Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Historians have the ability to control our minds"

My cousin (on my mom's side) Nancy wrote this back in 1976 on the first of five index cards that I assume were prompts for some kind of oral presentation she was to give in school on the topic of a class paper she wrote on Michael Hillegas.

Michael Hillegas -- as you all know -- was the first Treasurer of the United States of America, as we're all taught in school.

When my cousin wrote her paper, she didn't have the luxury of going to the Internets to learn about Hillegas, so she and my aunt Grace sent away to the National Archives in D.C. for photocopies of relevant materials. My aunt recently sent me these materials, and Nancy's school paper.

In her index cards, Nancy continued: "Some of the writers who have prepared our history text books have been biased by their own religious and cultural backgrounds, thus depriving the readers of important facts of our nation's history."

Thanks, Cuz, for representin' back in the day for your newest little cousins James and Kristina, and for puttin' a shout out for the need for a more inclusive and representative historical narrative!* You must have known that little cousin Jimmy would grow up to be a historian! Also, I commend your deep understanding of some of the key factors that influence the practice of history (and all other cultural endeavors), particularly considering you were about 14 at the time. Bravo!

Below are images of a key once owned (I think?) by Michael Hillegas, or one of his descendants (not me). City of Portland Archivist (and fellow Northwest History Network member) Brian Johnson sent these images to me the other day.

* I know, I don't do this kind of slangy-talk very well.


1 comment:

  1. James:
    I'm sending a link to your Michael Hillegas article to Nancy. She will be pleased with your interest! When she was doing the
    research, the Philosphophical Society in Philadelphia sent the ORIGINAL materials (letters from Ben Franklin to Hillegas, etc) to the Siletz School librarian for Nancy to read. It was a large package and the librarian nearly had a stroke. He had never seen original materials like that before and was terrified something would happen to them. It was a big day in Siletz School whose library for grades 1-12 was housed in small, former classroom.

    Your Dad would also be proud that you wrote about Michael Hillegas. He was the original source of our knowledge of this "forgotten patriot", of course, and was really pleased when Nancy took an interest. For some reason, though, he was convinced that Michael Hillegas had no descendants. I think a distant cousin of your father's had written about Michael and included that bit of information. But the multitude of
    materials on the Internet now show that he definitely did have descendants. I have not seen a genealogy report so don't know at what
    point his tree branches out to yours.