History, right in your own home

History doesn’t always look like a monument. It’s not always roped off or sealed under Plexiglass.

Sometimes, history is grandma’s hand-stitched quilt that keeps you warm at night; sometimes it’s framed on the living-room wall.

My history includes words of love, longing and resignation: “I am so afraid that you will not marry me, for your heart has already been won by another. However, I will never force you to do me any favor against your own will.”

Words that my grandfather Leonard wrote to Mary Simmons in 1905 in the months before they married — a union, as this one-sided conversation makes clear — about which she had reservations. He was in the Merchant Marine, the postmarks plot his movements from Jacksonville to Asbury Park in New Jersey. I’m not sure what sealed the deal, but, “You must never feel yourself without a lover and a friend as long as I am alive,” couldn’t have hurt.

Last month, the Smithsonian brought its traveling program, Save Our African-American Treasures, to Fort Lauderdale. Scores of people rifled through their credenza drawers, linen closets, bookshelves and china cabinets so that historians and conservators could fill in the blanks of the objects that had been passed down to them.

Today we feature pictures of a few of these treasures and, with a scan of the QR code, some of the stories they carry with them.

Sometimes, history is right at home.

Nancy Ancrum is Editorial Page Editor.

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