Toni Morrison and Historical Memory

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Most of literature written by American minority authors is pedagogic, not toward the dominant culture, but for the minority cultures of which they are members. These authors realize that the dominant culture has misrepresented minority history, and it is the minority writers' burden to undertake the challenge of setting the record straight to strengthen and heal their own cultures. Unfortunately, many minorities are ambivalent because they vacillate between assimilation (thereby losing their separateness and cultural uniqueness) and segregation from the dominant culture. To decide whether to assimilate, it is essential for minorities to understand themselves as individuals and as a race. Mainstream United States history has dealt with the…show more content…
This interest in the past is integral to the ways in which alternative cultures oppose and subvert the dominant culture that has historically both repressed and assimilated them" (Singh 18). Morrison's fiction is based upon actual historical events; however, she goes much further by utilizing the concept of rememory that she values. Morrison has developed and written about different types of memory in her novels including rememory, disrememory and social or collective memory. Social memory is an expression of collective memories and experiences of individuals who are members of larger groups (families, neighborhoods, communities and cultures). This collective memory is a source of historical knowledge which provides a cultural group with "material for conscious reflection." (Fentress, 26). Through social memory, groups are identified as having a common history. Collective memories are considered true memories because as a group they present multiple witnesses of a single past. Social memory can be documented, but sometimes there is no written source. However, the significance of social memory lies in the fact that the members of the group believe the memory to be true. Oftentimes, an individual's memory can become hazy over time; however, the combination of several similar
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