[Freedom archives news] Re-Thinking Historical Narratives

Freedom Archives Events freedomarchivesnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 8 14:46:31 EST 2018


My name is Helen and I’ve been interning at the Freedom Archives for the 
past couple of months. My time at the Freedom Archives has been filled 
with inquiry, stimulating conversations, and a ton of critical 
thinking.  The greatest knowledge I have taken from the archives is 
learning how to rethink historical narratives. Here are some insights I 
gained about the importance of preserving oppressed histories.

There is a reason that we are taught about histories the way that we 
are. Accepted historical narratives, as presented in our schools, the 
media, and governmental establishments, eliminate the stories of 
oppressed people and those engaged in struggle. Usually, history is 
written in a way to justify the current social, political, and economic 
hegemonies, and is supportive of those in power. Recorded history 
creates narratives that decide what is normal and what is not normal, 
this then plays into larger historical trajectories. When discussing 
historical narratives one always needs to be critical about where the 
story is coming from, and where does this narrative want to take us?

The Freedom Archives challenge the dominant narrative of history as told 
by those in power, and seeks to uncover and share history that has 
always existed, yet is untold. The archive is intentionally unbalanced 
in what they choose to preserve, to create space for voices that are not 
usually heard. While mainstream narratives of history are said to be 
unbiased and are presented as fact, we know that values inherent in the 
narrator, frames telling the history. The Freedom Archives are honest 
about the perspectives they center and seek to look these values, 
culture, and politics to project this vision into the world for a better 
future. Values and ideals continue on; we are a part of longer 
trajectories and rich histories of resistance.

I find that what the Freedom Archives is doing is of extreme importance. 
They are preserving history, especially the history of social movements 
and the history of oppressed folks who often do not get their voices 
heard. Erasure of history is a form of violence as it is an effective 
form of repression. For those who are engaged in struggle today, to 
learn from struggles of the past is resistance. Often archival material 
is hard to access when it has become entrenched in elite institutions 
where you have to have a degree or money to access it. The Freedom 
Archives not only preserves this history but they make history 
accessible to the wider public.

Lessons found at the archives will help people today strengthen their 
political work. The archives are there for you to use in order to 
reinforce the legacies of resistance. I have learned that it is not only 
worthwhile to document and preserve your political efforts, but also to 
learn from history as to grow our critical thinking skills. Not only is 
the intellectual process important, it is emotionally fulfilling to 
engage these histories, for it shows us the possibilities of moving forward.


ps. The image can be found in the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee 
Collection, one of my favorites at the Freedom Archives.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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