LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Jermaine Fowler, like every good podcaster, has a distinct, dynamic voice. His strong, poetic cadence makes listeners want to tune in, not doze off, to the stories he tells.
In a recent episode, it was about Ida B. Wells, an abolitionist and investigative journalist. Fowler introduces hers as a story of "courage, fearlessness, fortitude and tenacity."
Wells is also a lesser-known historical figure, a woman whose life is not often printed in general history textbooks. That's why Fowler, a Louisville native, chose to recount her story for his project, "The Humanity Archive."
A recently-created podcast and website, Fowler uses the platform to tell dismissed, untold and forgotten history. "The Humanity Archive" has gained traction this year, with a following of almost 10,000 on social media and a recent Vanity Fair feature titled "Eight Podcasts to Deepen Your Knowledge of Black History."
Fowler tells the hidden histories of figures like Crispus Attucks, a martyr of the American Revolution, and Benjamin Banneker, a free Black man in the 1700s who challenged Thomas Jefferson's views on slavery.
His podcast comes at a time of civil unrest and a reckoning for racial justice in the U.S. As confederate statues are removed from sites around the country, the general public is starting to reconcile much of the "twisted history," as Fowler calls it.
"The Humanity Archive" focuses on stories that have been left out of the collective narrative, like the oral history of Pocahontas, for example, which is worlds different than the traditional Disney telling. Or Black History Month, which was created by a man named Carter G. Woodson.
When Woodson first started the observance, Fowler said, it was called "Black History Week." He had hoped that by highlighting Black history for a short period of time, Americans would start to incorporate it into its overall narrative.
"But here we are now, all these years later, and we're still having to highlight Black history," Fowler said.
"Sometimes people suffer from what I would say is historical amnesia," the 36-year-old added. "We remember history in a way that places ourselves in that narrative. But I believe we're all just biographies in a larger narrative of history."
Fowler wants his podcasts and articles to encourage empathy and sympathy within the audience.
"It's kind of like the saying 'walk a mile in someone's shoes,' but I want people to be able to walk a mile in someone's shoes, even if they have holes in them, even if they're dirty, even if those shoes are worn out," he said. "And then hopefully they'd be willing to offer their extra pair of shoes."
Fowler sees the current movement as a "mass awakening of white people in America." As people are seeking to educate themselves, resources like "The Humanity Archive" could help facilitate social change.
"The idea that silence is violence and that apathy is indifference is really permeating through culture right now. And I think people are awakening to their own differences and realizing that just because they don't actively participate in these racial injustices, maybe they should still question their beliefs and assumptions," he said.
Fowler, who was born and raised in south Louisville, works full time in business management and spends any free time he has between that and raising a family working on the podcast, which he says is an outlet for his passion as a reader, thinker, historian and educator.
Fowler's wife, Samantha, has been by his side, assisting in the day-to-day operation of "The Humanity Archive." She's glad her husband is doing something he loves.
Jermaine has already been an active history teacher to their two children, who only learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and a few other prominent figures in Black history through their public school education.
"It's a big thing within our own home because our children are biracial and he tells them stories about people who looked like them," Samantha Fowler said.
"I always knew that he would do everything in his power to make sure that our children learned more about history than what was in their school books. ... But it wasn't until he really started getting serious with writing and podcasts that I started realizing he can teach other people's children, too."
That's the ultimate goal of "The Humanity Archive" — reaching the widest audience possible, and changing hearts and minds.
"We live in a time when people can't really use ignorance as an excuse anymore because we have access to so much knowledge — the internet, the library," Samantha Fowler said. "But having people like Jermaine take the time to sift through the information for you, all it takes is for people to listen and be open-minded, and maybe things could change."
Fowler believes ignorance can be combatted with knowledge.
"I'm hoping by educating people ... by being critical, not sugarcoating history, it will make people reflect and ask the fundamental questions," Fowler said.
"Where are you going to place yourself in history? What examples are you going to follow? And what kind of human are you going to be?"