“History must be imagined before it can be understood.” (Historian David Blight)
History colleague John Pellowski and I first began discussing the concept of a local history project in 2000. How could we bring a greater awareness of our local history into our classes? How do communities grapple with and understand their own history?
It was in 2002, then, that we began to develop these projects. From the outset, the goal has been to explore local and regional history through authentic interaction with available sources, including a heavy emphasis on oral history when possible. As an introduction, I researched the life of Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr., BRFHS graduate and Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean Conflict. Beyond his gallant and tragic story, I wanted to explore HOW he is remembered in the community.
We have partnered with Jackson County History Room Director Mary Woods from the beginning and have utilized the resources held at the History Room at the Public Library for most of the projects. In addition, our intention, from the start, has been to develop an archive for future history students and community members. Through 2021, we have completed 19 projects, had 22 interns, conducted over 80 interviews, and produced nearly 1,000 pages of archival material.
The plaque pictured here honors Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr., Medal of Honor recipient and graduate of BRFHS, and it part of our “Shared History” wall at the high school. This plaque was originally displayed at the High School on Third Street, which over time became the Junior High and then Elementary School. We will be “returned” the plaque to the High School as part of our display. Read an essay on Red Cloud’s life and memory here!
In December of 2018, I sat down for a short conversation with Bella Cowles, a journalism student at BRFHS, to discuss the FHP and the addition of our “Shared History Wall” at the High School. You can access the podcast here. Thanks to Bella for inviting me to do that!