Monday, June 21, 2010

"the book of American heritage"

U.S. Census Bureau NRFU Update: As of Sunday, 6/20, 97 percent of census forms checked in to local census offices.

(Yes, I am a fan of the census bureau on facebook. Is anyone surprised?)

That's it, folks, most of the forms are in! If you didn't mail yours back I hope you were gracious to your non response enumerator. We actually got one at our door, inquiring about our neighbor... I think he was a little put off by my enthusiasm. Or maybe it was just our obnoxious dogs.

Anyway, I haven't forgotten about my census in american culture project. Now's the time to turn from enumeration to the amazing things we can do with those census results. When you hear that the census is a cornerstone of our democracy, it's not just about equal representation in Congress and equal funding. It's also about all American people having access to their own history.

Fictionalized or not, Alex Haley's Roots is our most influental and iconic story of geneologic discovery.
More than the sum of its historical and literary parts—some of which have been rigorously criticized and debunked—Haley’s quest for his roots changed the way black folk thought about themselves and how white America viewed them. No longer were we genealogical nomads with little hope of learning the names and identities of the people from whose loins and culture we sprang. Haley wrote black folk into the book of American heritage and gave us the confidence to believe that we could find our forebears even as he shared his own...
Haley’s Roots sparked curiosity among ordinary citizens by making the intricate relations between race, politics and culture eminently accessible. Long before demands for history from the bottom up became a rallying cry of progressive historians, Haley’s book practiced what it preached. And if he made missteps along the way, he nevertheless put millions of us on the right path to racial and historical knowledge that shaped our reckoning with the color line...
Each generation must make up its own mind about how it will navigate the treacherous waters of our nation’s racial sin. And each generation must overcome our social ills through greater knowledge and decisive action. Roots is a stirring reminder that we can achieve these goals only if we look history squarely in the face.
(From a new introduction to the book by Michael Eric Dyson, which you can read or listen to here.)

All made possible by the census!
Read the excerpt to see the beginning of Haley's journey. Yes, dusty old records are thrilling! (Click the page for a bigger image.)

And, just for fun. The theme music!

Next up, my own adventures with ancestry.

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