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History Revealed: Why We Left

May 16 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Why We Left: Untold Stories and Songs of America’s First Immigrants
Joanna Brooks

History Revealed Special Event
Thursday, May 16, 2024, 7:00 pm

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Free and open to all

In partnership with the East Side Freedom Library, Ramsey County Libraries and Norway House.

A grounded, tender, and mournful reckoning with the catastrophes that launched poor, white Anglos into their role as itinerant foot soldiers for modern imperialism—now in paperback (May 2024) with a new preface.

Why We Left reveals the dislocation, violence, and deforestation that propelled seventeenth- and eighteenth-century working-class English emigration, offering a powerful restorying of the journey to our present moment of precarity and rootlessness. Following American folk ballads back across the Atlantic, Joanna Brooks shares a scholarly and personal account of the intergenerational traumas that shape the history of white Anglos on Turtle Island.

Joanna Brooks’s ancestors were among the early waves of emigrants to leave England for North America. For generations, they lived hardscrabble lives, eking out subsistence in one place after another as they continually moved west in search of a better life. Why, Brooks wondered, did her people and countless other poor English subjects abandon their homeland for such unremitting hardship? The question leads her on a journey through an obscure dimension of American history.

She will share folk ballads such as “Edward,” which reveals the influence of deforestation on the dislocation of early Anglo-American peasant immigrants, and “The House Carpenter’s Wife,” which emphasizes the impact of economic instability and the colonial enterprise on women. From these ballads, tragic and heartrending, Brooks uncovers an archaeology of the worldviews of America’s earliest immigrants. This tenth-anniversary edition includes a new preface and develops a haunting historical perspective on the ancestors we thought we knew.

Joanna Brooks is an award-winning scholar and writer whose work tends to catastrophes of human belonging in American history. The author or editor of ten books on race, religion, colonialism, and social movements, her writing has been featured in global media, including the BBC, NPR, the Daily Show, CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post.

Why We Left is published by the University of Minnesota Press.

RCHS is committed to presenting the stories and histories of all in our community, and we are pleased to bring you tonight’s program. To that end, in 2022, we are working to bring you programs focused on our series, “Making Minnesota” which will explore the often untold stories, histories and experiences of the some of the world-wide immigrant, African American and Indigenous communities that make up our most diverse county.


May 16, 2024
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
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