APG-L ArchivesArchiver > APG > 2008-02 > 1204334674
Subject: Re: [APG] OT: EE Ad
Date: Fri, 29 Feb 2008 19:24:34 -0600
> So what do you make of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. who is not only a
> history professor but an ardent supporter of genealogy? Is he an
> anomaly? Do you think his nationally visible support and encouragement
> of family history research will change how other traditional historians
> view our discipline?
Skip Gates has been a strong academic supporter of genealogy--as well as an
ardent public promoter. Technically, however, his field is African-American
Studies rather than history. His B.A. is in history (summa cum laude,
Harvard), but his master's and doctoral studies were in English Lit, which
is a different academic culture in most academic settings. (That field is
far enough removed from "family history" that those who follow it do not
have to feel threatened by grievous offenses to scientific research
principles [cf. yesterday's discussion] committed in the name of "family
history.") Gates has also included in his scholarly-press publications at
least one piece of excellent writing by a Certified Genealogist, Dr. Kathy
Flynn, based on her NGSQ article on the runaway slave, Jane Johnson.
Academic history, curiously but not surprisingly, has applied dual standards
to genealogy since the Roots era. It recognizes the tremendous value of
genealogy to African-American families, even while it scoffs at the
"elitism" and "pretensions" that, in the minds of many, characterize
"traditional genealogy." (Somewhat in their defense, that characterization
was valid 100 years ago. To some small extent, we do still see it today in
articles and ads that tout genealogical connections to the rich and famous.)
For the past 18 years, not coincidentally, the _National Genealogical
Society Quarterly_ has earned some acceptance in academic history circles.
(It's been university-based since 1987, when Gary and I first persuaded the
University of Alabama to let its history department be its academic home.
That cracked the door a bit and, after I gave up the Q and passed it to Tom
and Claire, the Q has been at Gallaudet University, where Tom was a
professor of note.) More to the point of African-American history: since
1990, NGSQ's journal articles have been included in academic calendars of
"recent scholarship," such as those published by the _Journal of American
History_ and the _Journal of Southern History._ We achieved that, not
coincidentally, by convincing fellow editors in history that journal
articles such as those by Curtis Brasfield and Del Jupiter, showing how to
reconstruct African-American families, would be of equal value to historians
studying African American issues. From that exposure to NGSQ, the preparers
of those calendars eventually began including other NGSQ articles in their
compilations of "Recent Scholarship."
Meanwhile, NEHGS has done its part to bridge the chasm between genealogists
and historians in New England, establishing relationships built on mutual
respect with such renowned historians as David Hackett Fischer, Laurel
Thatcher Ulrich, and Gloria Mains Jackson.
All of which leads back to Judy's observation: On a positive, we *have* made
some progress in having the value of genealogy recognized by historians. But
we sure have a long way to go!