By Dr. David J. Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
All History is Local
A well known adage related to the study of the past is that “all history is local.” What is meant by this phrase is that history is all around us and not necessarily always in some far away place and time. Our local community and even “backyard” may be a distant place to someone else, a place that is full of rich history and wonder, but may seem rather ordinary to lifelong residents. We simply see it as our hometown and often miss the important historical knowledge that can be gained from exploring our local community. An example in my own life is the important role my hometown the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region played in the Underground Railroad. Growing up, I was always fascinated by the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery movement but I always saw the historical phenomenon as taking place in some far away state or region. You know… somewhere in the south… anywhere but here. But as I started doing more and more research as a historian I noticed many of the primary source documents that shed light on the history of enslaved African Americans mentioned places I was familiar with. The sources often mentioned cities such as Lexington, Louisville and Maysville, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Cumminsville, and Xenia, Ohio. It was not until I became a professional historian did I fully grasp the critical role the region I grew up in played in Underground Railroad history. So in this way, history is always local.
“Let Ohio Women Vote” Project
A great resource for the study of local women’s history in Ohio is a project being conducted by Cincinnati Educational Television (CET), the local PBS station in Cincinnati. CET is currently producing a documentary that highlights the role local women and allies played in the national suffrage movement. As a part of the documentary, CET has created the Let Ohio Women Vote project. It is a number of short video vignettes that spotlights key women in the suffrage movement in southwestern Ohio. The “Let Ohio Women Vote” project can be great for classroom use to teach students important local history, as well as teaching women’s history. This work fits well with a recent women’s history series we did here at Democracy and Me celebrating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in 1920.
Below are some other resources that highlight local Ohio/Kentucky History. I have also included links to lesson plan ideas and teaching resources for studying local history.
Some Articles on Local History in the Cincinnati Area
History of Cincinnati
Cincinnati Black Historic Sites
African American | Cincinnati: A City of Immigrants
Part Three (Women’s History Series)- Sarah Mayrant Fossett: Cincinnati Abolitionist and Business Owner
Using Digital Sources to Teach about Enslavement and the Underground Railroad
Cincinnati’s Underground Railroad By Rich Cooper and Eric Jackson
Resources and Lesson Plans for Teaching Local History
Resources for Teaching Local History
Exploring Community Through Local History: Oral Stories, Landmarks and Traditions
Local History Projects
Recovering and Teaching Local History
Local History Lesson Plans
Investigating Local History
As someone who grew up in a community far from Cincinnati, I have found it hard to find resources (with ease) about Cincinnati history that I could use in the classroom and use to educate myself. CET, or Cincinnati Education Television, has such a great variety of sources. Having grown up in a hometown that helped immensely in the Underground Railroad, it was very exciting to read and see that Cincinnati also harbored a great deal of influence and assistance to such a cause.
Hello Lauryn. I agree. It is often difficult to find resources on Cincinnati history. I am grateful you found these resources helpful!
It is wild to know that this happened so close to what we call home! Often times we forget how the very streets we walk and drive, hold so much history on and (literally beneath them). We live in a time where we take life for granted on how simple it is for us to live our days.
I really like how you talked about history in our backyard. I think sometimes we forget that the rights that we have were fought for. We often take things like our freedom and our voting rights for granted. I really like the connection that you made to our history of voting and our history of the underground railroad. Many people know these things but we forget and comparing them helps me remember.
I think the saying about history being in our backyard is so true. I also think that it is important to learn about the history that is close to you.
I never knew that this was something that went down in Cincinnati. I believe this is something that is pretty interesting especially with Cincinnati being only 30 minutes away from my house. I also thought it was cool getting more knowledge on the Underground Railroad.