July’s article, coming half-way through the year (as most things in July tend to do), is a rant of sorts… Hopefully not a rant of tantrum-throwing, foot-stomping proportions, but certainly one expressing a prevailing sense of frustration, hopelessness bordering on despair, and a [metaphorical] desire to grab some people by the nape of the neck and shake the living @#$& out of them…
Why, you may ask, are you so up in arms? This is a valid question, the answer to which is the subject of this month’s discussion.
For the eighteen months or so that I have written this monthly history blog, a common thread has (hopefully) run throughout… that those of us living in the Pinson Valley and its environs are truly fortunate to have the rich and varied history that we do. Our history has not always been pretty, and frequently, not for the faint of heart. But, you don’t get to choose your history any more than you get to choose your parents… So, it is what it is.
Moreover, each of is historically-situated, basically meaning that we are products of the times in which we live. As such, while we can (and should) debate, interpret, and learn from our particular histories. It is my opinion, however, that we should never try to rewrite it. Such whitewashing of documentable facts does a dis-service to the history itself. It is unfair to our forebears who lived (and often suffered) through the times that are being discussed. As such, we should never try to whitewash, obscure, or otherwise, attempt to obliterate particular times or occurrences in that history.
As each article took shape and, even afterwards, the words would stick inside – both in my head and in my heart…
Historians, however, are supposed to be able to take a scholarly step back; being dispassionate in their research and objective in the analysis and discussion of past events and the repercussions of said events. In other words, one should never take the events of history personally.
And therein lays the rub… Now, I get the objectivity part [I really do]. When I do research, I can step back and view the facts with the necessary degree of professional detachment.
What haunts me so is that there are so many people in our communities that, very simply, couldn’t care less about their history. They say such things as: “What’s past is past…”, “You have to keep moving forward to grow”, “Why should I care? I didn’t know those people”. Now, to be fair, some people don’t have the “gene”. They simply don’t get it. There are still others who don’t care. They don’t see the important lessons that history gives us about how to live our lives. They don’t understand why it is important to recognize the contributions of our ancestors and to appreciate their struggles. They don’t understand the continual connection that the past has with the present and the present with the future.
I think this indifference results in the almost universal fact that historical and genealogical societies, museums, cemetery preservation groups, and historical restoration and conservation projects are chronically saddled with little or no financial support. Active physical support is in almost as sad a shape and is typically limited to more [ahem] senior citizens of the community. Politicians often give lip service, but little substantive support (dead folks usually don’t vote or pay taxes). It is important to get as many of us as possible (especially the young) actively involved. We learn much from our history, we learn important lessons when we have deep conversations and experiences about our shared histories, and we almost always emerge as better people as a result.
This article is intended to provide accurate historical information to a general audience. Material contained herein is gathered from reputable online and traditional sources, but unless otherwise noted, is not the result of original scholarship or research by the author.
-E. E. (Skip) Campbell, Ph.D.
Skip Campbell retired from UPS in early 2012 after 38 years as a senior manager, working in numerous locations in the United States and abroad, with primary responsibilities in operations and industrial engineering. He received his BS degree in Applied Science and Operations Analysis from the University of Alabama and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering Management, Quality and Management,. Skip holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Development, with concentrations in Organizational Theory and Macroergonomics. Skip is a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and sits on the Board of Visitors for the College of Continuing Studies at the University of Alabama. Since retiring, Skip serves as an Adjunct Professor with the College of Continuing Studies (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) at the University of Alabama and focuses his academic research efforts on the area of pre-20th century Alabama history. Skip belongs to a number of historical and cemetery preservation associations. He and his wife Denise have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.
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