Jan. 23, 2013 – Style versus Message

I read two more historical pieces on black history in Canada this week.  One was from 1864 and the other more recent, from 1955.  Both continued to support my theory about historical writing linking in style to societal movements of their times.  However, both also showed deviations from my theory that the message contained in black history in Canada was consistent over time.

The piece published in 1864 was an American work by S.G. Howe. It was commissioned by the U.S. government to study black success in Canada West – today’s Ontario – as the U.S. prepared to deal with their plans for emancipation, which had been put in place the previous year.  As a report, it had a scientific tone, which links it to the Enlightenment style.  But in the Romantic style, it included the author in the narrative.  However, the message was less positive about the situation of blacks in Canada than many Canadian-authored works of the time.  While it confirmed that blacks were well supported under Canadian law, it found that prejudice and the climate were major roadblocks to black success and contentment in Canada.

The piece published in 1955 appears to be by a Canadian: Ruth Danenhower Wilson.  It was an article in the Negro History Bulletin and is the most recent work I have studied for this project.  As a 20th century publication, it seems to follow my theory about style and reflect the Realist movement by excluding the ‘self’ from the narrative and by taking an empirical tone.  However, it seems to have a negative view of black’s experience in Canada, speaking of the rampant prejudice towards blacks.  This is a message that becomes common in the 1960s and onwards, but, with it, Wilson seems to be an early adopter of this message in Canada.

This week I also confirmed the outline of my historiographical essay, and started writing the introduction.  One thing that came up in this initial paragraph is that I wish to say that black history has been criticized for being buried in Canada.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at black historical writing in early Canada.  So to substantiate this claim I want to look briefly at how much history, by comparison, was written about whites and possibly aboriginals in Canada during these same time periods.

This week I want to do this comparison to white and aboriginal history, and I want to go back to my online exhibit, to consider how I want it to be structured.


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