Evolution of a Historian

History is something I grew into. I majored in Humanities at Rhode Island’s Providence College – German and English literature. Then I went off to my adventure and love affair with the US Army as an intelligence analyst and had the good fortune to be selected for the Russian Foreign Area Officer Program. My Ph. D. at Georgetown University imparted an appreciation for the sweep of Russian history.

My First Book

I became a docent at Belle Grove Plantation when we moved to the Shenandoah Valley twelve years ago. Major Isaac Hite, the plantation’s builder, was said to have six grandsons who died fighting for the Confederacy. When I began researching, I discovered that one enlisted at 14 years of age and died before his fifteenth birthday. More accurately, four grandsons, plus two great-grandsons gave “the last full measure.” But nine more survived, and a great-grandson lost his arm fighting at nearby Fishers Hill.

I also discovered that there was no public education throughout the South until 1870; the “damned Yankees” introduced it as part of Reconstruction. That was my first book, War’s Cost: the Hites’ Civil War, and I was ‘hooked on history.” 

Bitten by History

I decided to write a book about my mother’s family, who we thought were Dutch. It turns out they were Walloons, French-speaking Huguenots, Protestants forced to flee to Leiden, The Netherlands due to religious persecution the same time the Pilgrims were there. This resulted in book two, Manhattan’s Walloon Settlers: Jesse DeForest’s Legacy.

A Story Uncovered

I have lived more than half a century in Virginia, but am aware no Virginian would let me claim to be a citizen of this state. About nine years ago, I audited a course in the state’s history. To my surprise, the professor emphasized racism. Aware of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, I could not rationalize them with the South’s Jim Crow laws and practices which disenfranchised most black citizens for nearly a century.

The story I uncovered in my third book, Collective Amnesia: American Apartheid — African Americans’ 400 Years in North America, 1619-2019is ghastly, documented in nearly 450 pages,  67 graphics, and 850 footnotes. It is radically and disturbingly different from what we were taught in school. 

Fascinated by this topic, I continued researching, resulting in a new book, African Americans in American History, 1526 – Present, which makes it clear that “Black history” is not an add-on, but an essential part of America’s history. White supremacy and racism had everything to do with its previous omission. The book has some 700 pages, supported by over 1,000 footnotes and 78 graphics.

I‘ve also completed a book for children with the same title likely to have far greater influence. It is critical that we teach authentic history, not the mythology embraced in the past. I’ve just found a publisher and an agent for Forbidden, Forgotten, Formidable: Blacks in America’s Wars. This too is a shocking story.

History is dynamic -– a living, breathing process vital to our future! I hope you will read my blogs. I welcome your input and comments.