‘Difficult histories’ discussion focuses on racism, injustice


By Cassie King

Approximately 35 Hamilton County residents attended a Jan. 13 discussion about difficult histories, focusing on racism and injustices, at the Hamilton East Public Library in Noblesville.

The event, sponsored by Hamilton County Tourism, included guest speaker George Garner of the IU-South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center and other community members.

The first half featured Garner’s presentation by Zoom. The second half was a discussion led by Jessica Layman, HEPL’s local history and genealogy librarian.

The topic was how to honestly deal with the past.

“We all have agendas,” Garner said. “No matter how neutral we feel we are, everyone has an agenda.”

Garner spoke about the responsibility people have to deal factually with the past and to “do the work of a good historian.”

Garner also gave examples of historical injustices and how language matters when talking about history.

“We’ve never finished the work of repairing the harm of our past,” he said, noting that “each of us has an intentional choice to make” when dealing with difficult histories and that “honesty should be the dominant agenda.”

Layman led the second half of the event with an overview of the history of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. She focused on how best to handle archived materials about sensitive and damaging topics that could negatively affect living relatives and family members.

The talk concluded with an audience discussion.

In attendance were Marissa Ulie, training and professional development assistant at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and Diego Fajardo, collections manager at the Museum of Miniature Houses in Carmel.

“We are very interested in being able to share in ways that will have an impact on what history already exists at the places we work,” Fajardo said.

Ulie said she was looking for ways to educate herself and other people.

“The stories we deal with can be challenging and we are always looking for ways to engage these difficult conversations,” she said,

Fajardo added that it was important to learn “how to share these stories without causing more harm.”

Those interested in learning more about how to engage with difficult history can visit the Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center at crhc.iusb.edu, as well as the Hamilton East Public Library.

The discussion was sponsored by Indiana Humanities, according to Hamilton County Tourism.