Overlooked No More, ‘Skipped History’ Explores Forgotten Events
An extensive amount of research, including videos, goes into each episode. How do you find all the elements that you include?
I’ll read a book that maybe a historian has recommended to me or that has gotten a lot of notice or just sounds interesting. And I look for moments or people or ideas that I didn’t know about, that just make me catch my breath and are astounding.
For example, how is it possible that a racist German statistician in the 1890s wrote a deeply flawed book on race and crime statistics, and then these statistics and his analysis spread around the U.S. to the point that police departments still unwittingly cite his analysis to justify tactics like stop-and-frisk?
I’ll look for moments like that and ask myself: How is this possible? Because it seems fitting. It seems in line with the currents of U.S. history. But it also seems so outrageous and it’s something that maybe other people would be interested in learning.
Why is it important to tell these stories?
In 1970, James Baldwin wrote a letter to Angela Davis in which he said, “What has happened, it seems to me, and to put it far too simply, is that a whole new generation of people have assessed and absorbed their history, and, in that tremendous action, have freed themselves of it and will never be victims again.”
And I think that’s revealing of the empowering nature of history and how it can be really joyous and fulfilling to learn.
Why do you think a lot of this history has been skipped?
I would borrow a phrase from historian Tiya Miles, who describes “the conundrum of the archives,” that is how the historical record tends to relate what people in power want it to relate. I love and admire historians for conducting an unheralded form of resistance and combing through archives to reveal what many people would rather we never knew. In turn, it’s a joy to bring those stories to life in a different way on “Skipped History” and shine more light on historians’ work.