“I look at history through literature and film to gain insight on the way the human actors interpret the world around them.”
Kaiama Glover teaches literary and other cultural productions of the French-speaking world in the French Department and Africana Studies Department at Barnard College, Columbia University.
“Considering history from a literary perspective allows you to fully imagine elements of the past that may not be part of the “official” record: the emotional ties, the social pressures, even sensory elements.”
Kaiama approaches history with a measure of skepticism. “I’m very conscious of who is in the position of power to tell the story. Matters like race, class and gender so often determine which stories get passed down in history – and which don’t.”
For that reason Kaiama appreciates the attention HISTORY DETECTIVES SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS gives to clues from less obvious sources.
“By reaching out to people who are deeply invested in the stories we’re trying uncover, we make the past come to life and resonate in the present.”
Case in Point
When Kaiama interviews people who are part of a HISTORY DETECTIVES SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS she listens for details that add nuance and context to the story. “My aim is always to go well beyond ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’”
Researching the mystery of the Austin Servant Girl Murders, Kaiama interviewed 89-year old Dorothy Larson, the grand niece of Eula Phillips, one of the murder victims.
Dorothy didn’t learn of Eula or her murder until later in life. Her family had guarded the secret because testimony at the trial undermined Eula’s character – and potentially their own reputation.
“I could tell that Dorothy understood how standards of feminine respectability at that time smothered this painful story from her family’s past. It makes you wonder how many stories like these are silenced because of contemporary ideas of what is ‘proper.’”
As an undergrad at Harvard, Kaiama majored in History and Literature under PBS’s own Henry Louis Gates. She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University.
More from Kaiama
- About Pages Kaiama Glover-Interview (About Page)
- Investigation Civil War Sabotage? The steamship Sultana exploded one night in 1865, killing more than 1,800 people. Was the disaster a result of Civil War sabotage?
- Investigation Texas Servant Girl Murders Years before Jack the Ripper, did a serial killer walk the streets of Austin, TX?
- Investigation Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa? Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared without a trace in 1975. Was he murdered? If so, who killed him and why?
- Investigation The Disappearance of Glenn Miller In 1944, bandleader Glenn Miller boarded a plane for Paris and was never seen again. What happened?