Project Update #4 – YSM & Slavery

As I posted in my last update, my website design is mostly complete, but I’ve been struggling with writing the last two vignettes (“Race and curriculum” and “Black medical students”) for it. I think a subject like a medical school’s history with slavery and race – a subject that has such historical and continuing impact – needs to be communicated in a way that is impactful and interesting but also reverential and somber. But I’ve found it difficult to be impactful and interesting without being sensational.

When I talk and write about these topics with professional historians, the importance is taken as a given, and our shared knowledge of the topic means we don’t need to address all the angles and nuance of the scholarship at the same time. Now trying to write for a more general audience, I’m realizing how much I take for granted discussing work in academic circles and how much background, nuance, and care is needed to share such a delicate and important topic with a wider audience. Trying to also “hook” the audience with surprising (even shocking) material only makes these issues more apparent.

In writing the remaining vignettes, I continue to wrestle with these issues of balancing tone, material, and context, and I am eager to get feedback on these issues once I do have them written.