Another Group of Historians Criticize the *New York Times* 1619 Project

1619

If you are not familiar with The New York Times 1619 Project you can get up to speed here.

The latest group of critics includes American historians Michael Burlingame, Allen Guelzo, Peter Kolchin, George Rable, and Colleen Sheehan.  A letter was sent to The New York Times Magazine, but the newspaper refused to publish it.  Editor Jake Silverstein, the editor of the The New York Times Magazine, did respond to the letter.

The letter and the response have now been published at History News Network.  Here is a taste of the letter:

It is not our purpose to question the significance of slavery in the American past. None of us have any disagreement with the need for Americans, as they consider their history, to understand that the past is populated by sinners as well as saints, by horrors as well as honors, and that is particularly true of the scarred legacy of slavery. 

As historians and students of the Founding and the Civil War era, our concern is that The 1619 Project offers a historically-limited view of slavery, especially since slavery was not just (or even exclusively) an American malady, and grew up in a larger context of forced labor and race. Moreover, the breadth of 400 years and 300 million people cannot be compressed into single-size interpretations; yet, The 1619 Project asserts that every aspect of American life has only one lens for viewing, that of slavery and its fall-out. “America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One,” insists the lead essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones; “American Capitalism Is Brutal. You Can Trace That to the Plantation,” asserts another by Matthew Desmond. In some cases, history is reduced to metaphor: “How Segregation Caused Your Traffic Jam.”

We are also dismayed by the problematic treatment of major issues and personalities of the Founding and Civil War eras. For instance: The 1619 Project construes slavery as a capitalist venture, yet it fails to note how Southern slaveholders scorned capitalism as “a conglomeration of greasy mechanics, petty operators, small-fisted farmers, and moon-struck theorists. Although the Project asserts that “New Orleans boasted a denser concentration of banking capital than New York City,” the phrase “banking capital” elides the reality that on the eve of the Civil War, New York possessed more banks (294) than the entire future Confederacy (208), and that Southern “banking capital” in 1858 amounted to less than 80% of that held by New York banks alone.

Again: we are presented with an image of Abraham Lincoln in 1862, informing a delegation of “five esteemed free black men” at the White House that, because black Americans were a “troublesome presence,” his solution was colonization — “to ship black people, once freed, to another country.” No mention, however, is made that the “troublesome presence” comment is Lincoln’s description in 1852 of the views of Henry Clay, or that colonization would be “sloughed off” by him (in John Hay’s diary) as a “barbarous humbug,”or that Lincoln would eventually be murdered by a white supremacist in 1865 after calling for black voting rights, or that this was the man whom Frederick Douglass described as “emphatically the black man’s president.”

Read the entire letter and Silverstein’s response here.

Thank You Rick Shenkman!

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Rick Shenkman, the founder, publisher, and editor of History New Network (HNN), has retired.  In a farewell interview with M. Andrew Holowchak, Shenkman tells us why he founded HNN:

HNN began with a grievance.  During the impeachment of Bill Clinton, you may recall, there were cries that Congress censor him rather than impeach him.  In their reporting the media kept citing the censorship of Andrew Jackson and sometimes John Tyler.  I was doing research at the time for my book, Presidential Ambition, and knew that James Buchanan had been censured too.  I tried to contact various media outlets like ABC News and the New York Times to let them know about this forgotten moment in our history but got nowhere.  I fumed about this.  It seemed crazy that journalists would ignore a historian who had valuable information to add to an important debate. (Here is the article I wound up writing about censure.)

This was the genesis of HNN.  It seemed obvious to me that historians should have a national platform to help journalists and the public make sense of the news.  I set out to create one in 2000.  (We went online in 2001.) 

Today, of course, it is not uncommon for journalists to seek the expertise of historians.  Rick had something to do with that.

I check HNN every day.  It has become an invaluable resource. As a blogger who tries to keep my site fresh, I usually gravitate towards HNN’s “Breaking News” and “Historians” tabs in the top right corner of the website.  There have been many weekends when I need a few additional entries for my Sunday Night Odds and Ends feature and I always find something of note at HNN.

Rick has also made HNN a place to go for news, videos, and interviews from the American Historical Association and other conferences.  In fact, I first met Rick when he was covering an AHA meeting.  He was the guy running around the lobby conducting video interviews with historians who had just presented papers or talks.  In the process, he has done a wonderful service for the historical profession and the general public at large.

An accomplished historian in his own right, Rick has long served as a model for how to bring good history to public audiences.  His work at HNN has inspired my own work in this area and has certainly influenced what I do at this blog.

I came to HNN through the late Ralph Luker‘s blog Cliopatria.  Luker was one of the first historians to see the potential of blogging.  A check of his daily link roundup became a daily ritual for me.   I remember hoping that one day I might receive a “Cliopatria Award” for history blogging, but it never happened. 😦

In November, Rick e-mailed to tell me that he was retiring and wanted to run one more of my pieces.  I pitched a piece based on my book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and Rick published it on December 30, 2018, his last issue.  Just recently he wrote to inform me that a piece I had published earlier in the year was one of the most read posts of 2018.

Rick has been publishing my stuff for nearly fifteen years.  Some of my pieces have been original to HNN and others have been reposts from other sites, including The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  I will always appreciate his willingness to bring my writing to a larger audience.  Thanks, Rick!  Enjoy your retirement!  I am sure that HNN is in good hands at George Washington University under the leadership of Kyla Sommers.

Here are most of the pieces I have published over the years at History News Network:

Trump’s White Evangelicals are Nostalgic for an American Past that Never Existed for Blacks and Others (13-30-18)

Why is Christian America supporting Donald Trump (6-29-18)

John Fea’s new book sets out to explain why 81% of white American evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016 (6-19-18)

You Are Never Going to Believe Which Verse Was Most Quoted in American Newspapers Between 1840 and 1920 (6-15-18)

The Discipline of the History Professor in the Age of Trump (9-13-17)

What the Trump Presidency Reveals About American Christianity and Evangelicalism: An Interview with John Fea (7-30-17)

Trump threatens to change the course of American Christianity (7-17-17)

Historian John Fea’s twitterstorm in defense of the NEH (3-16-17)

John Fea warns evangelicals to be wary of David Barton (2-2-17)

What Was Missing from Trump’s Inaugural Address? (1-25-17)

Another Kind of Identity Politics (12-10-16)

Still Misleading America About Thomas Jefferson (2-7-16)

Has the Sesquicentennial of the U.S. Civil War Been a Failure? (4-29-14)

Why K-12 Teachers Should Attend the American Historical Association’s Annual Meeting (12-12-13)

William Pencak, R.I.P. (12-9-13)

Why Didn’t Obama Say “Under God” in His Recitation of the Gettysburg Address? (11-20-13)

Is a Historian Worth $1.6 Million? (11-23-11)

Interviewing at the AHA (12-30-09)

The Limits of Cosmopolitanism in Early America (5-25-08)

Are Christian Conservatives “Christian” or “Conservative” (11-30-07)

Is America a Christian Nation?  What Both Left and Right Get Wrong (9-30-07)

Protestant America’s Selective Embrace of the Pope’s Teachings (4-17-05)

The Messages You May Have Missed Reading Dr. Seuss (3-8-04)

#AHA19 Sessions and the News

People watch as a fire burns at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro

Are you looking for some historical context for topics in the news?  History News Network has listed some relevant sessions at this weekend’s annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago:

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Friday, January 4, 2019

Read the rest here.

Happy New Year!

We are back after an extended holiday break!  I hope all our readers were able to spend some quality time with friends and family over the holidays.  I always look forward to the holidays as a time of relaxation, worship, family-time, and getting caught-up on reading.  Here are a few things that happened over break:

On Christmas Eve I visited Byron Borger at Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, PA.  I bought some books for members of my family and I bought some books for myself:

Hearts and Minds Book Haul

I am almost done with Wolterstorff’s memoir.  It is excellent.

On December 26, 2018, I was quoted in Carol Kuruvilla’s piece at the Huffington Post: “Americans Trust Clergy Less Than Ever, Gallup Poll Finds.”

On December 30, 2018, I published a piece at History News Network: “Trump’s White Evangelicals are Nostalgic for an American Past that Never Existed for Blacks and Others.”  Most of the piece comes from my Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

I learned that my piece “Why is Christian America Supporting Donald Trump?” was one of History News Network’s most popular posts for 2018.

I was thrilled to learn Believe Me inspired two of Jared Burkholder’s “Top Ten posts of 2018” at The Hermeneutic Circle.

On January 2, 2019, I was quoted in Greg Sargent’s Washington Post op-ed, “The walls around Trump are crumbling.  Evangelicals may be his last resort.”

On January 2, 2019, I contributed to Jerome Socolovsky’s National Public Radio story: “Evangelicals Seek Detente With Mideast Muslim Leaders As Critics Doubt Motives.”

And don’t forget our coverage of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.  We have a great team of correspondents and will begin posting on January 3, 2019.  Stay tuned!

Changes at History News Network

From the HNN Facebook page:

Sommers

HNN Readers, Exciting News: HNN is moving to George Washington University on Jan 1. HNN Founder Rick Shenkman is retiring after nearly 20 years. He will be replaced by Kyla Sommers, a freshly minted GW PhD in history. Please welcome her!

I am sure we will learn more soon.  Congrats to Kyla Sommers and best wishes to Rick Shenkman in his retirement.

Approaching Trump Theologically

TrumpThat is what Ed Simon of The Marginalia Review of Books does at History News Network.

Here is a taste of his piece, “Can You Imagine What It Must Be Like to Be Donald Trump?“:

In suggesting that there must be something hellish about the experience of being Trump, I am not trying to engender any sort of sympathy for the man. Questions of his redemption are between him and those he harms, and then to whatever God he directs his prayers. Instead, I worry about what the implications are that such a man occupies so much of our attention, colonizing our very consciousness, dominating not just our livelihood but our inner lives.

Does such a small, angry, cruel man not risk making all of us small, angry and cruel? Does the bully pulpit threaten to turn us all into bullies? That is not to minimize the very real material repercussions of his policies, or the callousness and cruelty of his administration. The assaults on immigrants and workers, women and LGBTQ individuals, Muslims and African-Americans are sadly very real. But I also fear the intangible results of his rhetoric, of his perspective, and his emboldening of hate. If Trump is in his own hell, I worry that every day he threatens to pull us into it with him. Mephistopheles’ said in Marlowe’s 16th century play Dr. Faustus that “Why this is hell, nor am I out of it,” something I understand every time I receive a new push notification. This is the peculiar logic of the autocrat – he demands attention and you no longer have the option to direct your interests outward, to be free of him. His ultimate ideology is narcissism, and his only faith is himself.

Read the entire piece here.

The “Teachers Lounge” at History News Network

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I just came across this great collection of resources for history teachers.  Thanks to the good folks at History News Service for creating what they are calling “The Teacher’s Lounge.”

Here are just a few of the article you can find there:

Civil War Scholar George Rable Talks History

Rable

George Rable

Erik Moshe continues to publish quality interviews at History News Network.  His latest interview is with Civil War historian George Rable, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama.  I did not know that Rable was a graduate of Bluffton University, a sister school of Messiah College.

A taste:

Who was your favorite history teacher?

John D. Unruh, Jr. of Bluffton College. I was a first generation college student, uncertain of my major. In high school, I was more interested in mathematics than any other subject. I probably had always had at least some interest in history, but I hadn’t been one of these people who read Bruce Catton when they were 10 years old. Unruh had a reputation for being hard and even his United History survey was a bear. We had to write two 10-15 page historiographical essays. One based on scholarly articles. One based on scholarly articles and books. The course was arranged entirely thematically, a brilliant course. But Unruh was much more than simply a demanding teacher. He was an inspiring and deeply humane teacher who brought out the best in people.

After taking his survey course, I thought if this is what history is about, this is what I should study. This was the late 1960s and early 1970s, so I never thought very much about practical considerations and the job market. I took every class Unruh taught. His American West class was the equivalent of a graduate class. We read a book a week or the equivalent in articles and wrote papers every week. We had to read a book and write a paper for the first class session because he sent students the syllabi in campus mail before we had even met. One day he suggested that I go to graduate school. I doubt that I even knew what graduate school was. He also suggested I apply to LSU to work with T. Harry Williams.

When I was at Bluffton College, Unruh had not yet completed his dissertation but finally did so in the fall of 1975. The following January, he died of a brain tumor at the age of 38. The University of Illinois published what was essentially an unrevised dissertation as The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60. The book won seven awards and was a Pulitzer finalist. The loss to students and the profession that came with Unruh’s death was incalculable.

Why did you choose history as your career?

Certainly the inspiring example of John Unruh described above set me on that path. Even though Unruh suggested I go to graduate school, this was the early 1970s and he also advised me on how tough the job market would be. At Louisiana State University, T. Harry Williams and William Cooper taught me a great deal about teaching and scholarship. It was Bill Cooper who first suggested I try to get something published. That first article clearly whetted my appetite for research and writing, and I have been heavily engaged in both for over forty years. On that score and many others I owe an enormous debt to the LSU History Department and especially to Williams and Cooper.

Since then my career has been divided in roughly equal halves—the first, teaching at Anderson College (later Anderson University) and the second at the University of Alabama. For all my reservations about the recent direction of higher education, I owe both these institutions a great deal for taking a chance on me and nurturing me as a teacher and scholar. One thing for certain, I have absolutely no doubt that a career in history was the right choice.

What qualities do you need to be a historian?

A historian needs to transcend his own time and immerse himself in another period. The purpose here is to understand, not to judge. I am not saying that moral imagination should not enter into the process, but preachy scholars often prove to be self-defeating. Historians should address significant topics and questions in ways that help readers understand human behavior and motivation in other times and places. This requires diligent research but just as important is good writing. Historians should always strive to produce work that a reasonably educated person with some (or even relatively little) interest in the subject can understand and appreciate. In terms of teaching, a historian obviously needs to be knowledgeable but also needs to bring both a passion for the subject and a love for students to the classroom.

Read the entire interview here.

Eric Foner Talks History

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Over at History News Network, Erik Moshe continues his series of interviews with historians . This time his subject is Columbia University historian Eric Foner.

Here is a taste:

What is your favorite history-related saying? Have you come up with your own?

There’s a couple of things that I often repeat to my students. Oscar Wilde, I believe, said, “The only obligation we have to history is to rewrite it,” which I think is a good one. Ernest Renan, the 19th century French historian, said something to the effect of—this is a rough translation—“the historian is the enemy of the nation.” I often ask students, what does he mean by that? “The enemy of the nation.” Does that mean we’re traitors? No, what he’s saying is nations are built on myths, historical myths, and then the historian comes along and if he’s doing his job, shatters those myths, and often that makes the historian very unpopular. People like their myths but “myth” is not a good way of understanding how the society developed to where it is today.

Another saying, this goes back to Carl Becker, “History is what the present chooses to remember about the past.” In other words, he’s trying to tell us that history is created by the historian in a certain sense, the historical narrative is the creation of the historian. The facts of history are out there but the selection of facts and the merging of the facts into a narrative is an act of the historical imagination. It doesn’t just exist out there independently in the past.

My own saying, I don’t know if I invented this—perhaps I did—which I tell students is that “nothing is easier than finding what you are looking for.” In other words, that’s my plea to be open-minded. When you go to an archive, you have certain presuppositions but it’s very easy to find what you’re looking for and to ignore those things which don’t fit your assumptions, and you can’t do that. You have to, as they say, be open-minded enough to be willing to change your mind when you encounter countervailing evidence. Those things were on my mind because as it happens, I used to teach seminars, etc. I would start off the first session with a list of these quotations about history and ask students to discuss them and what they tell us about what we’re going to be doing that semester.

Read the entire interview here.

My Interview With History News Network

RevisedI talk with Erik Moshe about American history, Christianity, historical thinking and, of course, the POTUS.

Here is a small taste:

If you could give court evangelicals an extensive history lesson, what would you teach them?

I would teach them about change over time. No matter what the founding fathers believed about the relationship between Christianity and the American founding, we no longer live in a Christian nation. This means that evangelicals need to work harder at thinking about pluralism. It all comes down to how we live together with our deepest differences. The longstanding “culture wars” remind us that evangelicals and nonevangelicals are really bad at this. I have argued elsewhere that the study of history might help us on this front.

Read the entire interview here.

Blight: Historians Should Petition Trump to Take an “Educational Sabbatical” So He Can Learn More U.S. History

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History News Network has published a David Blight piece which original appeared at the website of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  Of all the things Trump has done, Blight is most worried about his “essential ignorance” of American history.

Here is a taste of his piece, originally titled “Trump and History: Ignorance and Denial“:

Trump’s “learning” of American history must have stopped a long time ago. I wish I could say this is funny and not deeply disturbing. Perhaps his grasp of American history rather reflects his essential personality, which seems to be some combination of utter self-absorption, a lack of empathy, and a need to believe in or rely upon hyper individualism. President Trump does seem to possess an instinct for the feelings, fears, resentments, and base level aspirations of many Americans who are displeased at best with the country and the kind of society that has developed over the past decades, especially since the civil rights and women’s rights revolutions. He further has an instinct for how and why so many white Americans were uncomfortable or downright furious that a black man could be elected President. The “birther” effort that he led stoked a kind of 21st century racism that appeals to a vast audience of suburban and rural America that takes its information and its values from Fox News and its many media allies. And we must give him credit for capturing the political sentiments of the displaced and the neglected in our globalized economy and in our identity-obsessed culture. They do need a voice. To pull that off as a celebrity billionaire may say more about the culture and social values we have all participated in forging more than it says about him. 

Trump has political instinct but little in the way of political knowledge of either institutions or history. Why does this matter? Well, if a President makes history, which he can and does on any given day, he should know some history.  He must be able to think in time, to think by analogy, precedent, and comparison.  He needs perspective in order to find wisdom.  Decisions ought never be made in a vacuum. A President certainly needs to think anew about old problems, but how can any holder of that office consider Middle East peace, or relations with a nuclear or non-nuclear Iran, or the immediate threat of the bizarre North Korean regime, or the social collapse of Venezuela, or the possible dismantling of the European Union, or the increasing rise of Vladimir Putin’s expansionist authoritarianism if he is adrift in history, believing only that great problems are solved by great strong men?  President Trump’s uses of the past – nonsensical throw away lines about the revelation that Lincoln was a Republican, or that Frederick Douglass had been “doing an amazing job,” and now that no one bothers to think about “why was there the Civil War” are not merely matters of temperament. They are dangerous examples of ignorance in high places. And we must not let this kind of presidential mis-use and denial of history become normalized or merely the object of humor.  Satire is our only tool sometimes, but good satire has always been a very serious weapon at the end of the day.  Jackson was too important in American history to be so loosely and ignorantly invoked by the President. For students of the Civil War era, we might even conclude, contra Trump, that had Jackson lived to the time of the Civil War, not only would he have not prevented the conflict, his fellow Tennessean, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the notorious cavalry leader, might have been out of a job.

The historical profession might consider petitioning the President to take a one or two month leave of absence, VP Pence steps in for that interim, and Trump goes on a retreat in one of his resorts for an educational sabbatical.  If he must be President for three and a half more years, we need him to be able to make sense when he speaks of the past.  Sometimes CEOs or university presidents need a break from the daily grind.  The President’s staff could choose a few historians to go to the retreat and the American Historical Association could choose a few more.  A crash course in reading, or perhaps just in watching documentary films, about the history of American foreign policy as well as the history of slavery and race relations in particular could be the core of the curriculum.  Some biographies, a good history of women and gender, a genuine tutorial on the Civil Rights era, and even a serious digestion of good works on the Gilded Age and the New Deal legacies might be required.  And finally, a primer on Constitutional history would be essential too, and might make that second month necessary.  This alone could garner the United States again some confidence and respect around the world.   And, one further thing, no tweeting on educational leave.  There will be a test at the end of the term.

 

Read the entire piece here.

Tweeting the Opening Plenary Session at #OAH17

Court

The Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians in New Orleans looks like it is off to a great start.  From what I hear the Big Easy is experiencing some wonderful weather this weekend and historians are enjoying a lot of food and music.

Last night’s opening plenary session focused on historians as expert witnesses in court cases.  Here is a description of the session from the OAH website:

Historians have increasingly responded when attorneys call on them to supplement strictly legal argument with additional corroborative and persuasive angles, especially in cases involving the assertion or defense of constitutional rights. This follows in a twentieth-century practice begun in 1908, when attorney Louis Brandeis successfully argued for state controls on women’s employment conditions by bringing social scientific evidence of the strains women experienced. Not acting as advocates, but ostensibly providing impartial historical facts and opinion, historians have offered expert testimony that becomes part of important cases and also have written amicus curiae briefs that may possibly influence the court.

In this session, four historians will reflect on their significant experiences in this mode of making history matter in the present. Tomiko Brown-Nagin’s comments stem from her involvement in cases on affirmative action in education, including Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), Parents Involved v. Seattle (2007), and Fisher v. Texas (2013). George Chauncey will discuss his participation as expert witness and author of amicus briefs in gay rights litigation from Romer v. Evans (1996) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003) to several more recent cases on equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, including U.S. v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). Linda Gordon has co-authored historians’ amicus briefs in major abortion rights cases, from Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), where the Supreme Court upheld Missouri’s restrictions on abortion rights, to Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt (2016) where the court struck down Texas’ excessive requirements for abortion clinics. Richard White’s service as an expert witness in tribal recognition and treaty rights cases in the Pacific Northwest extends back to 1977 and up to today.

Panelists will address several of the many pressing questions arising from this kind of endeavor. What kinds of historical evidence count in court? Are they acting as advocates or neutral experts? What are the differing ways that lawyers and historians read and use historical evidence? Does the history they contribute actually make a difference to the outcome of the case? Can any impact of historians’ contributions be seen in change over time in the Supreme Court’s interpretation of constitutional rights?

Over at History News Network, Rick Shenkman has storified the tweets from this session.

Yes, I Can Do Better

aucoinBrent J. Aucoin is a Professor of History and Associate Dean of the College of Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC. He is also the author of a brand new book Thomas Goode Jones: Race, Politics and Justice in the New South.

A couple of weeks ago Rick Shenkman, the editor and publisher at History News Network (HNN), informed me that Aucoin had submitted a piece to HNN criticizing a post I wrote at Religion News Service titled “Why the Founding Fathers Wanted to Keep Ministers From Public Office.”  Rick wanted to publish Aucoin’s piece, but also wanted to publish my response to it.

As you will see from my response, I think some of Aucoin’s criticism of my piece is valid.

I will say this.  It is difficult to write very short historical pieces for public audiences, especially when such pieces are anchored to current events in a heated political cycle.  I hope my response to Aucoin reflects how I could have done better with my original RNS piece.

Here is part of that response:

Aucoin also criticizes me for failing to qualify my conclusions and adequately addressing evidence that is contrary to my argument.  On this point I accept his criticism.  My article is deceiving because it suggests that all of the “founding fathers” wanted to keep ministers from public office when in reality only some of them—in this case some of the framers of the state constitutions—opposed the idea of clergy holding political office.  Though I think today’s political activists who use the founding era to justify clergy running for office still need to reckon with some of these state constitutions, my argument was sloppy on this point.  I wrongly assumed that readers would understand the limitations of my argument based on the evidence I referenced.  I will try to frame my arguments more carefully in future posts at The Way of Improvement Leads Home and in other public writings.

Read the entire forum here.

The Historians Who Are Supporting Donald Trump

Trump Gingrich

By now you have heard of Historians Against Trump.  But what about historians who are for Trump.  Rick Shenkman and Sharon Arana have managed to find six historians who support Trump.  They are:

Victor David Hanson

Timothy Furnish

Derek Boyd Hankerson

David Barton

Eric Metaxas

Newt Gingrich (He has a Ph.D in history)

I don’t know much about Hankerson apart from the fact that he thinks blacks fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home are probably aware of the fact that I do not classify Barton or Metaxas as historians.  (Click on the links above).

I also found it interesting that Wilfred McClay was initially part of the pro-Trump list. Read the article to see McClay’s e-mail exchange with Shenkman and Arana.

ADDENDUM:  I just learned that Larry Schwiekart of the University of Dayton is also supporting Trump.

Help the History News Network Get Back to the AHA

HNNAs I wrote in my post this morning, George Mason University is no longer funding the popular website History News Network.  As a result, Rick Shenkman, the editor and founder of HNN, is not in Atlanta for this year’s meeting of the American Historical Association.

We will miss Shenkman’s annual coverage of the conference, especially his videos and interview with historians.

Let’s get Rick Shenkman and HNN back to the AHA.  He is looking for new sources of funding.  You can support HNN here.

AHA16: Day One Wrap-Up

BadgeThe first day of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association  is in the books.

I usually don’t do much on the first afternoon of the AHA meeting apart from getting settled-in.  I arrived in Atlanta around 3:30pm, checked into my hotel, registered for the conference, and had a couple of meetings.  The book exhibit does not open until Friday.  I was hoping it would be open Thursday afternoon because I need to buy the book of a historian we are interviewing early next week for The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast.  (Episode 0 now available on ITunes.  Episode 1 will drop next week!).

I did not swing into action until the opening plenary session. My dinner meeting went late, so I did not get a chance to see Kevin Wagner of Carlisle High School win the Beveridge Family Teaching Prize for K-12 teachers. Kevin is a graduate of Messiah College and has done some adjunct teaching in our History Department.  He is a gifted teacher who has been winning award after award of late, including the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American HistoryPennsylvania Teacher of the Year.”

The opening plenary session–“The Confederacy, Its Symbols, and the Politics of Public Culture“–was stimulating, but not as controversial as it could have been.  The general public was invited to this session, but academics dominated much of the conversation, its framing, and the Q&A sessions. The scholars on the panel did a great job (read my Storify for details), but some of us were expecting a bit more public engagement.  I probably set my expectations too high for this session. 

Much of the discussion in the plenary focused on what to do with symbols of the Confederacy in the wake of the shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.   W. Fitzhugh Brundage of the University of North Carolina suggested that we need to develop a “hierarchy of Confederate monuments so that we know which ones to get rid of, which ones to move, and which ones to keep for the purposes of history education.  Jane Turner Censer of George Mason University proposed moving them to cemeteries (where late 19th-century women’s groups in the South first began to care for the legacy of the Confederacy) or museums.

Late last night I learned that Rick Shenkman, the editor and founder of the History News Network, is not at the conference this year.  Rick or one of his staff is always a fixture at the AHA.  HNN has done a great job over the years of linking to conference bloggers, posting video of sessions, interviewing presenters, and publishing daily wrap-ups.  Rick shot me an e-mail late last night to tell me that George Mason University has stopped funding HNN and until he finds a new source of funding he will have to put his HNN visits on hold.  In addition, Rick is on the road right now promoting his new book Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics.  Congrats!

I got back to the hotel to watch some of the Obama-CNN town-hall meeting on gun control.  His proposals seemed modest and sensible, but when I watched the CNN commentary following the event I realized just how divided–sometimes foolishly–we are on this issue.

Stay right here for what I think will be a big day at the AHA.