Tuesday, February 2, 2010
What were the viewpoints of enslaved African Americans? Until now, main-stream historians have rarely tuned-in to the African American perspective, while historical celebrites from presidents to army generals receive accolades. Local Germantown historians are trying to piece personal accounts together with exhibits and events that showcase the "real world" of history's unknown characters.
The National Park Service, Germantown Historical Society and Historic Germantown program have designed plans that include a focus on neighborhood involvement and building community pride.
Chief Officer Stephen Sitarski of the National Park Service works with local historical groups to configure effective ways to invite community residents into its historical sites, including the Germantown White House (formerly the Deshler-Morris House).
“It’s common to hear from African-Americans that they knew the site was famous, but never felt connected or welcome. A part of that is simply because they were not included in the story,” said Sitarski.
When the house opens in April, actors will portray President George Washington's enslaved servants including maid Oney Judge, head chef Hercules, horse-trainer Austin and servant Molly. Visitors will be able have discussions with these historical personas and learn about their experiences.
Historic Germantown's Program Director Anne Burnett works with the National Park Service and Historic Germantown on community historic events, including "A Great Day on the Great Road," an upcoming event in April. Burnett believes individual stories bring a compelling component to neighborhood historical celebrations.
"Personal stories from history will always have an impact on people and the less infamous people in history have powerful stories to tell. As we work with other historic groups, we're finding that with collaborative efforts we can do more than one individual site and try to find new ways to involve everyone," said Burnett.
Director of the Germantown Historical Society, Laura E. Beardsley, is looking forward to the Germantown Community History Festival on Sunday April 18. The event will involve a coalition of historical groups who will try to empower the community's sense of pride.
"I think anything that broadens Germantown's experience of its history and opens discussions about enslaved African American's of the time will have an impact. It's important to develop programs for a wide range of audiences. We try to accomplish that by coming together with local historical groups to produce our events."
By Meg Frankowski and Joshua Middleton, Group 24, Germantown/Mount Airy
Posted by Meg Frankowski at 9:50 PM