I want everyone to care about stories that aren’t their own, that aren’t necessarily what they think they could relate to, or that aren’t what they fantasize about being. While reading Gender and Jim Crow, I was reminded of how difficult it is to find those types of stories. As Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of the recently released nonfiction book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, said at the lecture I attended last week at the Free Library of Philadelphia, we don’t know the stories of people who couldn’t read or write, who were literate but had no money to spend on pen and paper, who weren’t learned enough or high-ranking enough to be published in a newspaper, or who had no descendants to whom they pass down photos or oral histories of their family.
Author’s note: This essay is part of the #52Essays2017 series. Every week in 2016, Vanessa Mártir published one essay on her blog. After a phenomenal year of challenges and growth as a writer, she invited other writers in various communities she’s a part of to join her as she endeavors to write weekly, relentlessly, again in 2017. I’m in on the challenge because I saw how very little space I gave personal reflection in 2016. This is my thesis semester, and I expect some challenges and growth as I write it. The weekly essay challenge provides a space to document that growth (though I’m already thinking I might screw with the genre a little).