“In my family, there was an oral history about Native American heritage. And it’s one that my grandmother talked about when I was young many a time on her front porch. So when I went to graduate school I wanted to explore this, and I was at a Native American history seminar when I first learned about Native American slave-holding. So I was confronted with two different ideas, or stories, about these relationships.”
Tiya Miles

The MacArthur Foundation brought this fresh voice to our attention when it announced a public historian as one of their recent “genius” grant recipients. This is a fascinating title, and a weighty responsibility. What makes a historian a “public” one? And once you hear her speak, you’ll ask, “Why aren’t there more?”

Share Your Reflection



Blew me away.  Listened to the interview on 820 Am Nyc and was unable to move away from the radio. In the process of buying Dr.Miles books.

The quiet clarity in Dr. Mile's voice is compelling. In our noise-ridden world, it is reassuring to listen  to ideas expressed simply, absent fear and histeria. Her desire to represent the interests of person of the past and present is admirable. University of Michigan is fortunate to have a scholar of her talent and an individual of her character.

Tyra thamyou for this incredible research . If we are ever goingg to bring
this society together we have to recognize and accept our relationships to one another
in the past and in the present

I knew this story was going to grab me because you and I have much in common, though I am white. My grandmother lost her parents to smallpox in the last Oklahoma land rush when she was 12. Smallpox was raging in Oklahoma then; whole Native American villages were infected. I was well aware of the Trail of Tears (a family member married a man of Cherokee heritage). My late father shared ancestors with Abraham Lincoln and my mother shares ancestors with Thomas Jefferson. I was also well aware of the Sally Hemings story long ago and knew it to be true no matter how many experts denied it. My mother's Southern ancestors had a plantation in Arkansas with slaves; her great-great grandmother's marriage broke up when her husband fathered a child with a slave. This was kept a secret for many years. I was also well aware some Cherokees had slaves in the south and in Oklahoma. I tried to get a master's in history, but my interest was always on the human stories. I wish I couldn have heard this intereview when I was deciding I wasn't good enough to be a history professor! I have always done feature stories for newspapers and also had a local history program on our local NPR. I was born in Texas during segregation. The first time I went swimming in the public pool in the poor part of town, I said, "How lucky those kids are to swim here any time they want." My friend said, "They can't swim with us." Well, as Oscar Hammerstein wrote in "South Pacific," "You have to be taught to hate and fear." I feel you and I are history sisters and I am so proud of you.