I try to find hope in struggle and resistance in small places as much as I can. — Danny Glover
In 1991, Dangerous Memories, the book from which this section originates, was published. Its intent then, as now, was to challenge readers to examine their knowledge and assumptions about the history of a certain time and place; to become critical of their knowledge base and to begin to confront the ways we are all affected and influenced by our understandings.
The book has been updated and includes links to tens of dozens of resources: internet and YouTube videos. The original bibliography is included, but to this listing is a new annotated bibliography for more in depth exploration.
The material presented in these pages is meant to challenge us to understand and appreciate American history from vantage points to which many of us have not been privileged. Furthermore, it is meant to help us realize how present economic, social and cultural realities of the lives of all Americans, the dominant and disenfranchised, are intimately connected to the events described.
These pages are meant to engage us in serious reflection on and questioning our perspectives, ultimately leading us to a clearer realization of the way we are also actors today in maintaining or altering that history and those realities. With Tolstoy, we must ask, “What then must we do?”
These pages will undoubtedly raise strong reactions. A deep level of engagement is required to make this history come alive and be a catalyst for change. “Dangerous memories” remain dangerous only if they are not allowed to emerge and be heard.
Memories frame perspectives. These pages are meant to frame new perspectives in places where the old ones have fooled us—and failed us.
Comments on Dangerous Memories
This is a dangerous book: it imperils long-accepted fictions and half-truths about the “discovery” of the “new world.” It digs deep into our common past, Europeans’ and colored peoples’, haves’ and have-nots’, during the past five centuries. It is bottom-up history challenging the tickle-down versions we have so long been spoon-fed. The work of Eduardo Galeano comes to mind: Dangerous Memories has the same revelatory excitement.
Studs Terkel, author, social commentator, political activist, radio personality
How history is told is as important as whose history gets told. The authors of this volume have done us all an immense service by retelling the story…of evisceration of Caribbean and other people of color. And they have done so in a way that makes a peoples’ history come alive in its terrifying anguish, pain and brutality. The authors tell us that it’s a dangerous thing to remember. Because to remember the commonality of suffering is to become empowered! To remember the strange mixture of God, religion, and mass murder in the “discovery” of the “new world” is indeed a dangerous thing. For African Americans to remember that they share a common heritage of struggle—against the same enemy—with their Caribbean and Latin American brothers and sisters is a dangerous thing. Dangerous to remember that at the same time that Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey were leading slave revolts in the U.S. South, Juan Santos Atahualpa was getting even with Spanish invaders in the South American Andes and the maroons of Jamaica and Brazil were resisting violence and death from the safe house communities they ad built in the countryside.
This book is not only a timely recall of facts largely left unsaid, it is an embrace of the righteousness of struggle, a celebration of a peoples’ will to resist.
Bernard D. Headley, Chair, Criminal Justice Department, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago
I think this is the best resource guide that has become available for how to teach the quincentennial, for parents and teachers and other people of conscience. It is only by learning our true histories that will be able to situate ourselves in the world today, and when we have learned where we have been as a people that we can begin moving forward in less destructive ways.
Jan Elliott, Director, Committee for American Indian History and Editor, Indigenous Thought
A fascinating book….It pulls together a history we don’t know. As we begin taking a look at events in history, the recognition of the part of the people in the formation of this society is usually absent. Dangerous Memories provides some ways to look at the people on whose backs this country was formed. The exercises are helpful because they translate into the possibility of controlling our own behavior.
Faith Smith, Member of the Ojibway/Chippewa Nation, Present, Native American Education Service
Dangerous Memories is at once a painful and inspiring social collage. Unlike the wooden, no-anger-here prose of so many textbooks, this book sings and cries with humanity!
Bill Bigelow, Co-editor, Rethinking Columbus, Teacher, Portland, Oregon
…a brave piece of work which presents events with honesty, from the perspective of the ones who were invaded and slandered and repressed for centuries. I think that it is very important that names like Macaela Bastidas, the Queen Anacaona, and Lautaro should be taught as heroic resisters and not mentioned as mythological characters good for cartoons, or distorted in insignificant bites in textbooks. Our history, the history of the Native American continent, is a history of constant struggle, dignity, and love for life.
Carmen Aguilar, Storyteller and Teacher, Academy for Performing Arts, Chicago