Who We Are

Who Is TGHP

After graduating from the University of Virginia in May 2005, I, Laura Lee Huttenbach, embarked on a six-month backpacking trip up the African east coast. In Meru, Kenya, I met Mr. Japhlet Thambu, an 85-year-old tea farmer who goes by the name “General.” He had earned the rank of Major General during the 1950s as a leader of the Mau Mau Rebellion. His battle was a struggle for African independence in Kenya—to reclaim land possessed by British settlers, to remove European agricultural restrictions, and for Africans to elect their own government. His battleground was the forest east of Mt. Kenya, which he shared with elephants and leopards.

“Africa and the West go on meeting one another all the time and at all sorts of contact points . . . . And, as many people have observed, they go on not understanding one another very well.” – James Olney, author and historian

The General told me stories, and I learned history in first person. He was the most fascinating man I had ever met. I asked the General’s youngest son, Murithi, how I could learn more about his father. “There’s nothing recorded about him,” he told me. “We have said we needed to do this, but no one has done it.” That was in October 2006. I promised that I would try to help.

Remembering

In America, I didn’t forget about the General, but I could feel his wisdom slipping away from me as I settled into the comforts and routine of my American life. Through his stories, Kenyan history had become alive and accessible. I kept hearing the words of Zora Neale Hurston, “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” African history was tangled up in the General’s life. I knew two things: First, the writing of history would suffer a huge loss if no one recorded the General’s story. Second, his story wasn’t the only one needing preservation.

“What happens to the history of a people not accustomed to writing things down? To whom poverty and illiteracy makes wills, diaries, and letters superfluous?” – Theodore Rosengarten, author of All God’s Dangers

The General History Project was incorporated in February 2009. Two months later, the IRS granted The General History Project 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. That same month, I was already back on the tea farm in Kenya, sitting with the General, recording his life story.

Leadership / Executive Board of Directors:

Laura Lee P. Huttenbach, Founder and Director

Jessica Musick, Treasurer, B.S., B.A., M.B.A. University of Georgia

Lindsay Tabas, Technical Director, M.I.M.S. University of California – Berkeley, Entrepreneur

Dr. Theodore “Ted” Rosengarten, Distinguished Visiting Professor of History and Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston and University of South Carolina.

Dr. John Edwin Mason, Associate Professor (1995) at University of Virginia in Southern Africa, Modern Africa, and History of Photography.

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