How does one become a Public Historian?
I didn't know there was such a thing either when I first started down this journey. I was 35, I already had a Master in Writing and I loved History, but I definitely did not see more school...and another Masters in my future. I told myself, Ph.D. or bust if it ever came down to it.
Luckily God has a way of showing us that whatever we think is minuscule to what He has in store.
From the time I was five, I was enthralled by stories my grandmother had told me about her great-grandmother. She was rumored to be Native American and came from Alabama and my grandma had such vivid memories of how she looked, the things she ate, and the day that she died. I grew up wanting to know more about this mysterious woman, but it wasn't just her. I wanted to know everything! I wanted to know who built our Victorian house, what my elementary school originally looked like, and where Cleopatra was buried. So, I dove into books; reading and reciting every historical fact I could find to anyone in my family who would listen. I looked up our deed in our county clerk's office, and I watched and read every single show and book that there was about Cleopatra. I even started researching my family tree and found out my 3X great-grandma was more likely bi-racial than Native American. And I kept all this up, throughout my teen and adult years but...I did not consider at that time going to school for history. I started doing other things like...going to high school for classical voice, attempting to go to law school (and failing), and then getting a Master's in Professional Writing. Yet, the love of history never died in me.
The writing was actually the thing that opened up this door because as I was starting to submit pitches to magazines for various topics, I pitched to a local magazine on the importance of African Americans doing genealogy to connect to long-lost relatives. The passion that I poured into that one article became a series. The series developed a following, and then I joined a genealogical society...and one day I got tapped to speak on beginning genealogy at a conference. Through more serendipitous connections, I was asked to be the historian of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and I became more connected to my community.
Then in the Spring of 2019, a friend asked me to come to her history class, and the rest was history (no pun intended). I skipped through some of how this all happened because, you know, time. However, the bottom line is that which is meant for you cannot be escaped and I'm so glad I couldn't keep running away from what I love.
So, now I'm here to say: read more books, ask more questions, and eat your vegetables.
More to come...