What is history without historical documentation?

I always have approached history and historical documentation as if I was color blind, and I have always tried to seek learning from the best books. From the time I was very young, I was a Saturday morning regular at my local library's history section.
I have studied over and above what was required in history.  As I began to research my own genealogy over 26 years ago, I recognized I had been cheated out of a real education in history. Who in the world decided that textbooks and lectures could exclude so much historical documentation and replace with it with man's interpretation of history?  Original documentation and oral history are the REAL history.

 A people's history of the United States - Howa...Image by bowbrick via Flickr

I feel like I am only beginning to grasp American history.  I know that it is not too late, but I look back in regret as I consider some of the decisions I would have made differently had I known the truths which I am now discovering.  Even more disheartening is the fact that I would have paid more close attention to the things my elders tried to admonish me to do.  One thing my father always rehearsed was, "Pay cash for everything.  Never use credit."  My father purchased new cars with cash. He left no mortgages.  In fact, he owned several homes that he either built or purchased.

This meant sacrifice on the part of my family, but he always said, "Always live BELOW your means, then you can do it."  My father stands as a shining example to me when I think of the danger of credit and debt.  There was not a frivolous bone in hs body.

I came into 2011 with a desire to identify the social, political, economic, and other areas where we have not recognized freedom.  We have reason to celebrate the shackles that came off as the result of the Civil War and Emancipation, but we must not continue to avoid defining and embracing every inclusive aspect of freedom.  We are not completely free, and different ones of us are free to a different extent.  Therefore, we have much work to do.

Not only do we live with the residue of slavery, but also certain immigrants to this country by choice were enslaved when they came in search of freedom.  When I think of the sacrifice of my parents to provide a private school education for me and the fact that I was never introduced to the truths in the documents which are now being shared with me, I shudder and feel cheated.

As I reflect on the many people who cannot find an immigrant ancestor on the US Census and as I read the accounts of those trapped in peonage whose families never heard from them and did not have money sent home to them, my heart aches as I wonder if the answers lie in the number of peonage records such as sworn statements, bogus fines, federal indictments, etc. 

For those of you who have not been following, About Peonage, I will write about the latest documents shared by genealogist and peonage researcher, Antoinette Harrell, which document immigrants who suffered peonage. It will be posted later today.

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