Book Cover for 'The Unsettling Legacy of Wayland Jefferson'

The Unsettling Legacy of Wayland Jefferson

Missing Evidence, Racism, & Collective Amnesia


In 1935, the Town of Southold elected Wayland Jefferson their official historian. During his tenure, Jefferson disrupted traditional religious narratives and wrote histories steeped in taboo subjects—sex, smuggling, and slavery. Although institutions pushed back after 1940 to reclaim their cultural dominance, Jefferson pursued venues remaining open to him to promote his counternarratives. To many in the white community, the town historian was a dishonest gadfly meriting condemnation. To people of color, however, he remains a tenacious straight shooter who deserves recognition. [Read More]

This biography discusses controversies related to the Southold historian triggered after his death: the intersection of racism and historiography, shifting perspectives on collective memory and collective amnesia, and the application of scientific testing to correct errors of interpretation.

Why does Wayland Jefferson impact local history more than sixty years after his death? Read his story and decide for yourself if his narratives were bona fide or faked.

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Jacqueline Dinan

about the author

Jacqueline Dinan was born in Westchester County, New York, the middle child of second- generation immigrants. She spent her early professional life in the nonprofit sector, first promoting international education (at CIEE), then serving communities (at the YMCA). Following the release of her first book, Jackie expanded her research interests beyond the Horton family to focus on stories of traditionally neglected families and individuals on eastern Long Island. The subject of her most recent book is one such neglected individual. She is an active contributor to the "Forgetting to Remember" Project and affiliated Plain Sight Project. She believes revisionist history can be a positive and instructive force in society when based on a thorough and honest examination of original records.

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