History is a balm for the soul, an enriching antidote to the ills of modern society. The beholder of history can spin tales, write songs and make speeches that inspire.
That’s why it’s important to celebrate, not just history, but historians. For they are the ones who toil among the book stacks and microfilm, who root in the attics, to tell instructive stories of our past.
A recent Sunday article on black historians highlighted a few names and their work.
Ralph E. Hunter, founder of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey is one. Hunter, 81, has told the stories of Atlantic City’s Northside since arriving in 1954.
His work on capturing the power of the city’s black community during its heyday still resonates.
Bernadette Matthews, chair of the Stephen Smith House in Cape May has been fascinated by black history since she can first remember.
Matthews, 70, who lives in Cape May, is executive director of the Center for Community Arts. She oversees the Stephen Smith House. The house was named after a key figure in the local Underground Railroad site that helped blacks escape north during and before the Civil War.
Also featured was Wendel A. White, who is a photography and American studies professor at Stockton University. As was Mike Santiago, author of a book that chronicles “African American Firsts in the City of Bridgeton.”
We point out these works as examples of fine storytelling and the value it brings to communities. May they also serve as a reminder that it is time to nurture a next generation of storytellers so they will be ready to pick up the torch.
May they see in the works here and elsewhere the power of sharing community stories. Stories can guide us, shape our lives and provide context to modern events. Telling these stories can be opportunities for artists and businesses to inform and guide community discussions.
Whether those next stories are told in photos, text books, Instagram accounts or on Netflix matters little. Here’s to history and those who help share it.