Radical Roots of Public History: Social Justice Activism Within the Historical Landscape
Dana Room, 4th Floor.
Historic sites, museums, archives, and monuments are neither neutral nor objective. Many were established to strengthen tradition, reinforce the cultural authority of elites, and inhibit change. Today, these sites have become the focal point of protest, symbols in a larger fight for inclusiveness and equality.
In this talk, Dr. Denise Meringolo identifies a different, less well-documented history of social justice activism among historians. She will focus on those who understood the practices of collecting, preserving, analyzing, and interpreting the past as entirely compatible with –even necessary for—productive political discourse, and embraced the potential of their work to promote social justice. Drawing on her research and collaborative work on projects like Preserve the Baltimore Uprising, an online digital repository on the protests against police brutality that followed the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, Meringolo will identify how historical inquiry has been put to the task of advancing change. She will raise important questions about the nature, limitations, and conditions of social justice oriented historical work. And, she will ask us to consider the ways in which the invisibility of this history has prevented us from fully theorizing civic engagement as a core practice of historical professionalism.