A New Face for an Old Library Catalog

February 15, 2024

We were at work in the Johns Hopkins Libraries “ArchivesSpace,” reviewing materials in the “Hopkins Family Collection,” and came across this message: “We are committed to correcting and contextualizing these records as we identify them, and we invite you to contact us at specialcollections@lists.jhu.edu if you encounter harmful language in our finding aids or collections.” A bit more searching and we landed here at the Johns Hopkins Libraries “Statement Regarding Harmful Content.”

Back for Spring 2024: Watch. Read. Join Us.

February 1, 2024

At Hard Histories we understand the powerful and necessary role that imagination plays in our research. Not only does imagination permit us to develop new theories about the past, it leads us to search for answers in places that other historians have not yet explored. We also take seriously how those about whom we write — those held enslaved in Mr. Hopkins’s household or resident in the hospital’s orphan asylum — imagined themselves as whole persons even when other might deny that possibility. Who better than Baltimore’s own poet, the late Lucille Clifton, to remind us how imagination is at the core of what makes us human.

Beyond the Reckoning

December 21, 2023

An important question arose again and again during our September meeting, “Baltimore’s Hard Histories.” “What comes after the reckoning?” many of us wanted to understand. We made note of the many terms used to characterize the future: Repair, healing, restitution, redress, compensation, and reconciliation. One term — reparations — surfaced again and again. It has organic meanings rooted in the history of slavery and abolition. More recently, it has organized the work of activists, analysts, and scholars in our own time. Today, reparations is animating the deliberations of state lawmakers.

“Scenes of Subjection” from the Household of Johns Hopkins

November 30, 2023

In her now classic article, “Venus in Two Acts,” Dr. Saidiya Hartman sets out the dilemmas that slavery researchers confront, especially those of us who place enslaved people at the center of our inquiries. One we can term methodological: What can we say when left with an archival record that is shard-like, fractured, and constructed with the interests of enslavers in mind. The other is ethical: When we confront the subjection of enslaved people in the archive, don’t we risk extending, continuing, and repeating that same subjection when we construct narratives that conjecture, invent, and even substitute our own assumptions for those of enslaved people, for those of people whose subjectivity we cannot easily know?

What We’re Reading….

November 23, 2023

For your long-weekend reading, here is a collection of short pieces — many from our Lab members and our colleagues at the SNF Agora Institute — that we’ve been looking forward to get to.

Looking for Us at Hard Histories?

November 16, 2023

You can always connect with us here on the Substack, or by tuning in on our Webinar series. What’s new for 2023-24 is our work in Europe — Berlin and Paris especially. This year, we’re launching a new phase of our research, one that invites lab members, and you our followers, to think about the practice of hard history in a comparative perspective.

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