A People’s River History – A Secret History of American River People

A People’s River History

Secret History seeks to examine both the historical context of lost river communities and the forces that displaced them. The project looks at the economic and social situation of still-existing river communities that have been largely abandoned by their populations. And it looks at modern efforts to gentrify and lock out underprivileged people from river corridors today.

Secret History intends to be a people’s history of the river, inspired by postmodern historians such as Howard Zinn who wrote in Declarations of Independence:

All written history is partial in two senses. It is partial in that it is only a tiny part of what really happened. That is a limitation that can never be overcome. And it is partial in that it inevitably takes sides, by what it includes or omits, what it emphasizes or deemphasizes. It may do this openly or deceptively, consciously or subconsciously.

And in A People’s History of the United States:

Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves… And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can “see” history from the standpoint of others.

In Secret History, I hope to reexamine the history of the river and the role that working class people have played in the development of the wealth of river communities, regional watersheds, and the nation. I am particularly drawn to the invisible stories of working people, women, native people, and people of color.

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