[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Kinds of trouble historical authors face

Apr 09, 2008 05:16 AM
by kpauljohnson

--- In, Drpsionic@... wrote:
> Yes, it is good to have you back and we can't wait to see what kind 
of trouble this book will get you into.
> And yes, I'm having fun.

Howdy Chuck,

I'm hoping that the worst that can happen already has.  One of my 
main sources, a lifelong resident of the area my grandparents left as 
children, a fellow who slogged with me through swamps looking for 
graves and shared his voluminous research files with me, got 
extremely hateful and rejecting after seeing an early draft, and 
demanded that his name be removed from the book.  These things 
happen, people you feel kinship with turn against you because of your 
take on history, but this one was an extreme case.  I recount it here 
because it has a certain resonance with my Theosophical experience.

His first objection was that certain things might be true, but ought 
not to be told in books and that people in Bertie County will be 
furious when they see it in a book.  He was one of my main sources 
for figuring out illegitimate births, but balked at being named in a 
book saying so-and-so was a bastard.  Understood; he lives there and 
has to deal with the flack.  Still, it really stung to be told that I 
had no right to write about my own family history because of the 
sensibilities of the people who still live in the place my 
grandparents left over a hundred years ago.

Objection number two was that I gave any credence whatsoever to the 
research of Paul Heinegg, who demonstrates that the 19thc Free 
Mulatto population of eastern North Carolina was largely descended 
from 17thc African/European marriages in Virginia.  He was willing to 
admit that we might be part Indian, but to even mention the 
possibility that we might be part African-- DO NOT PUT THAT IN A 

Objection number three was that I used "other people's research" and 
had no right to do so.  Example: Miriam told me that my gg 
grandfather John Hughes was the illegitimate son of Wiley Askew.  She 
happened to have told me that on a yahoo group that I moderate, in 
response to a direct question from me.  Nonetheless, Miriam owns that 
fact, this gentleman has the authority to tell me not to use it in my 
book, despite that fact that John Hughes and Wiley Askew are MY 
ancestors, not his or Miriam's.  He lives there, he OWNS the facts 
about history that occurred there, and even though these facts are 
about my ancestors and not his, I have no right to write about them.

Objection number four was that one of my subjects had already been 
written about very much and thus I was trespassing on previous 
authors (including himself, natch) who had written about him, if I 
tried to add anything to the discussion. To some extent I'm stating 
the implications of his remarks, but mostly they were outright 

This is just one case, out of dozens of folks who are embracing the 
book (so far); but in light of my past experience I've been very 
worried about the power of one infuriated individual or two to stir 
up antagonism against me over historical issues.

Ten years ago I swore off ever writing about religion again due to 
the risks involved.  And soon thereafter jumped right into writing 
about race-- frying pans and fires come to mind!


[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application