". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Reading Wednesday - Should I Bring Lee's Northern Invasion?

   . . . It rains, still.  This is good for the botanicals.  However this dark, wet and dismal atmosphere isn't helping with the post-election blues -- nay -- even terrors -- conjured up by the proposed cabinet nominations.  Even el V in sunny Cuba is depressed. The Travelers got off yesterday AM for home.  He'd like to come home too, instead of waiting for his ticketed departure of Sunday. For one thing it's currently too hot for this time of the year.  Climate change wherever one is.  Projections are that Cuba will drown all around the coast and through the middle, breaking it into two much smaller islands. For another the prospect of having the US take away Cuba from him again, just as he's totally at home and feeling seamlessly back in Havana, is very hard for him to bear.  Future prospects at home aren't any better.  Every time the Dems lose the White House we lose our ways of making a living.

Hotel Riviera, built by gangster Mayer Lansky, on the Malecón.  I cannot count the number of times I've had this view.
On the other hand it gives him great comfort to be in Havana, sitting on the Malecón and being able to breathe fully the sea air, seeing friends, and currently having some time to himself to readjust his head, maybe get some writing done.  US publications keep trying to get him to write something bout the monumental event taking place while he was there from the gitgo to witness it. Tonight he addresses a class of Sarah Lawrence students having a fall quarter in residence in Cuba on the history of Cuba and Cuban music. They'll take him out to dinner afterwards.

    . . .The book I'm currently reading struggling with is an anthology of academic articles: African Americans in Pennsylvania: Shifting Historical Perspectives (1997), edited by Joe William Trotter Jr. and Eric Ledell Smith, published by Pennsylvania State University.  Whatever the topic of the article, the focus is on quantification.  Thus many charts, graphs and statistics, thus very useful, particularly for me, the article by Leroy T. Hopkins, "No Balm in Gilead: Lancaster's African American Population and the Civil War."

In  the summer of 1863, during the Lee's invasion, Lancaster faced imminent plundering by the Army of Northern Virginia. Buchanan, so much responsible for this war in the first place, sent his family and servants to Harrisburg, which was being threatened by another CSA army, as was York.  He remained in Wheatland, with his loyal housekeeper, surrounded by staunch Masonic friends who entrenched around the estate to defend him to the end.

The invasion was of tremendous concern to the African Americans in Lancaster whether born free or self-emancipated, as the army was grabbing every African American it found for personal gain by sale down south or to be put to work in the army.  Fortunately Union forces -- many local citizen volunteers -- succeeded burning the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge across the Susquehana in time (it was barely possible, and just in time). Lee's army was diverted to Gettysburg as the ground he had not chosen as the best site to battle the Union defending forces.

This is an exciting story that takes place in a gorgeous landscape filled with prosperous farms, towns and small cities.  However, the text of the articles in this book lacks any quality that could remotely be called engaging. But we need our facts, ma'am, and so we persevere, and do so with thanks to those who made the anthology.

    . . . In the meantime, for textual engagement, the latest in Cornwell's Saxon Stories, The Flame Bearer, waiting for me.* Will he ever retake Bebbanburg, his ancestral home, stolen from him by his treacherous uncle?  This postponed, diverted life goal of Uhtred the Protagonist has been dangled in front of we readers for so long I lost interest in this mcguffin many books back.

* For some reason this series keeps getting re-named which for some reason keeps annoying me.  It's It started as the Saxon Chronicles, or the Warrior Chronicles, I think.  It's now also called The Last Kingdom series, after the BBC-Netflix television adaptation. -- which is currently, at least after the first season, my absolute favorite television series.

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