We are not makers of history. We are made by history.
— Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King’s perspective can be taken in at least two ways:
• History determines who we are today.
• History will judge us and form our final identity.
Both interpretations have significance during Black History Month:
• History, including that of black Americans, has formed our collective identity.
• And we will be remembered for our attitudes about race and whether, as Dr. King urged, we judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
Among the many initiatives to preserve local history, a new venture by Clarence Swain II stands out during Black History Month.
Swain, who grew up in Anderson during the 1960s and ’70s and returned a few years back to his hometown, is seeking to preserve the black history of the community from his formative years by writing profiles of important figures in medicine, religion, education, business, public service and other vocations.
“We’re losing a lot of these people,” he said in a news article published Sunday in The Herald Bulletin. “My interest is in making sure these stories aren’t lost.”
Swain is about 20 profiles deep into his “Anderson 100” project, which he hopes to publish in the fall.
“I was here during the heyday of Anderson,” he said. “We had plenty of everything ... right here in the black community.”
The effort calls to mind the words of another famous American, though one not often associated with black history.
A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.
— Robert Heinlein, American science-fiction author
Swain’s initiative seeks to assure that local black history isn’t ignored, for the sake of both the past and the future.