Historian Margaret Washington featured in History channel, CNN programs

Margaret Washington, the Marie Underhill Noll Professor of American History, was recently featured in the History Channel documentary “Black Patriots: Heroes of the Revolution,” and will appear in a CNN program focusing on women’s history. 

The History Channel documentary, which premiered on Feb. 19, tells the story of the Revolutionary War through the African American experience and highlights the contributions of African Americans in the founding of the United States. 

“I am grateful for the opportunity to articulate, via public history, the role of African Americans in the struggle for independence from Great Britain. I especially appreciate having the opportunity to relate the stories of Black women’s roles in the freedom struggle,” Washington said. “So often, the American Revolution is interpreted as a White struggle, and if Blacks are included, they are male. But the Revolution was a freedom struggle on a number of levels and I was grateful to be a part of telling more of the whole story.” 

The CNN program focuses on the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, which will be erected in Central Park. The program was scheduled to air in mid-March, but events surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have led to postponement of the program. 

The monument will be the first statue in Central Park to honor actual — not fictional — women. It will depict suffragists Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and is set to be unveiled in August 2020. 

In the CNN program, Washington discussed the significance of the lack of monuments and statues of women generally — that their contributions often go unrecognized — and that this was especially the case for the representation of women of color. The suffragists statue was an opportunity to partially rectify this. 

But the suffragists statute immediately became the subject of much controversy. It was originally commissioned as a woman’s suffrage statue of two White women leaders — Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. That, said Washington, would have been a “whitening” of a movement in which Black women took leading roles before either Stanton or Anthony. After one year of dissension, that included community participation, editorials, scholars’ contributions and petitions, Sojourner Truth was added to the monument. 

Margaret Washington has written a prize-winning book on Sojourner Truth — "Sojourner Truth’s America," and edited "The Narrative of Sojourner Truth." She is also known for her expertise and scholarship in African American cultural, intellectual and religious history.

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