Witnesses to history

Witnesses to history

It’s been 50 years since the March on Washington. That’s nearly 8 years since I learned the story myself, out of a history textbook. The New York Times published a multimedia piece in honor of the anniversary and they did a fabulous job in an area that so commonly rubs historians the wrong way – the story telling.


We talk about objectivity. In terms of reporting. The questions we ask. The sources we highlight. But there is also objectivity in the way the story is told, how we, as reporters, compile all of the information together and what storyboard we lay. And in that sense, we try for objectivity, but strain to do so.


History therefore, written by man, may not be all that objective.


Our textbooks are full of selective memories based off of accounts and judgements of persons who may not have been first-hand witnesses to the events we document. They’re often told from the “average American.” The middle-class man with the family; the one who’s fluent in English but reminisces about where he came from. The wording  is risky. And it is too often that stories, culture and development is lost along the way.


That all changes with this piece.


The stories of strangers. Ordinary people. The world, and specifically the March on Washington through their eyes.


We get to know the story-tellers. The inclusion of their name and hometown make them appear all the more real, all the more like us and all the more relatable. There are photographs of artifacts and family. And they are placed appropriately so that they appear when we start to wonder what our characters/setting looks like.


Each blog is organized like its own beat, with its own headline. They are simplistic, but strong, and diction is chosen wisely, not just to fill space.


There is variety among bloggers. Whether its by age, gender or hometown. It gives a wide perspective, something a history book leaves out.


The project is also organized, with a categorized panel on its side to quickly access and scan through stories. Being visually pleasing aids to the high quality content found inside each post. It draws attention and captivates it.


History is retold and analyzed, but it has not been re-written to include personal accounts of people, whose stories are normally swept under generalizations that classify time periods, and historic movements, under one bolded heading.

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