Last week, the MacArthur Foundation awarded a “Genius Grant” to writer-historian Saidiya Hartman. Per the Foundation, Hartman “is a scholar of African American literature and cultural history whose works explore the afterlife of slavery in modern American society and bear witness to lives, traumas, and fleeting moments of beauty that historical archives have omitted or obscured. She weaves findings from her meticulous historical research into narratives that retrieve from oblivion stories of nameless and sparsely documented historical actors, such as female captives on slave ships and the inhabitants of slums at the turn of the twentieth century.”
She’s also, obviously, a role model for me, both for her purpose and the beautiful language with which she brings it to light. If you don’t know Hartman, see here a transcript of her NPR interview with Farai Chideya following publication of Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, and here, the MacArthur Foundation’s fantastic video of Hartman discussing her work, then read both Lose Your Mother (2007) and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019).