I was really good at American history. I knew (still know) the U.S. Presidents in order. Of course, I knew about the end of the Civil War at Appomattox.
My (now late) friend Donna George was helping to plan the annual meeting of the Albany United Methodist Society, an entity that has food and clothing programs, a few years back. Donna was very excited that the event was planned for “Juneteenth”. I nodded.
I had NO idea what she was talking about.
The Civil War may have ended in April 1865, but the WORD took a while to reach the whole country. And in Texas, it wasn’t until June 19 until the news came down that the war was over and that the slaves were free.
Why did I not know this until my forties? What else did I miss out on?
Somehow, this reminded me of something I remember reading in library school, probably in the 601 (introductory) course. Daniel Boorstin, the former Librarian of Congress, who died a couple years ago, was a very prolific writer. One of the things he said, and this is HEAVILY paraphrased, is that information disappears in a number of ways. One is by war and conquest, when to the victor belongs not only the spoils, but the chance to write (and rewrite) history.
Another is by changing technology. Think of some great album (LP) you owned that’s NOT on CD, or an old movie that’s NOT on DVD or even video. Remember the information on reel-to-reel tapes, which would be very difficult to access; or all the microfiche for which readers are harder and harder to come by.
So, here’s to the preservationists:
Those archaeologists who are going to find out about those folks recently disinterred during construction in Menands.
Those folks in Save the Pine Bush and similar groups that believe in biodiversity.
Those folks in Hollywood and DC saving our literally deteriorating film history.
A special thanks to my friends Paul and Mary Liz Stewart, who are preserving the history of the Underground Railroad in Albany through a series of tours each summer. Future tours will take place this year on June 26, July 24, August 21, September 18, and October 9, starting at 2:00 from the Albany Area Heritage Visitor’s Center at Quackenbush Square.
They have also purchased a building that was pivotal in the UGRR movement in Albany and are in the midst of restoring it.
Finally, on this 140th anniversary, thanks to the Juneteenth descendants who have kept this piece of history alive..