Wednesday, 09 February 2011 20:25

Kate Masur Author Event

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Anise Jenkins at Kate Masur Author Event Anise Jenkins at Kate Masur Author Event

Washington became an example for all the land not only because Congress experimented with politics here, but also because local residents saw slavery’s end as an opportunity to transform the city.” -Kate Masur, “An Example for All the Land.”

The National Archives in Washington DC is best known for its massive amount of holdings, which include genealogy materials and original copies of documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights.  The Archives also holds free noontime author events. I went to my first one there yesterday in the Jefferson Room.

Kate Masur discussed her new book, “An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, DC.”  Taking up most of the chairs, an audience of about 50 attended.

I haven’t read all of her book yet, but Masur’s presentation was excellent.  It had been over 50 years since someone conducted a major study of Washington during Reconstruction.

Showing the cover of her book, she explained it represents a slice of black life in Washington in 1866.  African-Americans demanded changes for a better way of life, even before legislation was proposed. She calls these “upstart claims.”

The setting of the front cover is Franklin Square.  A DC resident who I talked to afterwards said that is where Free DC holds the Emancipation Day events on April 16.  

During the Q&A, this same lady, who was wearing a Free DC hat, asked Masur what her feelings were on the effort to get District citizens voting rights in Congress.  Masur was reluctant to answer the question.  After pausing, she said DC deserved their voting rights in Congress, but didn’t think there was a practical solution.

At that moment, the irony hung heavy in the room.  The hope had been the author, a professor of African American studies, someone who lived here for seven years and obviously an expert on the struggles blacks went through, would cast her lot with the District.

Those arguments and discussions are for another day.  Masur is to be thanked for making a valuable and much-needed contribution.  We learned just how much Washington, DC has been an example for all the land.

Read this posting online at Jaybird's Jottings.

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