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Forgetting and the Forgotten

Forgetting and the Forgotten

A Thousand Years of Contested Histories in the Heartland

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Michael C. Batinski


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
268 pages, 6 x 9, 8 illustrations

Shawnee Books


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  • Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

About the Book

WINNER, 2023 Illinois State Historical Society Superior Achievement Award in “Books, Scholarly”!

Revealing the forgotten in community histories
Histories try to forget, as this evocative study of one community reveals. Forgetting and the Forgotten details the nature of how a community forged its story against outsiders. Historian Michael C. Batinski explores the habits of forgetting that enable communities to create an identity based on silencing competing narratives. The white settlers of Jackson County, Illinois, shouldered the hopes of a community and believed in the justice of their labor as it echoed the national story. The county’s pastkeepers, or keepers of the past, emphasizing the white settlers’ republican virtue, chose not to record violence against Kaskaskia people and African Americans and to disregard the numerous transient laborers. Instead of erasing the presence of outsiders, the pastkeepers could offer only silence, but it was a silence that could be broken. 

Batinski’s historiography critically examines local historical thought in a way that illuminates national history. What transpired in Jackson County was repeated in countless places throughout the nation. At the same time, national history writing rarely turns to experiences that can be found in local archives such as court records, genealogical files, archaeological reports, coroner’s records, and veterans’ pension files. In this archive, juxtaposed with the familiar actors of Jackson County history—Benningsen Boon, John A. Logan, and Daniel Brush—appear the Sky People, Italian immigrant workers, black veterans of the Civil War and later champions of civil rights whose stories challenge the dominant narrative.  


Michael C. Batinski, a professor emeritus of history at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, first expressed his interest in historical consciousness in small places by writing Pastkeepers in a Small Place: Five Centuries in Deerfield, Massachusetts. He is also the author of two books on early American politics, The New Jersey Assembly, 1738–1775: The Making of a Legislative Community and Jonathan Belcher: Colonial Governor


“The writing of history and the creation of collective memories and identities is often about power—those who have it and those who do not. Michael C. Batinski’s Forgetting and the Forgotten shows how constructions of past are made—both traditional narrative and the counter narratives that challenge many of their assumptions and assertions by members of communities that have had different experiences.”—Terry A. Barnhart, author of Albert Taylor Bledsoe: Defender of the Old South and Architect of the Lost Cause!
“This is an exquisitely crafted study that highlights the ways that local pastkeepers in Jackson County, Illinois, marginalized and silenced Native American, African American, and working-class experiences and stories.”—Sean Farrell, coauthor of The Irish in Illinois

“Undoubtedly one of the best two books this year. A unique look and local and state history, engaging reflections on race, class, and ethnicity. Provides much needed historical discussion for Jackson County and Southern Illinois University.”—Illinois State Historical Society Awards Selection Committee