This past July, I participated in the NEH summer program called Rochester Reform Trail. Not only did I learn a lot about the city I call home, but I also learned that history is not just a list of dead people and dates: it can have a narrative and we interpret it through different lenses. Since the last formal history course I took was in 11th grade, I needed this reminder!
There are many exciting things that I learned during this workshop:
*Frederick Douglas was a rock star, even though he came from a time before rock stars were even a thing. He is the most photographed person of the 19th century. According to one of the lecturers during the NEH program, women threw themselves at him.
*The death of Sam Patch is what precipitated the evangelical movement that ran through Rochester.
*Sam Patch was really drunk when he performed his fatal jump off High Falls. This probably contributed to his death.
* The Oneida Community (utopia) were freaky.
*All of Susan B. Anthony’s letters were burned after her “official” biography came out.
The most important thing that I took from this workshop, however, is this:
I LOVE TO LEARN.
Because I wanted to continue this love of learning, especially, reading texts about history, I started a book club where we read nonfiction books.
When I first pitched the idea of the book club on Facebook, I thought I would be lucky if I got like 3 or 4 people interested. As of right now, there are 19 people signed up for the Facebook group and 8 people showed up for our first meeting last Friday at New Roots Coffeehouse in Greece.
Our first book was The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. It was a lot of fun to discuss (If you read the book, you will understand. Luckily, there were no children present.) Our discussion was lively and we laughed. One of the attendees commented afterwards that she “felt smart again”.
Our book club will be ongoing. My TBR pile of history books is growing. And I am happy to reactivate this part of my brain which has felt dormant for so long.