History is political, written by the winners and taught according to their wishes. That’s why the website BlackPast is not only fascinating, but important.
The brainchild of retired University of Washington professor Quintard Taylor was launched 16 years ago to help with his own teaching. It has since evolved into a crusade to safeguard the history of Black Americans and people of African descent around the globe.
Judging from traffic on BlackPast.org, there is substantial interest. At last count, the website, which functions as a free library, was attracting more than 6 million visits annually.
Loaded with primary documents, photographs, interactive timelines and more than 8,000 entries detailing Black contributions to world history, BlackPast offers information that may surprise students of the Black American experience.
For instance: The novelist Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, considered the founder of modern Russian literature, descends from a Black general who served in the Russian army decades before the United States even existed.
Political context was not a driver when Taylor launched BlackPast as a labor of love in 2007, and the website remains almost entirely volunteer-driven, its $300,000 budget funded primarily through donations, he said. But today, Taylor knows that its import reaches beyond the ivory towers of academia to confront what he calls an attempt “to erase Black history.” BlackPast is scholarly. But make no mistake, it’s a strong, much-needed move to push back and worthy of support.