Storybook of History

February Black History Month > Storybook of History

By Esmeralda M.A. Thornhill

Imagine1 we, each and every one of us in this hall tonight constitute the entire world. Now, imagine the Story of the World is to be written down in a book for posterity. Each person will have the chance to tell his or her own story. Everyone’s culture, civilization, trials tribulations, aspirations and contributions to Humankind will be included. Well, we all get our facts straight and, in our individual ways, compile our stories for inclusion. The collective manuscript goes to print . Vernissage day arrives! Big occasion! We all show up in fine anticipation. The Storybook, gold-leafed, leather tooled, and dedicated by an acclaimed person of renown, is unveiled. We each receive our complimentary copy. Immediately, each and every one of us instinctively turns to the Table of Contents, ferreting out our own specific chapter. I and Black people like myself search and scour the Table of Contents – in vain. No chapter! We scan and glean the Index – in vain. No mention! We then scrutinize each page for some brief mention – any mention – only to be rewarded with omissions, distortions and stereotypes in footnoted addenda and obscure marginal asides. How would you feel? I complain. We all complain. But except for some clucking sympathetic inanities, no one pays heed. The Storybook is already written. The world’s Story is already set in print and we cannot expect this completed achievement to be scrapped and rewritten only to please us. In other words, as individuals or as a group, we do not command the Power to impose the banning, scrapping, or re-writing of the Storybook.

In a nutshell, this is still the present state of affairs: Achievements and concerns of whole segments of Humanity are missing, excluded from the Story of Civilization, invisible to the collective consciousness. So too does the Black Presence in Canada remain, for the most part, an unknown, untold story for all people – living in these 3 Americas – North, Central and South.2

© 1989 Dr. Esmeralda M.A. Thornhill.

1 Inspiration for this storybook analogy originally came from a speech
delivered by Mel King at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, in
Spring 1985, and to him I remain gratefully indebted; Mel King, Chains of Change: Struggle for Black Community Development (Boston: South End Press, 1981).
2 Excerpted from Esmeralda M.A. Thornhill, Affirmative Action in Faculty Hiring: Challenge of Commitment for Responsible and Objective Decision-Makers! Ottawa: Carleton University, January 26, 1989.

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