Aline Gutierrez, Essay #2, Draft #1

Something we unconsciously do is repeat our mistakes and the outcome of that is that we don’t progress. A major problem with history is that history so often repeats itself. Throughout the course of history we have faced problems with race, immigration, discrimination, and other real life situations. In the book After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection by James Wightman Davidson and Mark H Lytle, history is more often told by “outsiders”, people who haven’t lived these told experiences and can’t accurately inform others about about them. The content that is presented in this book doesn’t always mention the other side. In general when history is told, it is told to us in a certain way that affects the way we perceive of certain ethnicity, religion, and/or political group. This makes information limited in a way and/or biased. In other words we never get the full truth behind a particular situation.
When someone tells you a story do you ever wonder, what is the accuracy of what is being told? Truth is every person’s own perception. Truth can be manipulated by everyone and anyone. The truth can be made into something one believes to be the truth. So what is really the truth? Is theres such thing as the truth? Is there always a bit of lies or dishonesty behind someone’s truth? Sometimes people feel uncomfortable telling the truth. And sometimes people lie in order to keep their audience as widened as possible. This can be related to the book, After the Fact, in many ways. Throughout the book, chapters such as, The View from the Bottom Rail, , have manipulated the truth, leaving the reader questioning, what is the truth?
The chapter, The View from the Bottom Rail, is one chapter in which the truth can be perceived differently than how it actually is. The point of view in which this story is told from is from the oppressors, also known as the slave owners. These historians were mostly upper social class men, who wrote diaries, journals, memoirs, letters, etc. The documents these men left behind are now what we use to perceive our own perspective on these types of events that occured in history. Most of the slaves that lived within this time period were uneducated and had no possible way of communicating how they felt alongside with their experiences. This made it easier for the oppressors to act as the victims. Throughout this chapter it is difficult for us, the reader, to figure out the lives of these African American slaves because most of them couldn’t read nor write.
Another essay within this book that can possibly conceive an alternation of the truth, is The Mirror with a Memory. The protagonist of this story, author Jacob Riis, who wrote slum-like living conditions in New York City in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.. He also used photography as a form of alternating the truth. He saw photography as a form of telling a story, and the viewer made their own interpretation of what the photographer might have meant. Riis was observant when it came to different ethnic groups such as Jews, Irish, and Italians as well as religious groups such as Christianity. For the most part what interested him most about them was in the way in which they lived. In this time period, the communities of these ethnic groups were extremely poor. An example given in this book was the photograph on page 210 that demonstrated extreme poverty titled, Lodgers in a crowded Bayard Street tenement- “Five Cents a spot”. In this picture the reader can see how the walls of this tenement were falling apart and everything was in bad shape. Not only were the conditions of the room horrifying, but there were at least 10 men sleeping in a crowded room. Another great example provided by this book was the photograph presented on page 219 titled “Room in a tenement flat, 1910”. This picture shows the poor living conditions families had to live in due to poverty. This photograph is a family portrait of a family that is crammed two adults and five children into one room.
It was clear to see that within this time period, poverty didn’t see color, or ethnicity background because it affected many in all different ethnic groups. Riis used his artistic talent to photograph scenarios such as the previous mentioned to bring to light these dilemmas. He conveyed the horrifying living conditions these people had to live by. But the real question is did he accurately demonstrate everything that happened within this time. A photograph captivates one single moment. Pictures can often be turned into something that is not and be interpreted different depending on the viewer. A line from this chapter caught my attention at first glance. “Is a photograph true to nature, or is it possible to lie with a camera?” (page 203). Throughout the course of this chapter Riis used his photography to paint a picture in the minds of the reader of what this time period might have looked like. In my personal opinion I believe photography can often be an illusion to the viewer. Certain ways in which a photo might be taken can portray the content differently. In this chapter a photograph is said to be a mirror of reality but that not may always be true.
l believe history should be told by those whom lived in that time period. History or historians can be as reliable as you want them to be or as far as you believe in what they are telling you. At the end o f the day we will never receive a hundred percent of the facts but with enough information and facts we can mentally make a picture for our own use to figure out what history was actually like.The events told in After the Fact, are told different than the events that occured in Oliver Sacks’ book, An Anthropologist on Mars. Sacks gives facts that come with accuracy, he gives us a baseline and from there he gives us all a chance to make personal opinions, connections, and allows us to make our own views on his stories based on his beliefs.

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