Julie Carr’s family history of dirt, blood and ghosts inspires a darker narrative of American history

Writer, Poet, Professor, Publisher, Activist Julie Carr He lives a quiet but dynamic life in Denver. Not only can you protest quickly for the good of social justice, but you can also bring your community together. counter pass, a small print publisher, exhibition space and gathering place in east Denver, Carr sees the world with a sharp mind. And she presents those views in her new book in impeccably detailed style.

She spent five years writing and researching Mud, Blood, and Ghosts: Populism, Eugenics, and Spiritualism in the American WestThe book interweaves astonishing pages of family history gleaned from the journals of populist great-grandfather Omar Madison Kem with a more accurate account of the darker side of American history.Kerr hosts a local book launch event mud and blood and ghosts On Saturday, May 13th, at Counter Pass.

We ask Carr, for the cause of Manifest Destiny, how the ethos of racism and national white capitalism has fueled slavery, death, forced migration, and poverty in black and indigenous communities. I asked her to tell me more about her thesis. The book also provides a wealth of insight, addressing the roots of the current water wars in the West and the benevolent policies of populist movements to support the working class and women’s movements. Read more about Carr and what she revealed.

Westward: What sparked your interest in studying your ancestor Omer Kem?

Julie Carr: There are three things that are different. One is that Trump won. I’ve noticed that many of the books that have been released recently begin with a preface that says Trump won the election, which prompts people to ask questions. The second is, “What is populism?” I knew Mr. Kem was a populist, but what is happening now is not the kind he was involved with. He wanted to know what it was like in his time. again, standing rock Settler populists and indigenous peoples came to understand the colonization of land.

And third, the fact that the archive is over 2,000 pages long. autobiography Written by Kem — existed. My brother certified the book to be in the Creighton University Reinert Alumni Library, but no one in the family had read it.

How much did you know about him before you unearthed his writings?

I knew one thing: he was a populist, Agricultural Party representative in parliament and spiritualist A person who conducted a seance. I knew where he lived.I didn’t know about eugenics, which took over the last thirty years of his life. There’s something about the way families collect around ancestral stories. My father didn’t know, and the only people who kept it quiet were the children.

I didn’t know much about diaries, but I knew they existed. I reached out to Clayton and a whole drama revolved around that.

I left the librarian a message on voicemail, and he called me back at 10 p.m., speaking in vague terms.

He said, “I don’t know if I can talk to you about them.” It turned out that my cousin Chris Christensen had gotten into legal trouble after an email dispute with him over the material. The librarian said Chris was angry, but Chris didn’t mean it at all.

Julie Carr hopes for a better future while mining her great-grandfather Omar Kem’s history of populist views and support for eugenics.

Courtesy of Julie Carr

Was there always a plan to involve his story in a more just, alternative American history, or did it come later?

I didn’t want to write a biography or family history. It wasn’t funny enough, and it didn’t feel true enough because of the way the individual stories were wrapped and surrounded by other stories. Each of us follows our own path, following the politics, trends and major events that influence us. I was interested in how we unwittingly hurt and help others.

I started drawing big circles around the story. Each chapter about what happened to him had political events connecting and overlapping, and I was learning about these deep pockets of history.

I had a basic knowledge of Reconstruction, the West, Spiritualism, World War I, but I was not a historian. I hadn’t read much of a historian’s book beyond how textbooks and journalism and even poets approach history. It was really interesting to study this genre. It was a revelation about the history of Native American dispossession. It was difficult to know exactly what happened. There were so many different stages, complex and multi-staged, and being able to immerse yourself in that history was very important. I live in Colorado, so I started learning about Ute deportation to track it from start to finish. I felt like I understood the state in a whole new way.

Another was the nature of scale in writing about the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It doesn’t feel so long ago anymore. Reading so many primary works made those times and decades feel more familiar.

So we can be more willing to think and act on the basis of paying attention to the many kinds of inequalities and suffering that may continue. I am more committed, but not because I feel more complicit. I feel more proactive when I know I have a choice. People have stories of when someone in power did something bad, and of people who risked their lives to fight inequality. There are also stories of people who maintain the status quo and move on.

Knowing different stories, I know exactly how a person was able to do what he chose. We must be conscious and educated. It is an opportunity to do something useful, whereas it is an opportunity to do nothing.

What are your ethical lessons?

Kem’s friend and fellow homesteader, Jim ReamOn the other end of the spectrum, he has a beautiful ethic about how we should live our lives, writing in a correspondence: “Be proactive and aware of every opportunity the moment you make a decision.” rice field. Part of the reason it happened is laziness. I look at history and think that things inevitably went one way, things just happened because they had to happen that way. But it turns out it’s not true. You have a choice.

Now that it’s all over, what do you think of the result? Have you embraced these roots or are you still exploring?

Looking at chem and eugenics, racism with disability discrimination, and other injustices attached to the eugenics perspective, it is important that all families know the extent of its impact and the questions it poses to us, This is the most important point. myself. Do we think some people are more valuable than others? Anyone can fall for it. For example, the idea that homeless people are no longer exactly human. Allow ideas to percolate.

Being a part of someone’s voice and story is something you never forget once you know it. deepen self-awareness. I’m definitely still searching because widening my lens gives me a bigger sense of what’s true.

One of the things I refer to in this book is the irony of one being a Jew and the other a settler family, and the fact that the Nazis drafting the Nuremberg Laws consulted us on sterilization laws. eugenics and Jim Crow influenced Nazi politics. Such. Cambridge’s white progressive elite tend to think they’re always on the right side, but the question we now have to ask is what story lies beneath that story? . What mistakes are there and what complexities are involved?

It’s not as simple as one being the perpetrator and the other not. Never make such simple claims.
Most of us have a history of controversies like slaves vs. slavers in our blood. What I’m interested in now is who lived and died, and how Jewish/Leftism was influenced. Emma Goldman and the industrial workers of the world The labor movement has evolved. Populists were once essentially leftists. They had beautiful ideas that are now law.

Julie Carr’s book launch and party Saturday, May 13, 7:00 PM, Counterpath, 7935 East 14th Avenue. This event includes Benjamin Robertsfilm screenings by poets Carolina Ebeid, and cake and dance in the garden. Admission is free.

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