Today was the last day of my sophomore year of college and I am very excited to be home for the summer. This summer, in addition to reading, I will be continuing the City Social aspect of the Digital History class that I participated in this semester. This includes digitizing the remaining wards of the 1900 Harrisburg census and cleaning up the census data my classmates have already collected. Today was the final for this class, and we had the great joy of unveiling our class website. Check it out here.
In honor of returning home for break, I watched the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” with my family. This movie came out a little while ago and discusses the story behind the creation of Mary Poppins, including an overview of the relationship between writer P.L. Travers and Walt Disney. At the start of the movie, I was telling my family a little bit about Walt Disney – I enjoy giving my family a good lecture on the context of movies before we start. I began with telling them about Disney joining the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s. It’s interesting that Disney joined this organization, particularly because he reported many of his employees in order that the would be fired and blacklisted (this was mostly due to a recent strike at Disney Studios). Once I had finished pontificating, my sister added that Disney was a racist and sexist man, and she therefore disliked him.
From the perspective of people living in the 21st century, it might seem odd to encounter someone who had been racist and sexist. However, as someone who is passionate about history, it bothered me that my sister said this. Though Disney was racist and sexist, you’d be hard pressed to find a middle-aged person living in the 1960s who wasn’t both of these. Many people do not consider the context when they are passing judgment on people. The world in the 1960s was a completely world than ours today. Though it’s uncommon to be sexist and racist any longer, for the 1960s, that was, in a sense, common and expected. Context does, in fact, matter when doing anything, whether it is watching a great movie or studying a historical figure.