Personal posts by public historian, Rose O'Keefe
More on tell the truth
More on 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. It is a slow but compelling read. Out of the ten-thousand-and-one facts listed, I keep going back to one. In May 1539 when Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa Bay, Florida, he arrived with 600 soldiers, 200 horses and 300 pigs. The soldiers built barges and crossed the Mississippi River near (today’s) Memphis. De Soto and his soldiers were the first to glimpse pre-contact native North America. They were also the first Europeans in the area for over 100 years.
In 1682, when Robert Cavelier de La Salle traveled down the Mississippi, fifty settlements noted in De Soto’s day had shrunk to ten. By the time de la Salle arrived, disease had wiped countless natives out. How? Small pox and measles would have wiped out De Soto’s soldiers as well. It was the pigs.
In keeping with the theme of “Tell the truth and shame the devil” The Water Is Wide, is Pat Conroy’s account of his year teaching on Yamacraw Island, S. C. His own growth from a dyed-in-the-wool conventional thinker about race to a staunch advocate for the lowliest of the low is heart-wrenching and heart-warming.
I love good reads like Gary Paulsen’s fiction and non-fiction. Once I start certain books though, I feel compelled to finish them. One of those slow reads is Blackface Nation: Race, Reform, and Identity in American Popular Music, 1812-1925, by Brian Roberts. The beginning of the book seemed so bawdy, I wondered if I’d made a mistake. Then it shifted. If you’ve ever decried the sexualization of advertising to change the public’s mind, it begins here. It is a sobering read.
Another is America’s First Frontier: New York’s Pioneers and Their Fight for Freedom, by Francis Whiting Halsey. The Halsey name has local connections around Trumansburg and Rochester, NY, so I wanted to find out what the author had to say. This book was first published in 1901. The reprint in 2020 is by HVA Press in Warwick, NY. I checked, and it’s near the New Jersey state line. While I have been open to versions of history written with a strong slant, this one tested my open-mindedness because it is so pro-Protestant preaching in the Mohawk region. It is also anti-native, and lists lots of settlers whose names mean little now unless you have a strong interest. Even so, Halsey wrote a remarkable tribute to Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. I also kept wishing for a map.
As for a third, I’m still treading through 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. What an amazing re-write of conventional history! I understand the need to tell the complete story-but. At over 400 pages, with small print, this one is tough on the eyes and I need to take it in small doses.
Time to Heal
I’ve just finished three books about Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan founder of the Green Belt Movement and the first African Woman to win a Nobel Prize, in 2004. The first book, Wangari Muta Maathai, (2018) in the How I Changed the World series, is a MG biography that I thought would be a fast, easy and cheerful. What a wake-up call about the challenges, setbacks and hardships she faced. The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience (2003) was more of a manual detailing the ten steps toward creating working tree nurseries to empower rural women and men to reclaim their deforested lands. The third, Unbowed: A Memoir (2006) is a dense and at times disturbing account of her unrelenting path towards democracy, dignity and equality first for her beloved rural Kenyans and then beyond. The environmental effect colonization wrought across Africa contrasts badly with Maathai’s family's traditional links to the land. It made me think of what colonization did all across North and South America. It’s time to heal in so many ways.
My second appearance on the Carla Murphy Show
Appearance on Carla Murphy Show
Hello, History Friends,
I recently had the pleasure of speaking on The Carla Murphy Show Uniquely Different
On The Personal Side Part 2
My heroes: Joan of Arc, a Pacific Islander girl Karana and her dog Rontu, and Martin de Porres.
I used to read comic books like Archie and Veronica, Superman but between 1957 and 1961, I read French Catholic comic books of the lives of the saints. That’s how Joan of Arc, patron saint of France, became my shero.
For my 10th birthday I received a copy of The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and kept it for years, weeping every time I read it.
A biography of Martin de Porres touched me deeply. He was a lay monk who lived in 16th-century Lima and is the patron saint of mixed-race people and those who seek racial justice. He’s a life-long hero.
I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott several summers in a row, and Anne of Green Ga
On The Personal Side Part 1
Family Facts: Three sisters and three brothers, one son and one daughter; one grandson and one granddaughter.
My husband and I have had four dogs and about 10 cats. I’ve kept a compost pile for 45 years.
Favorite books from when I was a girl:
Anderson’s Fairy Tales and Peter Rabbit
Several of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables