Uncomfortable national dialogue is so important. I think bringing up history that is hard to talk about is one of the most important jobs a historian can have. Our academic training puts us in a great position to be able to talk about issues that are swept under the rug or skirted around in general. Slavery is one of these hot button issues that in my opinion, shouldn’t be a hot button issue.
Through all of these essays in Slavery and Public History a general theme kept popping up in my head. This theme was that it is okay to critique America and admit that our country has committed atrocious acts of violence. By admitting this through public conversations, museums and exhibits, classroom settings in college and throughout k-12 education. As John Hope Franklin said, “we should never forget slavery. We should talk about it every morning and every day of the year to remind this country that there’s an enormous gap between its practices and its professions.” (pg. 37)
As long as public history displays and reenactments are done in a matter that is accepted and approved by the people it is about, I think painful reenactments can be useful. Public history efforts that are meant for audiences to be made uncomfortable can start conversations and affect people on a personal level. Exhibits, displays, and reenactments shouldn’t exist just for shock value exclusively. They should exist to change perceptions, popular belief, and deep-seeded personal prejudices. By displaying or teaching about the painful truth in historical homes and adding historical black figures to the history of places and objects like the Liberty Bell and the first White House, all spark important conversations about race relations in America and bring forth an inclusive historical narrative. This inclusive historical narrative is the most important factor lacking in American culture. Historians shouldn’t just focus on making sure that people know who owned slaves and where they slept at night, but we should also be educating people on black excellence and the ways that they shaped America in general. Black history shouldn’t be contained to a month, it should be deeply ingrained in every aspect of American history.