a total station, which surveys the landscape, and sampling the pottery (89). One of the things Liebmann analyzed were the linear structures and layouts of the rooms and buildings. He states that this design is a reflection of “large-scale, well-organizes communal migrations” (91). A second factor that Liebmann focuses on is the population size at Patokawa, by doing so he measures the quantity of people who formerly lived in these pueblos or rooms (93). He states that defensive was most likely a major consideration when the Jemez built pueblos; they had to be protected from neighboring tribes and the Spanish (95). The next pueblo settlement for the Jemez was Boletsakwa, where Liebmann took similar approaches to collecting materials as he did at Patokwa (103). Unlike Patokwa, there was much more visibility of the rooms and walls of Boletsakwa (103). In his research, Liebmann used a ground-penetrating radar at Boletsakwa. With these instruments, Leibmann hypothesizes a change in culture for the Jemez. The enlarging of rooms could signify an increase in population (106). Both of these pueblo settlements symbolize the Jemez societal values of central leadership, intentional planning, and community labor (108).
Liebmann begins his introduction with a narration of the Pueblo Revolt during the late 17th century. He highlights the importance of religion in the practices of the Pueblo Indians and in the revolt. He included a description of their ritual dances before battle and the prophet Po’pay. Po’pay was a prophet who claimed to have been visited by the supernatural and was told that the “Spaniards must die” (3). His prophecy came true on the 10th of August, 1680, when the Pueblo joined their Navajo and Apache allies to lead an armed revolt against settlers and missionaries (3). In his book, Leibmann aims to analyze the adaptations Pueblo Indians made in their lifestyles when Spanish settlers began to colonize the area (4). A key theme he incorporates is religion; how the native Pueblo religion and Catholicism manifested in the causes and outcomes of the revolt. The intermingling of native religion and Catholicism is unique and complicated according to Leibmann (4). Another goal of Leibmann’s book is to examine the common characteristics of anticolonial revolutions (4). Leibmann states that often times in history, Native American revolts are deemed as “failures” because they don’t follow Eurocentric templates (6). To fulfill the Eurocentric beliefs of a “successful” revolt the outcome needs to include self-rule or liberty (5). He states that there are often only two story lines to Native American revolts which include romance or tragedy; therefore, in his description of the events, he aims to tell the story without the portrayal of these themes (6). Leibmann stresses the importance of analyzing material artifacts from the time period and using anthropological perspectives to understand the lifestyles of Pueblo Indians and the events during the late 17th century (7). This due to the fact that many Indians did not keep written record of events. Many of the written primary sources are Spanish colonial journals and Franciscan ecclesiastical correspondence (7). Even oral histories from descendants can make historians skeptical; therefore, artifacts are of high importance when analyzing the context of Pueblo society. Liebmann introduce’s Antonio Gramsci’s term “subaltern” as a group that is dominated or ruled by a higher class, and states that his analysis of the Pueblo Indians is also a contribution to the examination of any subaltern group (12). He states that historians are shifting in their study of subaltern groups by analyzing material culture, since most minority groups can often be left out of written history (13).
Hanna, “Cartographic Memories of Slavery and Freedom”
In this reading, Stephen P. Hanna has shared a story about a former slave named John Washington who lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was able to escape to freedom when the Union army occupied the small town named Falmouth, which was separated from Fredericksburg by the Rappahannock River. Washington’s route to freedom was used by nearly 10,000 slaves during the summer of 1862 (51). In 1873, Washington wrote his memoir, Memorys of the Past, which included a hand-drawn map of Fredericksburg (51). Washington’s map was accurate in the layout of the river, streets, buildings, and railroads. His map represents social and cultural history from the time period, and remind historians that maps are not fixed texts or artifacts (51). The historians Crandall Shifftlet and David Blight interpreted Washington’s work. Shifflet stated that the locations on Washington’s map are significant because they represent “coordinates of freedom- places where his life intersected with events, people or moments when the thoughts of liberty touched his memory” (53). David stated that the map was important because it must have been important to Washington: “in the detail of the map, it is as if Washington is declaring his need to never let this memory recede from his mind- nor from the consciousness of his family” (53). Hanna notes that Washington drew this map during a war of emancipation and Reconstruction, so the map relays personal memories of Washington’s and the implications of society during the time (54). The map represents his knowledge of the area as a slave, and alludes to the limited amount of area drawn/details included as the tight limitations of his bondage (54). Washington also states these limitations within his memoir, saying he was typically kept in the house of his mistress to wait at the table, run errands, and cleaning. When he was not doing these tasks, he was not allowed to leave the house, being told to sit at the mistress’s footstool (55). Washington also includes the sorrow from having family sold away from him (55). Historians believe that Washington’s perspective through his map is a reflection of the life of his oppressors, rather than slaves (56). I conclusion, Hanna ponders if Washington’s intentions were to collect his memories or if he intended his writing to reach bigger audiences (58).
“Texts and Context” Harley
Harley begins this chapter by stating that the significance of maps are misunderstood, and that they are falling into a lower division of evidence behind written word (34). He states that maps have an importance in social history and are not limited to only relaying information about location or topography (34). This leads Harley into the question, “What is a map?”. There are many different interpretations to this question; one view is that maps are a “quarry of facts in the reconstruction of the past” and another is that they are a “social construct of the world expressed through the medium of cartography” (35). Harley proposes his interpretation of what maps are, stating that he is going to discuss maps as if they are a text (36). He believes that maps are a graphic language that need to be decoded; maps use signs that represent the world. The basic rule of historical method states that historians can only interpret artifacts in their context; however, with maps, often times historians may interpret the context as “inside” (37-38). This is a barrier that has to be broken when studying the context of maps (38). Harley states there are three aspects of context in maps, these include 1. the context of the cartographer, 2. the context of other maps, and 3. the context of society (38). The context of the cartographer is dependent on the intentions of the map maker (40). The map maker’s intentions can come from error, omission, personal bias, and misrepresentation (41). Historians have to be cautious when studying context of other maps because they can fall short of providing conclusive evidence and can be corrupted during copying processes (43). Within the context of society, it is key that a historian finds the “rules of the social order” within maps (45). Harley ends his chapter by stating that the historical influence of maps should not be underestimated and they can be rewarding texts (48-49).
de la Fuente, “The Port: Shipping and Trade” and “Notes”
This chapter highlights the importance of trade in Havana. De la Fuente begins his chapter by stating that ships gave life to Havana because it attracted consumers, merchants, products, and business and it linked the colony to the wider Atlantic (11). Havana specialized in exporting goods, most of these goods went to areas outside of Cuba and used the transoceanic circuit (11-13). Havana’s main role was to reexport colonial goods to Europe (14). The majority of the products they exported were bullion and specie (14). Other major exports include ginger, tobacco leaves, hides (20), wine (22). Like exporting, there were many products being imported to Havana. Due to trade and shipping, Havana was at the center of Spanish Atlantic for commerce and military (50).
de la Fuente, “Introduction,” “Notes,” and “Bibliography”
The introduction of Alejandro de la Fuente’s Havana and the Atlantic tells the story of Havana’s formation as a Spanish colony and its growth into a strategic economic and political establishment. Havana’s immediate establishment was to further the Spanish’s expeditions to conquer and colonize the Americas (2). However, due to a low number of indigenous peoples and no gold, Havana began to lack purpose for the conquistadors (3). Depopulation and abandonment of Havana began to pose a threat to Spain (3). In access to regain power, Spain imposed benefits and concessions to colonists that allowed for the exploitation of indigenous labor (3). Spain was determined to keep the colony of Havana alive because they realized the significance of its location. The colony was important to the communication and trade systems of the Spanish empire (4). When Jacques de Sores destroyed the city in 1555, it was rebuilt by African slaves rather than indigenous tribes. The new Havana underwent extensive changes, such as defensive infrastructure and growth in population (5). The establishment and operation of a shipyard lead to Havana becoming one the fastest-growing cities during the time (5). The port city was key to military innovation by allowing for the practice of the fleet system (7). This proved Havana’s legitimacy and significance in the Spanish empire’s economic and political systems.
Presnell, “History and the Internet”
Presnell states that the internet is treated like a virtual library by historians and that the key to being a good historian is knowing how to use the internet to find reliable resources (p. 136). A pro of using the internet for history is that it allows for a better communication between teachers and students (p.136-137). A con of the internet is that it can lack organization and lack of review that ensures accuracy amongst sources (p. 136). Presnell includes tips and directions for historians to follow when they use the internet for historical research. Tips include putting terms in quotation marks when searching for sources, use advanced search features and limit domains such as .edu, .gov, or .org, use multiple search engines or meta-search engines, and be specific with search terms (p. 146). Presnell also listed the types of sources you can find online such as primary sources, bibliographies, organization’s and government’s documents, specialized reference sources, reliable secondary sources, communication, and syllabi (p. 140).
Talking History: Friends of the Rappahannok
Friends of the Rappahannok (FOR) are working on an oral and digital history collection of environmental history in Fredericksburg. They have created a webpage to store their archives of video interviews and transcripts of people who are related to the projects FOR are working on. Some of these interviews include people such as the Chief of the Rappahannok Indian Tribe, the former major and newspaper editor of Fredericksburg, and community members who have connected to the history of the Rappahannok in Fredericksburg. Some of the big projects they are currently focusing on are the removal of the Embrey Dam, the US Army Corps’ contribution to natural preservation, and community conservation. The Embrey Dam project is one of the bigger one’s that FOR have recently finished. This project caught a lot of interest because the dam was built in 1910 and was removed in 2004. The removal allowed for fish populations to migrate back to their original migration pattern for the first time in almost a century. This also makes the Rappahannok the longest free-flowing river in Eastern Virginia. FOR imagine their future to be expanding on the professionalism of their projects by furthering outreach to the community, historians, professors, students, and interns.