top of page
  • Post

Importance of Learning Our History

By Sarah Bolt, Member of the Commission on Racial Justice and Reconciliation

Many people don’t like history growing up because learning history at school can include a lot of memorizing dates and names with little substance to make the subject truly interesting.

There is a lack of connection between the history being taught and what else is happening around the world at the same time or within a few years. So, making the connection that Anne Frank, Barbara Walters, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis were all born in 1929 tends to make people stop and think. History can also be complicated, but so much can be gained from learning it to help improve our future. Studying history matters because 1) knowing it allows us to fully grasp that some events and movements like the civil rights movement were not that long ago and 2) it helps us recognize the work is not finished.

I say all this not because I am a huge history buff, but because we need to face our complicated histories to reckon with what is happening at the present and what may be to come. Facing the past is hard and can hurt, but to learn and make the future a better place, we must do it. One way we can address history is to pay attention to the stories told of and by those who lived it.

In reflecting upon the complicated history of the Episcopal church, my own thoughts have gone back to hearing Rev. Ed King speak several times during my undergraduate years. Rev. King is a white man from Vicksburg, Mississippi who fought for civil rights alongside students of color from Toogaloo College while he was a student at Millsaps College. When I heard Rev. King speak, he shared personal stories of his time at Millsaps which included the harsh reality of being terribly beaten while protecting his friends. When I think of his stories, and his emotional and physical scars, I think of what we can learn from these stories to make our future better. How can being able to hear and see someone like Rev. King in the flesh bring the history to life and help us see what work needs to be done for the future?

While Rev. King is still alive, and we can still touch and hear his part of history, there are many people who are not: such as Medgar Evers and Jonathan Myrick Daniels - two younger men with bright futures who were killed for their civil rights work. What can King, Evers and Daniels teach us about the past that will help us make sure these things do not happen again? What can their stories—and the stories from others— tell us that will allow us to look towards our future with hope and confidence?

For more info please see:

For more personal stories about Alabama history, please visit: