In 2023, Shawn and Laurice presented to and had a fruitful discussion with my 4th year history students in a course called ‘Making History Matter to the Public,’ taught at Huron University College. In the course we examined the ways that public historians use tools—like podcasts—to do community engaged, activist, or active history. The Loyalist Connections Podcast, as a work of public history, fits each of these descriptions. It is a community engaged project in that Shawn and Laurice work with community-based scholars and within communities themselves to discern the most important or poignant histories within African Nova Scotian communities. It is a work of activism in that the podcast intervenes in national, imperial, or regional narratives by spotlighting Black histories that have been ignored in the broader historiography. The hosts also highlight modern ramifications of historical racism or racist policies and the ways African Nova Scotians have built strong communities in the face of adversity over time. It is a work of active history in that the hosts and the experts they interview spotlight histories that are important now and are responsive to their audiences. Our class discussion emphasised the goals Shawn and Laurice had when setting out to begin this project, the challenges and successes they’ve encountered, and the ways the project has grown. We also discussed the role of academic historians in these kinds of projects and the ways scholars might better apply these methods. To prepare for the class, students listened to a directors cut of the episode on Beechville and Connections to Urban Development wherein Shawn and Laurice interviewed Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch. This episode, in addition to our conversation with Shawn and Laurice, helped students to better understand how we as scholars can make a difference with the work we do.
Erin L. Isaac
Phd Candidate, Department of History, Western University