No one understands history like those who have lived it. Oral histories are recorded or transcribed memories—often of everyday people—that capture unique personal perspectives available nowhere else. These valuable records reveal facets of history that are not recorded elsewhere, like the daily lives and struggles of formerly enslaved men and women who were rarely allowed to learn to read or write.” —At the Woodlawn Stone Barn Visitor Center, Montgomery County, Maryland
Due soon in the first issue of The Porch Magazine is an article I wrote about local history. The quote above is displayed at Woodlawn Stone Barn Vistor Center, one of several local historical sites that communicates stories and presents artifacts from the 18th and 19th Centuries.
When Maryland was still a state in which humans enslaved other humans, slaveholders didn’t want to hear the stories of the people they snatched and sold. But years later, we can read these stories from the vantage point of those who lived them. The dry facts become embodied. The histories become real again.
Truth becomes perceptible and accessible through direct experience and accounts of the direct experiences of others, and there’s no substitute for these knowledge sources. Simply: we can know more as we pay closer attention to the stories our predecessors have left behind.