Historians are supposed to be impartial and maintain professional distance with unbiased research.
How does someone accomplish that when the story is about their grandmother.
There are so many complexities for me to the story. I’ve been against the death penalty since I was a teenager. I’m also a feminist in that I actively try to encourage and support other women in all areas of their life but particularly leadership. The media bias on this story puts this era of fake news accusations to shame.
My beliefs are put to the test when I research these events. I often have to put the research away to revisit it later. When I found Charles Gillespie’s execution portrait, I think you could have heard my heart beating from anywhere in the 2nd floor of the Library of Virginia.
I love my city. My paternal roots are deep here. My great grandfather, my dad’s paternal grandfather, was a Radical Republican who fought for the rights of African Americans in Richmond and for Irish American immigrants all over the country. What would he have said to this?
Do our roots shape who we are? Of course. How much? I don’t know.