Contemporary social history is premised on the idea of writing histories of ordinary people. This article reflects critically on the concept of “ordinariness“ as facilitated by the author's brief moment of personal fame and her professional experiences of learning and writing about women's and gender history in and of southern Africa. These perspectives then informed her attempts to write and publish a story of the brief encounter in the late 1930s between a member of her family and the brilliant African-American writer, Richard Wright. The article explores the parameters and definitions of “ordinariness“ in African and American history.

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