Hello, hello, is this thing on?
Hi. I’m Marissa, and I’m a journalist and blogistorian.
I had a history professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill who gave great lectures on race relations from the Civil War to the civil rights movement. He could squeeze W.E.B. DuBois and Elvis Presley into the same lesson and make it work. I asked him once how he made history so interesting, and he answered very simply, with a bit of a drawl, “It’s just people tellin’ their stories.”
Oh, bingo. At that point I realized I should have been in grad school for history rather than journalism, because I was starting to see that I preferred the “olds” to the news.
Here’s the thing about stories: we need them. They can take our minds off of our own lives, sure, but they also teach us how we fit into the world — so when we come back to our own lives, maybe we feel a little bit better, or a little more thoughtful, or we understand a little bit more about someone or something else. And my professor — his name is Dr. Joel Williamson, and he’s now a professor emeritus at Carolina — is right, history is a bunch of stories, not just dusty old dates and place names. The secret is to tell the stories in a way that’s compelling, and maybe some of our history teachers didn’t do that. My goal, ultimately, is to write “pop history” — work that’s accurate and meaningful but fun to read. There are so many good stories to tell.
So this blog is an experiment in pop history. I mean for it to be a series of historical vignettes with a beginning, middle, and end, and hopefully some links to other interesting sources on the same subject — movies, plays, books, museum exhibits, whatever. I really hope to get around to mentioning some of the pop history books and authors that I really love. (I just hope the authors don’t mind being called that.)
Because besides it being fun, I think George Santayana may have been right when he said those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (Don’t be impressed. I had to look that up.) Why take the chance, anyway? Knowing what went on in the past may save us from mistakes we might otherwise make today, and you can bet it’ll be helpful in how we shape our futures. (I know what you’re thinking. Don’t be lifting that for your college entrance exam. I will get you SO busted.)
At the very least, I hope these stories give you something for your brain to chew on for the day, and a little fodder for some interesting conversations. Keep in touch; let me know what you’d like to see more of. I look forward to hearing from you.
And by the way, if you’re interested in the great brain of Professor Joel Williamson, here’s his Amazon page.
And by the way again, sometimes I live-blog events, as they are history in the making. Hope you’ll join me.