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Good Beer Hunting

Sep 24, 2021

As the curator of the American Brewing History Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Theresa McCulla has access to some of the United States’ most treasured brewing artifacts. It was the uncovering of one such artifact that led her to explore the life of Patsy Young, an enslaved woman, brewer, wife, and mother who fought for her freedom (twice) and who left an indelible legacy on the narrative of American brewing.

In her first piece for Good Beer Hunting, titled “Patsy Young — American Brewer, Fugitive From Slavery,” which was published on September 15, 2021, McCulla unpacks the realization that there is no single part of American history that the stain of slavery has not touched. We discuss her role as a historian and her responsibility for sharing the stories many have worked hard to erase, as well as how writing for a different sort of audience was a welcome challenge, if not also an academic duty. It’s only through analyzing history that we have any chance at informing the present, regardless of how difficult or traumatic the past may be, and she doesn’t flinch when faced with that inescapable truth.

Is there a happy ending for Patsy Young? It’s hard to say. But McCulla likes to think so. Let’s find out why.