Denise D. Meringolo is an associate professor of history and director of public history at UMBC.
Too often in the past, the history of protest and civil unrest was shaped by official accounts. They may capture the perspectives of police officers, government leaders, and even high-ranking activists. However, they inevitably leave out the perspectives of the very people who were directly affected by incidents of injustice, violence, or civil disobedience. These histories are incomplete. And this matters.
Historical accounts shape what we think we know about our country, our city, and ourselves. Incomplete accounts create profound misunderstandings about the past that have consequences in the present. More complete stories can help us empathize with one another, recognize systems of inequality, and address pressing social problems.
The response in Baltimore to the death of Freddie Gray is complex. On the one hand, it is part of a national trend. Across the country, frustration about police brutality toward African Americans has been growing.
At the same time, the events in Baltimore are local and specific. A long series of political and economic choices, public policies, and social transformations created deep inequalities in our city.
We have a responsibility to ensure that a more complete history of these events can be written. Public History students, faculty, and organizations from UMBC and around the city are joining forces to create a digital archive of the Baltimore Uprising. As we gather images, stories, videos, documents, and other materials, we will be able to create digital exhibitions that tell a more complete story about what happened here.
Share your stories. Upload photographs. Show us what you’ve seen. Show us the sign you carried. Tell us what you witnessed. When were you there? Where did you stand? Your contributions will build our digital archive. Together, we will make sure the history of the Baltimore Uprising of 2015 can include voices from the streets as well as voices from the halls of government.
Contact the author, Denise D. Meringolo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.