To the Editor:
Richard Allen's article was of interest to me for two reasons. The first reason involves my own work on an ordinary man of local heritage, Pomp Russell of Weld. He is a Revolutionary War soldier of African descent who lived with his family, including at least one grandson in Weld and fought to create the country in which we all live.
He is honored through a Daughters of the American Revolution commemoration on his grave marker in Weld. Pomp Russell fought in key battles of the revolution, including the Battle of Saratoga. He was an ordinary man in extraordinary times.
To quote Richard (Jan. 4, 2012, Rumford Falls Times), “Since the founding generation, the way that history has been taught in America has greatly changed, from early American history, which focused on burying the negatives and deifying the founding fathers, to progressive history, which focused on class conflict and the common man over the wealthy, noble founders.
Events happening in society greatly affect the way we perceive the past, during the early 20th century, with the rise of unions and the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Americans identified more with the common man ideology than with the gentlemanly founders.”
I also want to quote Prof. Patrick Rael of Bowdoin College: "In few other realms of historical scholarship have the last three decades witnessed such all encompassing transformation as in African-American history."
"Scholarly interest in free African Americans between the Revolution and the Civil War has simply exploded in recent decades. This interest is filtering down to the way instructors teach the history of African Americans, and indeed the history of all Americans."
"Appreciating this history challenges us to deeply revise some of the most cherished mythologies of American history."
In each instance, it is the history of the ordinary man that is celebrated.
The second reason I was interested in Mr. Richard Allen's article is that he carries the name of the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in 1816, the oldest and largest (2.5 million) African descent denomination in the United States.
Thank you Richard for raising up interest in local historical societies and the ordinary man.
My work on Pomp Russell was part of an educator project through a grant from the Dept of Education managed by the Maine Humanities Council called Teaching American History Through Biography. RSU #10 educators in several disciplines, elementary through high school have actively participated in this program and brought a contemporary and exciting view of history back to their classrooms.
Meroby Elementary School,