Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong [1 ed.] 0684818868, 9780684818863

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Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong [1 ed.]
 0684818868, 9780684818863

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L I E S MY TEACHER TOLD ME E v e r y t h i n g ftmerican

Your History

Textbook

Got

Wrong

"Every teacher, every student of h i s t o r y , every c i t i z e n should read t h i s book. I t i s both a refreshing antidote to what has passed for h i s t o r y i n our educational system and a one-volume education i n i t s e l f . " A People's

fflstory

JAMES

of

-Howard Zinn, author of tJie

United

W.

States

LOEWEN

HISTORY/EDUCATION

WINNER OF THE BEFORE COLUMBUS FOUNDftTION/flMERICAN BOOK AWARD AND THE OLIVER C. COX ANTI-RACISM AWARD OF THE AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION

STARTLING TRUTHS ABOUT THE MYTHS AND MISINFORMATION OF AMERICAN HISTORY mericans have lost touch with their history, and in this thought-provoking book. Professor James Loewen shows why. After surveying twelve leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past. In ten powerful chapters, Loewen reveals that:

A

• The United States dropped three times as many tons of explosives in Vietnam as it dropped in all theaters of World War II, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki • Ponce de Leon went to Florida mainly to capture Native Americans as slaves for Hispaniola, not to find the mythical fountain of youth • Woodrow Wilson, known as a progressive leader, was in fact a white supremacist who personally vetoed a clause on racial equality in the Covenant of the League of Nations • Thefirstcolony to legalize slavery was not Virginia but Massachusetts From the truth about Columbus's historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, Loewen revives our history, restoring to it the vitality and relevance it truly possesses. "An extremely convincing plea for truth in education." — M a r y Mackey, SAN FRANCISCO

CHRONICLE

"Delightful and unsettling. . . . Every history teacher in the land (including Prof Gingrich) needs to read this book." — S a n d y L y d o n , SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS "Engaging. . . . One of the virtues of Loewen's book is that in addition to highlighting some subjects the textbooks neglect, he also examines the topics they emphasize." —^JON W i e n e r , THE NATION is professor of sociology at the University of Vermont. He co-wrote the first integrated state-history textbook, Mississippi: Conflict and Change, and created The Truth About Columbus, a subversively true posterbook, which, like Lies My Teacher Told Me, stemmed from two years of research on American history textbooks at the Smithsonian Institution.

James W . L o e w e n

"711^ A '

" ^

T

O

U

C

H

Published by Simon & Schuster New York

Cover design by Janet Pert

U.S. $15.00 Can. $22.00

S

T

O

N

E

B O O K

A L S O B Y J A M E S W .

The Mississippi

Mississippi:

Chinese: Between Black and

White

Conflict and Change ( w i t h Charles Sallis)

Social Science in the

The Truth About A Subversively

L O E W E N

Courtroom

Columbus:

True Poster Book fi)r a Dubiously

Celebratory

Occasion

•ything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

J a m e s W .

L o e w e n

A TOUCHSTONE BOOK Published b y S i m o n & Schuster

V

7\K

TOUCHSTONE Rockefeller Onter 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

:y

Copyright © 1995 by James W. Loewen All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Dedicated

'\

who teach against their

First Touchstone Edition 1996 Published by arrangement with The New Press and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Touchstone

Designed by Bonnie Leon-Berman Manufactured in the United States of America 30

29

28

27

26

25

to all American

24

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Loewen, James W. Lies my teacher told me : everything your American history textbook got wrong / James W. Loewen. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. United States—History—Textbooks. 2. United States— Historiography. 3. Indians of North America in textbooks. 4. Thanksgiving Day in textbooks. 1. Title. E175.85L64 1996 973—dc20 , •< • : 96-20050

CIP ISBN 0-684-81886-8 ILLUSTRATION AND T E X T C R E D I T S

23, Smithsonian Institution; 51, Lee Bolnn; 55, 64, Library of Congress; 6 5 , New York Public Library; 110, Library of Congress; 114, Smithsonian Institution; 117, Library of Congress; 121, D. W. Meinig/Yale University Press; 122, Library of Congress; 131, Division of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; 135, Amway Environmental Foundation; 167, Scott Nearing; 184, Collection of architectural toys and games, Canadian Centre for Architecture/Centre Canadian d'Architecture, Montreal, acquired with the support of Bell Quebec; 199, Mississippi Department of Archives and History; 202, Andrea Ades Vasquez, American Social History Project; 206, Miller Brewing Co.; 214 ("That's What I Learned in School," by Tom Paxton), © 1962, 1990 Cherry Lane Music Publ. Co., all rights reserved, used by permission; 218, Paul Conklin; 242, 243, 244, AP/Wide World Photos; 245 (left), Ronald L. Haebede/i;/c magazine © Time Warner; 245 (right), UPI/Bettmann; 246, Fred Ward/Black Star; 257, Boy Scouts of America.

history

teachers

textbooks

Contents

Acknowledgments

9

I n t r o d u c t i o n : S o m e t h i n g Has G o n e Very "Wrong

11

1

H a n d i c a p p e d b y H i s t o r y : T h e Process o f H e r o - m a k i n g

18

2

1493: T h e T r u e I m p o r t a n c e o f C h r i s t o p h e r C o l u m b u s

37

3

T h e T r u t h about the First T h a n k s g i v i n g

4

Red Eyes

5

" G o n e w i t h the W i n d " : T h e I n v i s i b i l i t y o f Racism

98

i n A m e r i c a n H i s t o r y Textbooks 6

75

137

John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: T h e Invisibility o f Antiracism i n A m e r i c a n H i s t o r y Textbooks

7

The Land o f Opportunity

8

W a t c h i n g B i g Brother:

171

200

W h a t Textbooks Teach about the Federal G o v e r n m e n t 9

D o w n the M e m o r y H o l e : T h e Disappearance o f the Recent Past

238

10

Progress Is O u r M o s t I m p o r t a n t Product

254

11

W h y Is H i s t o r y T a u g h t L i k e This?

12

W h a t Is the Result o f Teaching H i s t o r y L i k e This?

271 298

A f t e r w o r d : T h e Future Lies A h e a d — a n d W h a t to D o about T h e m

Notes

319

Appendix Index

376 377

312

214

Acknow edqments THE

PEOPLE LISTED BELOW,

i n alphabetical order, talked w i t h

me, c o m m e n t e d o n chapters, suggested sources, corrected m y mistakes, or provided other m o r a l or material aid. 1 t h a n k t h e m very m u c h . T h e y are: K e n Ames, Charles A r n a u d e , Stephen A r o n , Jose Barreiro, C a r o l B e r k i n , Sanford Berman, Robert Bieder, B i l l Bigelow, M i c h a e l Blakey, James Baker, L i n d a Brew, T i m Brookes, Josh B r o w n , L o n n i e B u n c h , V e r n o n B u r t o n , Claire C u d d y , R i c h a r d N . C u r r e n t , Pete D a n i e l , K e v i n D a n n , M a r t h a Day, M a r g o D e l Vecchio, Susan D i x o n , A r i e l D o r f m a n , M a r y Dyer, Shirley Engel, B i l l Evans, J o h n Fadden, Patrick Ferguson, Paul F i n k e l m a n , Frances FitzGerald, W i l l i a m F i t z h u g h , J o h n F r a n k l i n , M i c h a e l Frisch, M e l Gabler, James Gardiner, J o h n Garraty, Elise G u y ette, M a r y E. Haas, Patrick H a g o p i a n , W i l l i a m H a v i l a n d , G o r d o n H e n derson, Richard H i l l , M a r k H i l g e n d o r f , M a r k H i r s c h , D e a n H o g e , Jo Hoge, Jeanne H o u c k , Frederick H o x i e , D a v i d H u t c h i n s o n ,

Carolyn

Jackson, C l i f t o n H . Johnson, Elizabeth Judge, Stuart K a u f m a n , D a v i d Kelley, Roger Kennedy, Paul Kleppner, J. M o r g a n Kousser, G a r y K u l i k , Jill Laramie, K e n Lawrence, M a r y L e h m a n , Steve L e w i n , Caret L i v ermore, L u c y Loewen, N i c k L o e w e n , Barbara M . Loste, M a r k Lytle, J o h n M a r c i a n o , J. D a n M a r s h a l l , Juan M a u r o , E d i t h M a y o , James M c Pherson, D e n n i s Meadows, D o n e l l a Meadows, D e n n i s M e d i n a , Betty Meggars,

Milton

Meltzer,

Deborah

Menkart,

Donna

Morgenstern,

Nanepashemet, Janet N o b l e , Jeff Nygaard, J i m O ' B r i e n , Roger N o r land, W a r d e l l Payne, M a r k Pendergrast, L a r r y Pizer, Bernice Reagon, Ellen Reeves, Joe Reidy, Roy Rozensweig, H a r r y Rubenstein, Faith Davis Ruffins, J o h n Salter, J o h n A n t h o n y Scott, Saul Schniderman,

Barry

Schwartz, Louis Segal, R u t h Selig, Betty Sharpe, B r i a n Sherman, D a v i d Shiman, Beatrice Siegel, Barbara C l a r k S m i t h , L u t h e r Spoehr, Jerold Starr, M a r k Stoler, B i l l Sturtevant, L o n n Taylor, L i n d a Tucker, H a r r i e t Tyson, Ivan v o n Sertima, H e r m a n V i o l a , V i r g i l J. Vogel, D e b b i e Warner, Barbara Woods, N a n c y W r i g h t , a n d J o h n Yewell. Three institutions helped

materially. T h e

Smithsonian

Institution

awarded me t w o senior postdoctoral fellowships. M e m b e r s o f its staff p r o v i d e d lively intellectual s t i m u l a t i o n , as d i d m y fellow fellows at the N a t i o n a l M u s e u m o f A m e r i c a n H i s t o r y . Interns at the Smithsonian f r o m the U n i v e r s i t y o f M i c h i g a n , Johns H o p k i n s , a n d especially

Portland

State University chased d o w n errant facts. Second, the flexible U n i v e r s i t y o f V e r m o n t allowed me to go o n leave to w o r k o n this b o o k , i n c l u d i n g a sabbatical leave i n 1993. Finally, T h e N e w Press, A n d r e Schiffrin,

and

especially m y editor, D i a n e W a c h t e l l , provided consistent encouragem e n t and intelligent criticism.

ntroduction : Something Has Gone Very Wrong

It would be better not to know so many things than to know so many things that are not so. —Felix

Okoye'

American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.

'

'

• •- ' —James

Baldwin ^

Concealment of the historical truth is a crime against the people. —Gen.

Petro G. Grigorenko,

samizdat letter to a history journal, c. 1975,

USSR^

Those w h o don't remember the past are condemned to repeat the eleventh grade. —James CNOWLEDGMENTS

W.

Loewen

W h e n they hst

h o w we arrived at this p o i n t . U n d e r s t a n d i n g our past is central to our

their favorite subjects, history invariably comes i n last. Students consider

ability to understand ourselves and the w o r l d a r o u n d us. W e need to

history "the most irrelevant" o f nventy-one subjects c o m m o n l y taught

k n o w o u r history, and according to C . W r i g h t M i l l s , we k n o w we do.^

H I G H S C H O O L STUDENTS HATE HISTORY.

i n h i g h school. Bor-r-ringls

the adjective they apply to i t . W h e n students

O u t s i d e o f school, Americans show great interest i n history. H i s t o r i c a l

can, they avoid i t , even t h o u g h most students get higher grades i n

novels, whether by Gore V i d a l {Lincoln,

history than i n m a t h , science, or English.'' Even w h e n they are forced to

{Idaho!,

take classes i n history, they repress w h a t they learn, so every year or t w o

become bestsellers. T h e N a t i o n a l M u s e u m o f A m e r i c a n H i s t o r y is one

another study decries w h a t o u r seventeen-year-olds don't know.^

o f the three b i g draws o f the Smithsonian I n s t i t u t i o n . T h e series " T h e

Utah!,

Nebraska!,

Burr, et al.) or D a n a Fuller Ross

Oregon!, Missouri!,

a n d on! and on!) often

African A m e r i c a n , N a t i v e A m e r i c a n , and L a t i n o students view history

C i v i l W a r " attracted new audiences to p u b l i c television. Movies based

w i t h a special dislike. T h e y also learn h i s t o r y especially poorly. Students

o n historical incidents or themes are a c o n t i n u i n g source o f fascination,

o f color do o n l y slightly worse than w h i t e students i n mathematics. I f y o u ' l l pardon m y grammar, n o n w h i t e students do more worse i n English

f r o m Birth

of a Nation

t h r o u g h Gone with

the Wind to Dances

with

Wolves and JFK.

and most worse i n history.^' S o m e t h i n g i n t r i g u i n g is g o i n g o n here:

O u r situation is this: A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y is full o f fantastic and i m -

surely history is n o t more difficult for m i n o r i t i e s than t r i g o n o m e t r y or

p o r t a n t stories. These stories have the power to spellbind audiences,

Faulkner. Students don't even k n o w they are alienated, o n l y that they

even audiences o f difficult seventh-graders.

"don't like sociz\" or "aren't any g o o d at history." I n college, most

w h a t A m e r i c a has been about and are directly relevant to our present

students o f color give history departments a w i d e b e r t h .

society. A m e r i c a n audiences, even y o u n g ones, need a n d w a n t to k n o w

M a n y h i s t o r y teachers perceive the l o w morale i n their classrooms. I f they have a l o t o f t i m e , l i g h t domestic responsibilities, sufficient re-

These same stories show

about their national past. Yet they sleep t h r o u g h the classes that present i t .

sources, and a flexible p r i n c i p a l , some teachers respond by a b a n d o n i n g

W h a t has gone wrong?

the

W e begin to get a handle o n this question b y n o t i n g that the teaching

overstuffed

textbooks

and

r e i n v e n t i n g their A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y

courses. A l l too m a n y teachers g r o w disheartened and setde for less. A t

o f history, more than any other discipline, is d o m i n a t e d b y textbooks.**

least d i m l y aware that their students are n o t r e q u i t i n g their o w n love o f

A n d students are right: the books are boring.'^ T h e stories that h i s t o r y

history, these teachers w i t h d r a w some o f their energy f r o m their courses.

textbooks tell are predictable; every p r o b l e m has already been solved or

Gradually they end u p g o i n g t h r o u g h the m o t i o n s , staying ahead o f

is about to be solved. Textbooks exclude conflict or real suspense. T h e y

their students i n the textbooks, covering o n l y material that w i l l appear

leave o u t a n y t h i n g that m i g h t reflect badly u p o n our national character.

o n the next test.

W h e n they t r y for drama, they achieve o n l y melodrama, because readers

College teachers i n most disciplines are happy w h e n their students have h a d significant exposure to the subject before college. N o t teachers i n history. H i s t o r y professors i n college r o u t i n e l y p u t d o w n h i g h school history courses. A colleague o f m i n e calls his survey o f A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y "Iconoclasm I and I I , " because he sees his j o b as disabusing his charges

k n o w that everything w i l l t u r n o u t fine i n the end. "Despite setbacks, the U n i t e d States overcame these challenges," i n the words o f one textbook. M o s t authors o f history textbooks don't even t r y for melodrama. Instead, they w r i t e i n a tone that i f heard a l o u d m i g h t be described as " m u m b l i n g lecturer." N o w o n d e r students lose interest.

o f w h a t they learned i n h i g h school. I n no other field does this happen.

Textbooks almost never use the present to i l l u m i n a t e the past. T h e y

Mathematics professors, for instance, k n o w that non-Euclidean geome-

m i g h t ask students to consider gender roles i n c o n t e m p o r a r y society as

t r y is rarely taught i n h i g h school, b u t they don't assume that Euclidean

a means o f p r o m p t i n g students to t h i n k about w h a t w o m e n d i d and d i d

geometry was mistaught.

Professors o f English literature don't presume

n o t achieve i n the suffrage m o v e m e n t or i n the more recent women's

that Romeo and Juliet wzs misunderstood i n h i g h school. Indeed, history

movement. T h e y m i g h t ask students to prepare household budgets for

is the o n l y field i n w h i c h the more courses students take, the stupider

the families o f a j a n i t o r a n d a stockbroker as a means o f p r o m p t i n g t h i n k i n g about labor unions and social classes i n the past and present.

they become. Perhaps I d o n o t need to convince y o u that A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y is i m p o r t a n t . M o r e than any other topic, i t is about us. W h e t h e r

one

deems our present society w o n d r o u s or awful or b o t h , h i s t o r y reveals MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

T h e y m i g h t , b u t they don't. T h e present is n o t a source o f i n f o r m a t i o n for writers o f history textbooks. Conversely, textbooks seldom use the past to i l l u m i n a t e the present. INTRODUCTION

13

T h e y p o r t r a y the past as a s i m p l e - m i n d e d m o r a l i t y play. "Be a g o o d

school graduates cannot remember i n w h i c h century the C i v i l W a r was

citizen" is the message that textbooks extract f r o m the past. " Y o u have a

fought!'^

p r o u d heritage. Be all that y o u can be. After all, l o o k at whzt the U n i t e d

N o n e o f the facts is remembered, because they are presented s i m p l y

States has accomplished." W h i l e there is n o t h i n g w r o n g w i t h o p t i m i s m ,

as one d a m n t h i n g after another. W h i l e t e x t b o o k authors t e n d to include

i t can become s o m e t h i n g o f a b u r d e n for students o f color, c h i l d r e n o f

most o f the trees and all too m a n y twigs, they neglect to give readers

working-class parents, girls w h o notice the dearth o f female historical

even a glimpse o f w h a t they m i g h t find memorable: the forests. Text-

figures, or members o f any g r o u p that has n o t achieved socioeconomic

books stifle m e a n i n g by suppressing causation. Students exit h i s t o r y

success. T h e o p t i m i s t i c approach prevents any understanding o f failure

textbooks w i t h o u t h a v i n g developed the ability to t h i n k coherently

other than b l a m i n g the v i c t i m . N o w o n d e r c h i l d r e n o f color are alien-

about social life.

ated. Even for male c h i l d r e n f r o m affluent w h i t e families, b l a n d o p t i m i s m gets p r e t t y b o r i n g after eight h u n d r e d pages.

Even t h o u g h the books bulge w i t h detail, even t h o u g h the courses are so busy they rarely reach 1960, o u r teachers and our textbooks still leave

Textbooks i n A m e r i c a n history stand i n sharp contrast to other teach-

o u t most o f w h a t we need to k n o w about the A m e r i c a n past. Some o f

i n g materials. W h y are h i s t o r y textbooks so bad? N a t i o n a l i s m is one o f

the factoids they present are flatly w r o n g or unverifiable. I n s u m , star-

the culprits. Textbooks are often m u d d l e d by the c o n f l i c t i n g desires to

t l i n g errors o f omission a n d d i s t o r t i o n mar A m e r i c a n histories.

p r o m o t e i n q u i r y and to i n d o c t r i n a t e b l i n d p a t r i o t i s m . "Take a l o o k i n

Errors i n history textbooks often go uncorrected, p a r t l y because the

y o u r h i s t o r y b o o k , a n d y o u ' l l see w h y we should be p r o u d , " goes an

history profession does n o t bother to review textbooks. Occasionally

a n t h e m often sung by h i g h school glee clubs. B u t we need n o t even l o o k

outsiders do: Frances FitzGerald's 1979 study, America

inside.'" T h e titles themselves tell the story: The Great Republic,

bestseller, b u t i t made no i m p a c t o n the industry. I n p o i n t i n g o u t h o w

American

Way, Land

textbooks ignored or distorted the Spanish i m p a c t o n L a t i n A m e r i c a

differ f r o m the titles o f all other textbooks students read i n h i g h school

and the colonial U n i t e d States, FitzGerald predicted, "Text publishers

or college. C h e m i s t r y books, for example, are called Chemistry or

m a y n o w be o n the verge o f r e w r i t i n g history." B u t she was w r o n g — t h e

n o t Rise of the Molecule.

Nation}^

Revised, was a

Such tides

ples of Chemistry,

of Promise, Rise of the American

The

Princi-

A n d y o u can tell h i s t o r y

textbooks just f r o m their covers, graced as they are w i t h A m e r i c a n flags, bald eagles, the Statue o f Liberty.

books have n o t c h a n g e d . " H i s t o r y can be i m a g i n e d as a p y r a m i d . A t its base are the m i l l i o n s o f p r i m a r y sources—the p l a n t a t i o n records,

city directories, speeches,

Between the glossy covers, A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks are full o f

songs, photographs, newspaper articles, diaries, and letters that d o c u -

i n f o r m a t i o n — o v e r l y full. These books are huge. T h e specimens i n m y

m e n t times past. Based o n these p r i m a r y materials, historians w r i t e

collection o f a dozen o f the most popular textbooks average four and a

secondary w o r k s — b o o k s a n d articles o n subjects ranging f r o m deafness

h a l f pounds i n w e i g h t a n d 888 pages i n l e n g t h . N o publisher wants to

o n Martha's V i n e y a r d to Grant's tactics at V i c k s b u r g . Historians produce

lose an a d o p t i o n because a b o o k has left o u t a detail o f concern to a

hundreds o f these works every year, m a n y o f t h e m splendid. I n theory,

particular geographical area or a particular group. T e x t b o o k authors

a few historians, w o r k i n g i n d i v i d u a l l y or i n teams, then synthesize the

seem compelled to include a paragraph about every U . S . president, even

secondary literature i n t o tertiary w o r k s — t e x t b o o k s covering all phases

Chester A . A r t h u r a n d M i l l a r d Fillmore. T h e n there are the review pages

o f U . S . history.

at the end o f each chapter.

Land

of Promise,

to take one

example,

enumerates 4 4 4 chapter-closing " M a i n Ideas." I n a d d i t i o n , the b o o k

I n practice, however, i t doesn't happen

that way. Instead, h i s t o r y

textbooks are clones o f each other. T h e first t h i n g editors d o w h e n

lists literally thousands o f " S k i l l A c t i v i d e s , " " K e y Terms," " M a t c h i n g "

recruiting new authors is to send t h e m a half-dozen examples o f the

items, " F i l l i n the Blanks," " T h i n k i n g C r i t i c a l l y " questions, and "Review

c o m p e t i t i o n . O f t e n a t e x t b o o k is w r i t t e n n o t by the authors

Identifications," as well as still more " M a i n Ideas" at the ends o f the

names grace its cover, b u t by m i n i o n s deep i n the bowels o f the p u b l i s h -

various sections w i t h i n each chapter. A t year's end, n o student

ers offices. W h e n historians do w r i t e textbooks, they risk snickers f r o m

can

whose

remember 4 4 4 m a i n ideas, n o t to m e n t i o n 624 key terms and coundess

their colleagues—nnged w i t h envy, b u t snickers nonetheless: " W h y are

other "factoids." So students a n d teachers fall back o n one m a i n idea: to

y o u d e v o t i n g t i m e to pedagogy rather than o r i g i n a l research?"

memorize the terms for the test f o l l o w i n g each chapter, then forget t h e m

T h e result is n o t happy for t e x t b o o k scholarship. M a n y h i s t o r y text-

to clear the synapses for the next chapter. N o w o n d e r so m a n y h i g h

books list u p - t o - t h e - m i n u t e secondary sources i n their bibliographies.

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

INTRODUCTION

15

yet the narratives remain totally t r a d i t i o n a l — u n a f f e c t e d by recent re-

books are supposed to invite students to "do" history themselves.

search."'

American

W h a t w o u l d we t h i n k o f a course i n poetry i n w h i c h students never

Way, Land

Republic,

American

of Promise,

The United

History, and The American

States—A

h i g h school narrative h i s t o r y textbooks. American

be as d u l l as the voice i n a history textbook, b u t at least i n the English

Liberty,

The Challenge

The

of the

Tradition are t r a d i t i o n a l

read a poem? T h e editors' voice i n an English literature t e x t b o o k m i g h t

and

History

Adventures,

Life

and

of Freedom are intended for j u n i o r h i g h

textbook the voice stills w h e n the b o o k presents original works o f litera-

students b u t are often used by "slow" senior h i g h classes. Triumph of the

ture. T h e omniscient narrator's voice o f h i s t o r y textbooks insulates stu-

American

dents f r o m

quote

puses as well as i n h i g h schools.''' These twelve textbooks, w h i c h are

speeches, songs, diaries, or letters. Students need n o t be protected f r o m

listed ( w i t h full citations) i n the appendix, have been m y w i n d o w i n t o

the raw materials

o f history. Rarely d o authors

this material. T h e y can just as w e l l read one paragraph

from

l i a m Jennings Bryan's "Cross o f G o l d " speech as read American

Nation

and The American

Pageant are used o n college cam-

Wil-

the w o r l d o f w h a t h i g h school students carry home, read, memorize,

Adven-

and forget. I n a d d i t i o n , I have spent m a n y hours observing h i g h school history classes i n Mississippi, V e r m o n t , and the W a s h i n g t o n , D . C ,

turess t w o paragraphs about i t . Textbooks also keep students i n the dark about the nature o f history. H i s t o r y is furious debate i n f o r m e d by evidence and reason. Textbooks

m e t r o p o l i t a n area, and m o r e hours i n t e r v i e w i n g h i g h school h i s t o r y teachers.

encourage students to believe that history is facts to be learned. " W e

Chapter Eleven analyzes the process o f t e x t b o o k creation and adop-

have n o t avoided controversial issues," announces one set o f t e x t b o o k

t i o n i n an a t t e m p t to explain w h a t causes textbooks to be as bad as they

authors; "instead, we have tried to offer reasoned j u d g m e n t s " o n t h e m

are. I m u s t confess an interest here: I once co-wrote a h i s t o r y textbook.

—thus

Mississippi:

r e m o v i n g the controversy! Because textbooks e m p l o y such a

Conflict

and

Change was the first revisionist state h i s t o r y

godlike tone, i t never occurs to most students to question t h e m . " I n

textbook i n A m e r i c a . A l t h o u g h the b o o k w o n the L i l l i a n S m i t h A w a r d

retrospect I ask myself, w h y didn't I t h i n k to ask, for example, w h o were

for "best n o n f i c t i o n about the South" i n 1975, Mississippi rejected i t for

the original inhabitants o f the Americas, w h a t was their life like, and

use i n p u b l i c schools. I n t u r n , three local school systems, m y coauthor,

h o w d i d i t change w h e n C o l u m b u s arrived," w r o t e a student o f m i n e i n

and I sued the state t e x t b o o k board. I n A p r i l 1980 Loewen

1 9 9 1 . "However, back then everything was presented as i f i t were the

Turnipseed

full p i c t u r e , " she c o n t i n u e d , "so I never t h o u g h t to d o u b t that i t was."

and Fourteenth A m e n d m e n t s . T h e experience taught me firsthand more

et al. v.

et al resulted i n a sweeping v i c t o r y o n the basis o f the First

As a result o f all this, most h i g h school seniors are h a m s t r u n g i n their

than most writers or publishers w o u l d ever w a n t to k n o w about the

efforts to analyze controversial issues i n o u r society. (1 k n o w because 1

textbook a d o p t i o n process. I also learned that n o t all the blame can be

encounter these students the next year as college freshmen.) We've got

laid at the doorstep o f the a d o p t i o n agencies.

to do better. Five-sixths o f all Americans never take a course i n A m e r i c a n

Chapter Twelve looks at the effects o f using standard A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y

h i s t o r y beyond h i g h school. W h a t our citizens "learn" i n h i g h school

textbooks. I t shows that the books actually make students s t u p i d . Finally,

forms m u c h o f w h a t they k n o w about o u r past.

an afterword cites distortions and omissions undiscussed i n eadier chap-

T h i s b o o k includes ten chapters o f amazing stories—some w o n d e r f u l ,

ters and

recommends

ways

that

teachers can

teach

and

students

some g h a s t l y — i n A m e r i c a n history. A r r a n g e d i n r o u g h l y chronological

can learn A m e r i c a n history more honestly. I t is offered as an inocula-

order, these chapters do n o t relate mere details b u t events and processes

t i o n p r o g r a m o f sorts against the future lies we are otherwise sure to en-

w i t h i m p o r t a n t consequences. Yet most textbooks leave o u t or distort

counter.

these events and processes. I k n o w , because for several years I have been l u g g i n g a r o u n d twelve textbooks, t a k i n g t h e m seriously as works o f history and ideology, s t u d y i n g w h a t they say and don't say, and t r y i n g to figure o u t why. I chose the twelve as representing the range o f textbooks available for A m e r i c a n history courses. T w o o f the books, American

History and The American

Adventure,

Discovering

are " i n q u i r y textbooks,"

composed o f maps, illustrations, and extracts f r o m p r i m a r y sources such as diaries and laws, all woven together by an overarching narrative. These lES

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

INTRODUCTION

By idolizing those whom w e honor, w e do a disservice both to them and to ourselves. . . . W e foil to recognize that w e could g o and do likewise. —Charles

THIS CHAPTER IS A B O U T H E R O I F I C A T I O N ,

V. Willie^

a degenerative

process ( m u c h Uke calcification) that makes people over i n t o heroes. T h r o u g h this process, o u r educational media t u r n

anaicappea oy i story The Process of Hero-making

flesh-and-blood

indi-

viduals i n t o pious, perfect creatures w i t h o u t conflicts, p a i n , credibility, or h u m a n interest. M a n y A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks are studded w i t h biographical v i gnettes o f the very famous {Land

of Promise

devotes a box to each

president) and the famous ( T h e Challenge of Freedom provides " D i d You K n o w ? " boxes about Elizabeth Blackwell, the first w o m a n to graduate f r o m medical school i n the U n i t e d States, and Lorraine Hansberry, author o f A Raisin

in the Sun, a m o n g m a n y others). I n themselves,

vignettes are n o t a bad idea. T h e y instruct by h u m a n example. T h e y show diverse ways that people can make a difference. T h e y allow textbooks to give space to characters such as Blackwell and Hansberry, w h o relieve w h a t w o u l d otherwise be a m o n o l i t h i c parade o f w h i t e male W h a t passes for identity in America is a series of myths

political leaders. Biographical vignettes also provoke reflection as to o u r purpose i n teaching history: Is Chester A . A r t h u r m o r e deserving o f

about one's heroic ancestors.

—James

Baldwin'

space than, say, Frank L l o y d W r i g h t ? W h o influences us m o r e t o d a y — W r i g h t , w h o invented the carport and transformed domestic architec-

O n e is astonished in the study of history at the

tural spaces, or A r t h u r , w h o , u m , signed the first C i v i l Service Act? Whose rise to p r o m i n e n c e provides more d r a m a — B l a c k w e l l ' s or George

recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten,

Bush's (the latter b o r n w i t h a silver Senate seat i n his m o u t h ) ? ' ' T h e

distorted, skimmed over. W e must not remember that

choices are debatable, b u t surely textbooks s h o u l d include some people

Daniel Webster got drunk but only remember that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. W e must forget that George Washington was a slave owner . . . and simply remember the things w e regard as creditable and

based n o t o n l y o n w h a t they achieved b u t also o n the distance they traversed to achieve i t . W e c o u l d go o n to t h i r d - and fourth-guess the list o f heroes i n textbook pantheons. M y concern here, however, is n o t w h o gets chosen, hut rather w h a t happens to the heroes w h e n they are i n t r o d u c e d i n t o o u r history textbooks and o u r classrooms. T w o r w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y Americans

inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is

provide case studies o f heroificadon: W o o d r o w W i l s o n and H e l e n Keller.

that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it

W i l s o n was unarguably an i m p o r t a n t president, and he receives extensive

paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.

—W.E.B.DuBois^

textbook coverage. Keller, o n the other h a n d , was a " l i t t l e person" w h o pushed t h r o u g h no legislation, changed the course o f no scientific disciPtme, declared no war. O n l y one o f the twelve h i s t o r y textbooks I surveyed includes her p h o t o g r a p h . B u t teachers love to talk about Keller HANDICAPPED

BY

HISTORY

and often show audiovisual materials or r e c o m m e n d biographies

that

present her life as exemplary. A l l this a t t e n t i o n ensures that students retain s o m e t h i n g about b o t h o f these historical figures, b u t they may be no better o f f for i t . H e r o i f i c a t i o n so distorts the lives o f Keller a n d W i l s o n (and m a n y others) that we cannot t h i n k straight about t h e m . *

Teachers have held up H e l e n Keller, the b l i n d and deaf girl w h o

overcame her physical handicaps, as an i n s p i r a t i o n to generations o f schoolchildren. Every fifth-grader knows the scene i n w h i c h A n n e Sullivan spells water i n t o y o u n g Helen's h a n d at the p u m p . A t least a dozen movies and

filmstrips

have been made o n Keller's life. Each yields its

version o f the same cliche. A M c G r a w - H i l l educational

film

concludes:

" T h e gift o f H e l e n Keller and A n n e Sullivan to the w o d d is to constantly r e m i n d us o f the w o n d e r o f the w o r l d a r o u n d us and h o w m u c h we owe those w h o taught us w h a t i t means, for there is n o person

that is

u n w o r t h y or incapable o f being helped, a n d the greatest service any person can make us is to help another reach true p o t e n t i a l . " ' T o d r a w such a b l a n d m a x i m f r o m the life o f H e l e n Keller, historians and

filmmakers

have disregarded her actual biography a n d left o u t the

lessons she specifically asked us to learn f r o m i t . Keller, w h o struggled

Always

a voice for the voiceless,

so valiantly to learn to speak, has been made m u t e by history. T h e result

position

at the head of this 1912 demonstration

is that we really don't k n o w m u c h about her.

as her commitment

Over the past ten years, I have asked dozens o f college students w h o

women

to the cause.

were already

Helen Keller championed

The shields

shows

women's

her celebrity

are all from Western

suffrage.

Her

status as well

states,

where

voting.

H e l e n Keller was and w h a t she d i d . T h e y all k n o w that she was a b l i n d and deaf g i r l . M o s t o f t h e m k n o w that she was befriended by a teacher, A n n e Sullivan, a n d learned to read and w r i t e and even to speak. Some students can recall rather m i n u t e details o f Keller's early life: that she

dawn!"'' Keller h u n g a red flag over the desk i n her study. G r a d u a l l y she moved to the left o f the Socialist party a n d became a W o b b l y , a member

Sullivan came along, and so f o r t h . A few k n o w that Keller graduated

o f the Industrial Workers o f the W o r l d ( I W W ) , the syndicalist u n i o n

f r o m college. B u t about w h a t happened next, about the w h o l e o f her

persecuted by W o o d r o w W i l s o n .

a "public figure" or a " h u m a n i t a r i a n , " perhaps o n behalf o f the b l i n d o r deaf "She w r o t e , didn't she?" or "she spoke"—conjectures w i t h o u t c o n tent. Keller, w h o was b o r n i n 1880, graduated f r o m Radcliffe i n 1904

Keller's c o m m i t m e n t to socialism stemmed f r o m her experience as a disabled person a n d f r o m her sympathy for others w i t h handicaps. She began by w o r k i n g to simplify the alphabet for the b l i n d , b u t soon came to realize that t o deal solely w i t h blindness was to treat s y m p t o m , n o t

and d i e d i n 1968. To ignore the sixty-four years o f her adult life or

cause. T h r o u g h research she learned that blindness was not d i s t r i b u t e d

to encapsulate t h e m w i t h the single w o r d humanitarian

is to lie by

r a n d o m l y t h r o u g h o u t the p o p u l a t i o n b u t was concentrated i n the lower

T h e t r u t h is that H e l e n Keller was a radical socialist. She j o i n e d the

by inadequate medical care; p o o r w o m e n w h o became prostitutes faced

omission.

o n

together! O n w a r d to the campfires o f Russia! O n w a r d to the c o m i n g

lived i n Alabama, that she was u n r u l y and w i t h o u t manners before

adult life, they are ignorant. A few students venture that Keller became

LIES

new, a n d b e h o l d i n the East a m a n - c h i l d is b o r n ! O n w a r d , comrades, all

class. M e n w h o were p o o r m i g h t be b l i n d e d i n i n d u s t r i a l accidents or

Socialist party o f Massachusetts i n 1909. She had become a social radical

the a d d i t i o n a l danger o f s y p h i l i t i c blindness. T h u s Keller learned h o w

even before she graduated

f r o m Radcliffe, and not, she emphasized,

the social class system controls people's o p p o r t u n i t i e s i n life, sometimes

because o f any teachings available there. After the Russian R e v o l u t i o n ,

d e t e r m i n i n g even whether they can see. Keller's research was n o t just

she sang the praises o f the new c o m m u n i s t n a t i o n : " I n the East a new

book-learning: " I have visited sweatshops, factories, crowded slums. I f I

star is risen! W i t h pain and anguish the o l d order has given b i r t h to the

c o u l d n o t see i t , I c o u l d smell i t . " ^

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME*

HANDICAPPED

BY

HISTORY

A t the t i m e Keller became a socialist, she was one o f the most famous w o m e n o n the planet. She soon became the most notorious. H e r conversion to socialism caused a new s t o r m o f p u b l i c i t y — t h i s t i m e outraged. Newspapers that had extolled her courage and intelligence n o w emphasized her handicap. C o l u m n i s t s charged that she h a d n o

independent

sensory i n p u t and was i n thrall to those w h o fed her

information.

Typical was the editor o f the B r o o k l y n Eagle, w h o w r o t e that Keller's "mistakes spring o u t o f the manifest l i m i t a t i o n s o f her development."

PRESIDE, DEMAND

Keller recalled having met this editor: " A t that t i m e the c o m p l i m e n t s

Those Who .RACTFOfllhlSLOONTRy

he paid me were so generous that I blush to remember t h e m . B u t n o w that 1 have come o u t for socialism he reminds me a n d the p u b l i c that I

'in Out.

a m b l i n d and deaf a n d especially liable to error. I must have s h r u n k i n intelligence d u r i n g the years since I met h i m . " She w e n t o n , " O h , ridiculous B r o o k l y n Eagle! SociiWy b l i n d and deaf i t defends an intolerable system, a system that is the cause o f m u c h o f the physical blindness and deafness w h i c h we are t r y i n g to prevent."^ Keller, w h o devoted m u c h o f her later life to raising funds for the

Among

the progressive-era

A m e r i c a n F o u n d a d o n for the B l i n d , never wavered i n her belief that o u r

Wilson

is women s suffrage.

society needed radical change. H a v i n g herself fought so h a r d to speak,

Wilson s administration,

she helped f o u n d the A m e r i c a n C i v i l Liberties U n i o n to fight for the

arrested;

free speech o f others. She sent $ 1 0 0 to the N A A C P w i t h a letter o f

other actions

s u p p o r t that appeared i n its magazine

The Crisis—a

radical act for a

w h i t e person f r o m A l a b a m a i n the 1920s. She supported Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate, i n each o f his campaigns for the presi-

Although

the president

his wife detested

unwise.

women

did receive

convinced

Textbooks

the hero and the people.

Wilson

aroused

By giving

fie had

by hunger strikes

that to oppose

typically fail to show the

Woodrow

the right to vote

was at first unsympathetic,

them. Public pressure,

of the movement,

was politically between

reforms with which students often credit

women's

during suffragists and suffrage

interrelationship

the credit to the hero, authors tell less

than half of the story.

dency. She composed essays o n the women's movement, o n politics, o n economics. Near the end o f her life, she w r o t e to Elizabeth G u r l e y F l y n n , leader o f the A m e r i c a n C o m m u n i s t party, w h o was then languishing i n j a i l , a v i c t i m o f the M c C a r t h y era: " L o v i n g b i r t h d a y greet-

about t w o antidemocratic policies that W i l s o n carried o u t : his racial segregation o f the federal government a n d his m i l i t a r y interventions i n foreign countries.

ings, dear Elizabeth F l y n n ! M a y the sense o f serving m a n k i n d b r i n g strength a n d peace i n t o y o u r brave heart!'"* O n e may n o t agree w i t h H e l e n Keller's positions. H e r praise o f the U S S R n o w seems naive, embarrassing, to some even treasonous. B u t she was a r a d i c a l — a fact few Americans k n o w , because o u r schooling a n d o u r mass media left i t o u t . ' " able. W h e n 1 ask m y college students to tell me w h a t they recall about President W i l s o n , they respond w i t h enthusiasm. T h e y say that W i l s o n led o u r c o u n t r y reluctandy i n t o W o r l d W a r I and after the war led the struggle n a t i o n a l l y and i n t e r n a t i o n a l l y to establish the League o f N a tions. T h e y associate W i l s o n w i t h progressive causes like women's suffrage. A h a n d f u l o f students recall the W i l s o n administration's Palmer Raids against l e f t - w i n g unions. B u t m y students seldom k n o w or speak MY

TEACHER

TOLD

i n 1914, H a i t i in, 1 9 1 5 , the D o m i n i c a n Republic i n 1916, M e x i c o again i n 1916 ( a n d nine more times before the e n d o f Wilson's presidency), C u b a i n 1917, a n d Panama i n 1918. T h r o u g h o u t his a d m i n i s t r a t i o n W i l s o n m a i n t a i n e d forces i n Nicaragua, using t h e m to determine N i c a -

W h a t we d i d n o t learn about W o o d r o w W i l s o n is even m o r e remark-

lES O

U n d e r W i l s o n , the U n i t e d States intervened i n L a t i n A m e r i c a more often than at any other t i m e i n o u r history. W e landed troops i n M e x i c o

ragua's president a n d to force passage o f a treaty preferential to the U n i t e d States. I n 1917 W o o d r o w W i l s o n t o o k o n a major power w h e n he started sending secret m o n e t a r y a i d t o the " W h i t e " side o f the Russian c i v i l war. I n the summer o f 1918 he authorized a naval blockade o f the Soviet U n i o n and sent expeditionary forces to M u r m a n s k , Archangel, and V l a d i v o s t o k to help o v e r t h r o w the Russian R e v o l u t i o n . W i t h the blessi n g o f B r i t a i n a n d France, a n d i n a j o i n t c o m m a n d w i t h Japanese sol-

ME HANDICAPPED

BY

HISTORY

diers, A m e r i c a n forces penetrated westward f r o m V l a d i v o s t o k to Lake

vague as to w h o caused the invasions b u t seems certain they were n o t

Baikal, s u p p o r t i n g Czech a n d W h i t e Russian forces that had declared

Wilson's d o i n g : " H e soon discovered that because o f forces he c o u l d n o t

briefly

c o n t r o l , his ideas o f m o r a l i t y and idealism had to give way to practical

m a i n t a i n i n g front lines as far west as the Volga, the W h i t e Russian forces

a c t i o n . " Promise goes o n to assert Wilson's innocence: " T h u s , t h o u g h he

an a n t i c o m m u n i s t government headquartered at O m s k . After

believed i t m o r a l l y undesirable t o send M a r i n e s i n t o the Caribbean, he

disintegrated b y the end o f 1919, and o u r troops finally left V l a d i v o s t o k

saw n o way t o avoid i t . " T h i s passage is sheer i n v e n t i o n . U n l i k e his

o n A p r i l 1, 1 9 2 0 . "

secretary o f the navy, w h o later c o m p l a i n e d that w h a t W i l s o n "forced

Few Americans w h o were n o t alive at the t i m e k n o w a n y t h i n g about

[me] to do i n H a i t i was a b i t t e r p i l l for m e , " n o d o c u m e n t a r y evidence

o u r " u n k n o w n war w i t h Russia," to quote the title o f R o b e r t Maddox's

suggests that W i l s o n suffered any such qualms about dispatching troops

b o o k o n this fiasco. N o t one o f the twelve A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks

to the Caribbean.'''

i n m y sample even m e n t i o n s i t . Russian h i s t o r y textbooks, o n the other A l l twelve o f the textbooks 1 surveyed m e n t i o n Wilson's 1914 invasion

h a n d , give the episode considerable coverage. A c c o r d i n g to M a d d o x :

o f M e x i c o , b u t they posit that the interventions were n o t Wilson's fault.

" T h e i m m e d i a t e effect o f the i n t e r v e n t i o n was to p r o l o n g a b l o o d y

"President W i l s o n was urged to send m i l i t a r y forces i n t o M e x i c o to

c i v i l war, thereby costing thousands o f a d d i t i o n a l lives a n d w r e a k i n g

protect A m e r i c a n investments a n d to restore law a n d order," according

enormous destruction o n an already battered society. A n d there were

to Triumph

longer-range i m p l i c a d o n s . Bolshevik leaders h a d clear p r o o f . . . that the

of the American

Nation,

whose authors emphasize that the

president at first chose not to intervene. B u t "as the m o n t h s passed, even

Western powers meant to destroy the Soviet government i f given the

President W i l s o n began to lose panence." Walter K a r p has s h o w n that

chance."'"

this version contradicts the facts—the invasion was Wilson's idea f r o m

T h i s aggression fueled the suspicions that m o t i v a t e d the Soviets d u r -

the start, and i t outraged Congress as well as the A m e r i c a n p e o p l e . "

i n g the C o l d War, a n d u n t i l its breakup the Soviet U n i o n c o n t i n u e d to

A c c o r d i n g t o Karp, Wilson's i n t e r v e n t i o n was so outrageous that leaders

claim damages for the invasion.

o f b o t h sides o f Mexico's o n g o i n g c i v i l war demanded that the U . S .

Wilson's invasions o f L a t i n A m e r i c a are better k n o w n t h a n his Russian

forces leave; the pressure o f p u b l i c o p i n i o n i n the U n i t e d States a n d

adventure. Textbooks do cover some o f t h e m , and i t is fascinating to

a r o u n d the w o r l d finally influenced W i l s o n to recall the troops.

w a t c h t e x t b o o k authors a t t e m p t to jusnfy these episodes. A n y accurate

T e x t b o o k authors c o m m o n l y use another device w h e n describing o u r

portrayal o f the invasions c o u l d n o t possibly show W i l s o n o r the U n i t e d

Mexican adventures: they identify W i l s o n as o r d e r i n g o u r forces to

States i n a favorable l i g h t . W i t h h i n d s i g h t we k n o w that Wilson's inter-

withdraw, b u t n o b o d y is specified as h a v i n g ordered t h e m i n ! I m p a r t i n g

ventions i n C u b a , the D o m i n i c a n Republic, H a i t i , a n d Nicaragua set

i n f o r m a t i o n i n a passive voice helps t o insulate historical figures f r o m

the stage for the dictators Batista, T r u j i l l o , the Duvaliers, a n d the Somo-

their o w n unheroic o r unethical deeds.

zas, whose legacies still reverberate." Even i n the 1910s, most o f the invasions were u n p o p u l a r i n this c o u n t r y a n d p r o v o k e d a t o r r e n t o f criticism abroad. B y the m i d - 1 9 2 0 s , Wilson's successors reversed his policies i n L a t i n A m e r i c a . T h e authors o f h i s t o r y texibuoks k n o w this,

Some books go b e y o n d o m i t t i n g the actor a n d leave o u t the act itself H a l f o f the twelve textbooks do n o t even m e n t i o n Wilson's takeover o f H a i t i . After U . S . marines invaded the c o u n t r y i n 1915, they forced the H a i t i a n legislature to select o u r preferred candidate as president. W h e n

for a chapter or t w o after W i l s o n they laud o u r " G o o d N e i g h b o r Polic)',"

H a i t i refused to declare war o n G e r m a n y after the U n i t e d States d i d , w e

the r e n u n c i a t i o n o f force i n L a d n A m e r i c a b y Presidents C o o l i d g e a n d

dissolved the H a i t i a n legislature. T h e n the U n i t e d States supervised a

Hoover, w h i c h was extended b y F r a n k l i n D . Roosevelt.

pseudo-referendum to approve a n e w H a i t i a n c o n s t i t u t i o n , less d e m o -

Textbooks m i g h t ( b u t don't) call Wilson's L a t i n A m e r i c a n actions a

cratic than the c o n s t i t u t i o n i t replaced; the referendum passed by a

" B a d N e i g h b o r Policy" b y c o m p a r i s o n . Instead, faced w i t h unpleasant-

V a r i o u s 98,225 to 7 6 8 . As Piero Gleijesus has noted, " I t is n o t that

ries, textbooks wriggle to get the hero o f f the h o o k , as i n this example from

The Challenge of Freedom:

"President W i l s o n w a n t e d the U n i t e d

'

^^''^cl i n his earnest efforts to b r i n g democracy to these little

countries. H e never tried. H e intervened to impose hegemony,

not

States to b u i l d friendships w i t h the countries o f L a t i n A m e r i c a . H o w -

democracy" "> T h e U n i t e d States also attacked Haiti's p r o u d t r a d i t i o n o f

ever, he f o u n d this difficult. . . . " Some textbooks blame the invasions

' " d i v i d u a l ownership o f small tracts o f l a n d , w h i c h dated back t o the

o n the countries invaded: "Necessity was the m o t h e r o f armed C a r i b -

aitian R e v o l u t i o n , i n favor o f the establishment o f large plantations.

bean i n t e r v e n t i o n , " states The American MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

Pageant.

Land

of Promise

is HANDICAPPED

BY

HISTORY!

A m e r i c a n troops forced peasants i n shackles t o w o r k o n road construc-

v o t e d i n 1912, changed all that. A southerner, W i l s o n h a d been presi-

t i o n crews. I n 1919 H a i t i a n citizens rose u p a n d resisted U . S . occupation

dent o f Princeton, the o n l y major n o r t h e r n university that refused to

troops i n a guerrilla war that cost more t h a n 3,000 lives, most o f t h e m

a d m i t blacks. H e was an outspoken w h i t e supremacist—his wife was

H a i t i a n . Students w h o read Triumph

learn this

even w o r s e — a n d t o l d "darky" stories i n cabinet meetings. H i s a d m i n i s -

about Wilson's i n t e r v e n t i o n i n H a i t i : " N e i t h e r the treaty n o r the c o n t i n -

of the American

Nation

t r a t i o n s u b m i t t e d a legislative p r o g r a m i n t e n d e d to c u r t a i l the c i v i l rights

ued presence o f A m e r i c a n troops restored order completely. D u r i n g the

o f African Americans, b u t Congress w o u l d n o t pass i t . Unfazed, W i l s o n

next four o r five years, nearly 2,000 H a i t i a n s were k i l l e d i n riots and

used his power as chief executive to segregate the federal government.

other outbreaks o f violence." T h i s passive c o n s t r u c t i o n veils the c i r c u m -

H e a p p o i n t e d southern whites to offices t r a d i t i o n a l l y reserved for blacks.

stances about w h i c h George Barnett, a U . S . m a r i n e general, c o m p l a i n e d

W i l s o n personally vetoed a clause o n racial equality i n the Covenant o f

t o his c o m m a n d e r i n H a i t i : "Practically i n d i s c r i m i n a t e k i l l i n g o f natives

the League o f N a t i o n s . T h e one occasion o n w h i c h W i l s o n m e t w i t h

has gone o n for some t i m e . " Barnett t e r m e d this v i o l e n t episode "the

African A m e r i c a n leaders i n the W h i t e House ended i n a fiasco as the

most starding t h i n g o f its k i n d that has ever taken place i n the M a r i n e

president v i r t u a l l y t h r e w the visitors o u t o f his office. Wilson's legacy

Corps."

was extensive: he effectively closed the D e m o c r a t i c Party to African

D u r i n g the first t w o decades o f this century, the U n i t e d States ef-

Americans for another t w o decades, and parts o f the federal government

fectively made colonies o f Nicaragua, C u b a , the D o m i n i c a n Repub-

remained segregated i n t o the 1950s and beyond.^" I n 1916 the C o l o r e d

lic, H a i t i , a n d several other countries. Wilson's reaction to the Russian

Advisory C o m m i t t e e o f the Republican N a t i o n a l C o m m i t t e e issued a

R e v o l u t i o n solidified the a l i g n m e n t o f the U n i t e d States w i t h Europe's

statement o n W i l s o n that, t h o u g h partisan, was accurate: " N o sooner

colonial powers. H i s was the first a d m i n i s t r a t i o n to be obsessed w i t h the

had the D e m o c r a t i c A d m i n i s t r a t i o n come i n t o power than M r . W i l s o n

specter o f c o m m u n i s m , abroad a n d at h o m e . W i l s o n was b l u n t about i t .

and his advisors entered u p o n a p o l i c y to eliminate all colored citizens

I n Billings, M o n t a n a , s t u m p i n g the West t o seek support for the League

from representation i n the Federal G o v e r n m e n t . " ^ '

o f N a t i o n s , he w a r n e d , " T h e r e are apostles o f L e n i n i n o u r o w n m i d s t . 1 can n o t imagine w h a t i t means to be an apostle o f L e n i n . I t means to

O f the nvelve h i s t o r y textbooks I reviewed, o n l y four accurately describe Wilson's racial policies. Land

of Promise does the best j o b :

be an apostle o f the n i g h t , o f chaos, o f d i s o r d e r . " E v e n after the W h i t e Russian alternative collapsed, W i l s o n refused to extend d i p l o m a t i c rec-

W o o d r o w Wilson's administration w a s openly hostile to black people.

o g n i t i o n to the Soviet U n i o n . H e participated i n b a r r i n g Russia f r o m

W i l s o n was an outspoken white supremacist w h o believed that black

the peace negotiations after W o r l d W a r I a n d helped oust Bela K u n , the

people w e r e inferior. During his c a m p a i g n for the presidency, W i l s o n

c o m m u n i s t leader w h o h a d risen t o power i n H u n g a r y . Wilson's senti-

promised to press for civil rights. But once in office he forgot his promises.

m e n t for self-determination a n d democracy never had a chance against

Instead, W i l s o n ordered that white a n d black workers in federal govern-

his three bedrock "ism"s: c o l o n i a l i s m , racism, a n d a n t i c o m m u n i s m . A

ment jobs be segregated from o n e another. This w a s the first time such

y o u n g H o C h i M i n h appealed t o W o o d r o w W i l s o n at Versailles for

segregation h a d existed since Reconstruction! W h e n black federal em-

self-determination for V i e t n a m , b u t H o had all three strikes against h i m .

ployees in Southern cities protested the order, W i l s o n h a d the protesters

W i l s o n refused to listen, and France retained c o n t r o l o f I n d o c h i n a . " I t

fired. In November, 1 9 1 4 , a block delegation asked the President to re-

seems that W i l s o n regarded self-determination as all r i g h t for, say, Bel-

verse his policies. W i l s o n was rude a n d hostile a n d refused their demands.

g i u m , b u t n o t for the likes o f L a d n A m e r i c a o r Southeast Asia. A t h o m e , Wilson's racial policies disgraced the office he held. H i s

States—A

'Story of the Republic, Promise stands alone. M o s t o f the textbooks that

offices, i n c l u d i n g those o f p o r t collector for N e w Orleans a n d the D i s -

treat Wilson's racism give i t o n l y a sentence o r t w o . Five o f the books

t r i c t o f C o l u m b i a a n d register o f the treasury. Presidents sometimes

never even m e n t i o n this "black m a r k " o n Wilson's presidency. O n e that

a p p o i n t e d African Americans as postmasters, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n southern

LIES

Unfortunately, except for one other textbook. The United

Republican predecessors had r o u t i n e l y a p p o i n t e d blacks to i m p o r t a n t

oes.

The American

Way, does s o m e t h i n g even more astonishing: i t

towns w i t h large black populations. A f r i c a n Americans t o o k part i n the

'nvents a happy ending! "Those i n favor o f segregation finally lost sup-

Republican Party's national conventions a n d enjoyed some access t o the

P*^rt m the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n . T h e i r policies gradually were ended." T h i s is

W h i t e House. W o o d r o w W i l s o n , for w h o m m a n y A f r i c a n Americans

' " « p l y n o t true.

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

HANDICAPPED

BY

HISTORY

O m i t t i n g o r absolving Wilson's racism goes b e y o n d concealing a char-

tions to the hero a n d invoke "the people" to excuse questionable actions

acter blemish. I t is overtly racist. N o black person c o u l d ever consider

and policies. A c c o r d i n g to Triumph

W o o d r o w W i l s o n a hero. Textbooks that present h i m as a hero are

dent, W i l s o n seemed to agree w i t h most w h i t e Americans that segrega-

of the American

Nation:

"As Presi-

w r i t t e n f r o m a w h i t e perspective. T h e coverup denies all students the

t i o n was i n the best interests o f black as w e l l as w h i t e Americans."

chance to learn s o m e t h i n g i m p o r t a n t about the interreladonship be-

W i l s o n was n o t o n l y antiblack; he was also far and away o u r most

tween the leader and the led. W h i t e Americans engaged i n a new burst

nativist president, repeatedly q u e s t i o n i n g the loyalty o f those he called

o f racial violence d u r i n g and i m m e d i a t e l y after Wilson's presidency. T h e

"hyphenated Americans." " A n y m a n w h o carries a h y p h e n about w i t h

tone set b y the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n was one cause. A n o t h e r was the release o f

h i m , " said W i l s o n , "carries a dagger that he is ready to p l u n g e i n t o the

America's first epic m o t i o n picture.^^

vitals o f this Republic whenever he gets ready."

T h e A m e r i c a n people

T h e filmmaker D a v i d W G r i f f i t h q u o t e d Wilson's t w o - v o l u m e h i s t o r y

responded t o Wilson's lead w i t h a wave o f repression o f w h i t e ethnic

o f the U n i t e d States, n o w n o t o r i o u s for its racist v i e w o f Reconstruction,

groups; again, most textbooks blame the people, n o t W i l s o n . The Ameri-

i n his infamous masterpiece

The Clansman,

a paean to the K u K l u x

K l a n for its role i n p u t t i n g d o w n " b l a c k - d o m i n a t e d " Republican state governments d u r i n g Reconstruction. G r i f f i t h based the movie o n a b o o k by Wilson's former classmate, T h o m a s D i x o n , whose obsession w i t h race was "unrivaled u n t i l Mein

Kampf."

A t a private W h i t e House s h o w i n g ,

W i l s o n saw the m o v i e , n o w retitled Birth

of a Nation,

a n d returned

Griffith's c o m p l i m e n t : " I t is like w r i t i n g h i s t o r y w i t h l i g h t n i n g , a n d m y

can Tradition

admits that "President W i l s o n set u p " the Creel C o m m i t -

tee o n Public I n f o r m a t i o n , w h i c h saturated propaganda

the U n i t e d States w i t h

l i n k i n g Germans to barbarism. B u t Tradition

hastens to

shield W i l s o n f r o m the ensuing domestic fallout: " A l t h o u g h President W i l s o n had been careful i n his war message t o state t h a t most Americans o f G e r m a n descent were 'true a n d loyal citizens,' the a n n - G e r m a n propaganda often caused t h e m suffering."

o n l y regret is that i t is all so true." G r i f f i t h w o u l d go o n to use this

W i l s o n displayed l i t d e regard for the rights o f anyone whose o p i n i o n s

q u o t a t i o n i n successfully defending his film against N A A C P charges

differed f r o m his o w n . B u t textbooks take pains to insulate h i m f r o m

that i t was racially inflammatory.^'

w r o n g d o i n g . "Congress," n o t W i l s o n , is credited w i t h having passed the

T h i s l a n d m a r k o f A m e r i c a n cinema was n o t o n l y the best technical

Espionage A c t o f June 1917 and the Sedition A c t o f the f o l l o w i n g year,

p r o d u c t i o n o f its t i m e b u t also p r o b a b l y the most racist major m o v i e o f

probably the most serious attacks o n the c i v i l liberties o f Americans

all t i m e . D i x o n i n t e n d e d "to revolutionize n o r t h e r n sentiment by a presentation o f h i s t o r y that w o u l d transform every m a n i n m y audience i n t o a g o o d D e m o c r a t ! . . . A n d make n o mistake about i t — w e are d o i n g just that."^'* D i x o n d i d n o t overstate b y m u c h . Spurred by of a Nation,

Birth

W i l l i a m S i m m o n s o f Georgia reestablished the K u K l u x

K l a n . T h e racism seeping d o w n f r o m the W h i t e House

encouraged

this K l a n , d i s d n g u i s h i n g i t f r o m its Reconstruction predecessor, w h i c h President G r a n t had succeeded i n v i r t u a l l y e l i m i n a t i n g i n one state (South Carolina) a n d discouraging n a t i o n a l l y for a t i m e . T h e new K K K q u i c k l y became a national p h e n o m e n o n . I t grew to d o m i n a t e the D e m o cratic Party i n m a n y southern states, as w e l l as i n I n d i a n a , O k l a h o m a , and O r e g o n . D u r i n g Wilson's second t e r m , a wave o f antiblack race riots swept the country. W h i t e s lynched blacks as far n o r t h as D u l u t h . - ' I f Americans had learned f r o m the W i l s o n era the c o n n e c t i o n between

since the short-lived A l i e n a n d Sedition Acts o f 1798. I n fact, W i l s o n t n e d to strengthen the Espionage A c t w i t h a p r o v i s i o n g i v i n g b r o a d censorship powers d i r e c t l y to the president. Moreover, w i t h Wilson's approval, his postmaster

general used his new censorship powers to

suppress all m a i l that was socialist, a n t i - B r i t i s h , p r o - I r i s h , or that i n any other way m i g h t , i n his view, have threatened the war effort. Goldstein served ten years i n prison for p r o d u c i n g The Spirit

Robert of 76, a

film about the Revolutionary W a r that depicted the British, w h o were now our allies, unfavorably^"* T e x t b o o k authors suggest that w a r t i m e pressures excuse Wilson's suppression o f c i v i l liberties, b u t i n 1920, b T l T ' " ' ' ^ W a r I was l o n g over, W i l s o n vetoed a b i l l that w o u l d have a ohshed the Espionage and Sedition acts.^" T e x t b o o k authors blame t e r m " " ^ " " ' " ' " " ' ' ^ a n d anti-labor u n i o n w i t c h hunts o f Wilson's second SUD" ° " ^u-'^'"^^^ his laTt'd

^""^ ° " ^ " attorney general r u n a m o k . N o evidence

'

^ " ° ' ' " ^ > ' General Palmer asked W i l s o n i n

racist presidential leadership and l i k e - m i n d e d p u b l i c response, they m i g h t n o t have p u t u p w i t h a reprise o n a far smaller scale d u r i n g the

time^for

Reagan-Bush years.-'' T o accomplish such education, however, textbooks

tlenounc'^ ^^K^*^*^ a t t r i b u t i n g W o d d W a r I t o economic interests a n d

w o u l d have to make p l a i n the relationship between cause a n d effect,

"Neved"'"^H

between hero a n d followers. Instead, they reflexively ascribe noble i n t e n LIES

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

President to p a r d o n Eugene V . Debs, w h o was serving

^n

^^P'°"^8^

undemocratic.'" T h e president replied,

Debs languished i n prison u n t i l W a r r e n H a r d i n g pardoned HANDICAPPED

BY

HISTORY

him."

The American

Way zdopts

perhaps the most innovative approach

to absolving W i l s o n o f w r o n g d o i n g : Way s i m p l y moves the " r e d scare" to the 1920s, after W i l s o n had left office! Because heroification prevents textbooks

from

showing

Wilson's

shortcomings, textbooks are hard pressed t o explain the results o f the 1920 election. James C o x , the Democratic candidate w h o was Wilson's would-be successor, was crushed b y the n o n e n t i t y W a r r e n G . H a r d i n g , w h o never even campaigned. I n the biggest landslide i n the history o f American presidential politics, H a r d i n g g o t almost 6 4 percent o f the major-party votes. T h e people were " t i r e d , " textbooks suggest, a n d just wanted a " r e t u r n t o normalcy." T h e possibility that the electorate k n e w what i t was d o i n g i n rejecting W i l s o n never occurs to o u r a u t h o r s . " I t occurred to H e l e n Keller, however. She called W i l s o n "the greatest i n d i vidual d i s a p p o i n t m e n t the w o r l d has ever k n o w n ! " It isn't o n l y h i g h school history courses that heroify W i l s o n . Textbooks such as Land

of Promise, w h i c h discusses Wilson's racism, have t o battle

u p h i l l , for they struggle against the archetypal W o o d r o w W i l s o n c o m -

S p i e s and

Lies

memorated i n so m a n y history museums, p u b l i c television documentaries, and historical novels. For some years now, M i c h a e l Frisch has been c o n d u c t i n g an experiment i n social archetypes at the State University o f N e w York at Buffalo.

fill hornn* Bnt while the enem\» him br the cvrcWinw. M Am«K.n..

H e asks his first-year college students for "the first ten names that y o u t h i n k o f " i n A m e r i c a n history before the C i v i l War. W h e n Frisch f o u n d •^f-'

' " i ^xr^' :r,7r:^^«K

that his students listed the same political a n d m i l i t a r y figures year after year, replicating the privileged positions afforded t h e m i n h i g h school textbooks, he added the proviso, "excluding presidents, generals, statesmen, etc." Frisch still gets a stable list, b u t one less predictable o n the basis o f history textbooks. Seven years o u t o f eight, Betsy Ross has led the list. (Paul Revere usually comes i n second.)

)

summarize the nadir p e r i o d . T h e othe'

^^jp"^,^°ok authors w o u l d n o t have to invent their descriptions o f the ' t I r o m scratch. African Americans have left a r i c h a n d b i t t e r legacy

LIES

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

f r o m the p e r i o d . Students w h o encounter R i c h a r d Wright's narrative o f

teams cheered b y p r e d o m i n a n t l y w h i t e cheedeaders o n television, self-

his c h i l d h o o d i n Black Boy, read Ida B . Wells's description o f a l y n c h i n g

segregated d i n i n g rooms o n college campuses, a n d arguments

i n The Red Record, or sing aloud B i g B i l l Broonzy's " I f You're Black, Get

affirmative action i n the workplace. M o r e than any other social variable

Back!" cannot b u t understand the p l i g h t o f a people e n v i s i o n i n g o n l y a

(except sex!), race w i l l determine w h o m they marry. M o s t o f their friend-

n a r r o w i n g o f their o p t i o n s . N o b o o k can convey the depths o f the black

ship networks w i l l remain segregated b y race, a n d most churches, lodges,

experience w i t h o u t i n c l u d i n g material f r o m the oppressed group. Yet

and other social organizations w i l l be o v e r w h e l m i n g l y either black o r

n o t one t e x t b o o k lets African Americans speak for themselves about the

nonblack. T h e ethnic incidents and race riots o f t o m o r r o w w i l l provoke

conditions they faced.

still more agonizing debate.

I t is also crucial that students realize that the d i s c r i m i n a t i o n c o n f r o n t -

Since the nadir, the climate o f race relations has i m p r o v e d , o w i n g

ing African Americans d u r i n g the nadir (and afterward) was national,

especially to the civil rights movement. B u t massive racial disparities

n o t just Southern. O n l y The American Adventure

po'mts this o u t . There-

remain, inequalines that can o n l y be briefly summarized here. I n 1990

fore most o f m y first-year college students have n o idea that i n many

African A m e r i c a n median family income averaged o n l y 57 percent o f

locales u n n l after W o d d W a r I I , a n d c o n t i n u i n g even today i n some

white family income; N a t i v e Americans a n d Hispanics averaged about

suburbs, the N o r t h too was segregated: that blacks c o u l d n o t b u y houses

65 percent as m u c h as whites. M o n e y can be used to b u y m a n y things

i n c o m m u n i t i e s a r o u n d M i n n e a p o l i s , c o u l d n o t w o r k i n the construc-

in our society, f r o m higher S A T scores t o the a b i l i t y to s w i m , a n d

t i o n trades i n Philadelphia, w o u l d n o t be h i r e d as department store

African A m e r i c a n , Hispanic, a n d N a t i v e A m e r i c a n families lag i n their

clerks i n Chicago, a n d so o n .

access to all those things. Ultimately, m o n e y buys life itself i n the f o r m

Even The American

Adventure

forgets its o w n coverage o f the nadir

o f better n u t r i t i o n and health care and freedom f r o m danger a n d stress.

and elsewhere offers this simplistic view o f the period: " T h e years 1 8 8 0 -

It should therefore come as no surprise that i n 1990 African Americans

1910 seemed f u l l o f contradictions. . . . D u r i n g Reconstruction many

and Native Americans had median life expectancies at b i r t h that were

people tried hard to help the black people i n the S o u t h . T h e n , for years,

six years shorter than whites'.

most w h i t e Americans paid little a t t e n t i o n to the blacks. L i t t l e by little,

O n average, African Americans have worse housing, lower scores o n

however, there grew a new concern for t h e m . " T h e trouble is, many

I Q tests, and higher percentages o f y o u n g m e n i n j a i l . T h e sneaking

w h i t e h i g h school graduates share this world-view. Even i f w h i t e concern

suspicion that African Americans m i g h t be inferior goes unchallenged

for blacks has been o n l y sporadic, they w o u l d argue, w h y haven't African

in the hearts o f m a n y blacks a n d whites. I t is all too easy to blame the

Americans shaped u p i n the hundred-plus years since Reconstruction

v i c t i m and conclude that people o f color are themselves responsible for

ended? After a l l , i m m i g r a n t groups d i d n ' t have everything handed to

being o n the b o t t o m . W i t h o u t causal historical analysis, these racial

t h e m o n a platter, either.

disparities are impossible to explain.

It is true that some i m m i g r a n t groups faced harsh d i s c r i m i n a t i o n ,

W h e n textbooks make racism invisible i n A m e r i c a n history, they o b -

f r o m the N o Irish N e e d A p p l y signs i n Boston to the l y n c h i n g o f Italian

struct o u r already p o o r a b i l i t y to see i t i n the present. T h e closest they

Americans i n N e w Orleans to the pogroms against Chinese w o r k camps

come to analysis is to present a vague feeling o f o p t i m i s m : i n race

c o m m u n i t i e s i n the N o r t h stiii

relations, as i n everything, o u r society is constantly g e t t i n g better. W e

shut o u t Jews a n d Catholics. Nonetheless, the segregation and physie.il

tised to have slavery; n o w we don't. W e used to have lynchings; n o w we

i n California. Some w h i t e suburban

violence a i m e d at African Americans has been o f a higher order of

o n t . Baseball used to be all w h i t e ; n o w i t isn't. T h e n o t i o n o f progress

m a g n i t u d e . I f African Americans i n the nadir had experienced only

suffuses textbook treatments o f black-white relations, i m p l y i n g that race

w h i t e indifference, as The American Adventure

implies,

rather than overt

ations have somehow steadily i m p r o v e d o n their o w n . T h i s cheery

violent resistance, they c o u l d have c o n t i n u e d to w i n K e n t u c k y Derbies,

" p r i m i s m o n l y c o m p o u n d s the p r o b l e m , because whites can infer that

deliver m a i l , and even b u y houses i n w h i t e neighborhoods. T h e i r prob-

J^aeism is over. " T h e U . S . has done more than any other n a t i o n i n

lem was n o t black failure or w h i t e i n d i f f e r e n c e — i t was w h i t e racism-

^ tory to provide equal rights for a l l , " The American

Tradition assures

racial d i s c r i m i n a t i o n grows increasingly rare, as

^ • O f course, its authors have n o t seriously considered the levels o f

y o u n g Americans grow up, they cannot avoid c o m i n g up against the r i n

^^rnan rights i n the Netherlands, Lesotho, or Canada today, or i n

.Although formal

o f race relations. T h e y w i l l encounter LIES

about

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

p r e d o m i n a n t l y black athlet"^

octaw society i n 1800, because they don't mean their declaration as a " G O N E

WITH

THE

W I N D "

serious statement o f comparative h i s t o r y — i t is just ethnocentric cheerleading. H i g h school students "have a g l o o m y view o f the state o f race relations i n A m e r i c a t o d a y " according to a recent n a t i o n w i d e p o l l . Students o f all racial backgrounds b r o o d about the subject.*'' A n o t h e r p o l l reveals that for the first t i m e i n this c e n t u r y y o u n g w h i t e adults have less tolerant attitudes t o w a r d black Americans t h a n those over thirty. O n e reason is that "the under-30 generadon is pathetically ignorant o f recent A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y " " ' T o o y o u n g to have experienced or watched the civil rights m o v e m e n t as i t happened, these y o u n g people have no understanding o f the past a n d present w o r k i n g s o f racism i n A m e r i c a n society. Educators justify teaching history because i t gives us perspective o n the present. I f there is one issue i n the present to w h i c h authors should relate the history they tell, the issue is racism. B u t as l o n g as history textbooks make w h i t e racism invisible i n the nineteenth century, neithet they n o r the students w h o use t h e m w i l l be able to analyze racism intelligently i n the present.

ohn Brown one Abraham Lincoln . The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks

It is not only radical or currently unfashionable ideas that the texts leave out—it is all ideas, including those of their heroes.

—Frances

FitzGerald^

You may dispose of me very easily. I ann nearly disposed of now. But this question is still to be settled— this N e g r o question, I mean; the end of that is not yet. —John Brown,

1859^

I am here to plead his cause with you. I plead not for '^is life, but for his character—his immortal life; and so it becomes your cause wholly, and is not his in the least. —Fienry

David

" A Plea for Captain John Brown,"

Thoreau, 1859^

W e shall need all the anti-slavery feeling in the country,

t i o n , has changed i n A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks. F r o m 1890 to about 1970, J o h n B r o w n was insane. Before 1890 he was perfectly sane, a n d

and more; you con g o home and try to bring the people

after 1970 he regained his sanity. Since B r o w n h i m s e l f d i d n o t change

to your views, and you may soy anything you like about

after his death, his sanity provides an inadvertent index o f the level o f w h i t e racism i n o u r society.

me, if that will help. . . . W h e n the hour comes for

In today's textbooks, B r o w n makes t w o appearances: Pottawatomie,

dealing with slavery, I trust I will be willing to d o my duty

Kansas, a n d Harpers

though it cost my life. —Abraham

Lincoln to abolitionist Unitarian

Ferry, V i r g i n i a . Recall that the

1854

Kansas-

Nebraska A c t tried to resolve the question o f slavery t h r o u g h "popular sovereignty." T h e practical result o f leaving the slavery decision to w h o -

ministers,

ever settled i n Kansas was an ideologically m o t i v a t e d settlement craze.

1862'

Northerners rushed to live and farm i n Kansas T e r r i t o r y and make i t "free soil." Fewer Southern planters moved to Kansas w i t h their slaves, but slaveowners from M i s s o u r i repeatedly crossed the M i s s o u r i River t o

P E R H A P S T H E M O S T T E L L I N G C R I T I C I S M Frances FitzGerald

vote i n territorial elections and to establish a reign o f terror t o drive

made i n her 1979 survey o f A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks, America Re-

out the free-soil farmers. I n M a y 1856 hundreds o f proslavery "border

vised, was t h a t they leave o u t ideas. As presented by textbooks o f the

ruffians," as they came to be called, raided the free-soil t o w n o f L a w -

1970s, "American political life was completely mindless," she observed."

rence, Kansas, b u r n i n g d o w n the hotel a n d destroying r w o p r i n t i n g ptesses. The American

W h y w o u l d textbook authors avoid even those ideas w i t h w h i c h the\

Tradition

describes Brown's action at Pottawato-

agree? T a k i n g ideas seriously does n o t f i t w i t h the rhetorical style ol

mie:

textbooks, w h i c h presents events so as t o make t h e m seem foreordainec

m i d n i g h t attack o n the proslavery setdement o f Pottawatomie. Five

" I n retaliation, a m i l i t a n t a b o l i t i o n i s t named J o h n B r o w n led a

along a line o f constant progress. I n c l u d i n g ideas w o u l d make histot)

people were k i l l e d by B r o w n a n d his followers."

contingent: things c o u l d go either way, a n d have o n occasion. T h ' " r i g h t " people, armed w i t h the " r i g h t " ideas, have n o t always won. wc

Discovering raid:

American

//wfory describes Brown's 1859 Harpers Ferry

W h e n they d i d n ' t , the authors w o u l d be i n the embarrassing position of having to disapprove o f an o u t c o m e i n the past. I n c l u d i n g ideas wouki

John Brown, son of on abolitionist, envisioned a plan to invade the South

i n t r o d u c e uncertainty. T h i s is n o t t e x t b o o k style. Textbooks unfold

and free the slaves. In 1 8 5 9 , with financial support from abolitionists.

history w i t h o u t real drama or suspense, o n l y melodrama.

Brown made plans to start a slave rebellion in V i r g i n i a , to establish a free

the subject o f race relations, John Brown's statement that "this

state in the A p p a l a c h i a n Mountains, a n d to spread the rebellion through

question is still to be settled" seems as relevant today, and even as

the South. O n October 1 6 , 1 8 5 9 , Brown a n d eighteen of his men cap-

On

o m i n o u s , as w h e n he spoke i n 1859. T h e opposite o f racism is antirac-

e r e d the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, in the present state of West

ism, o f course, o r w h a t we m i g h t call racial idealism or equalitarianism,

Virginia. . . . He a n d his men were captured by a force of marines. Brown

a n d i t is still n o t clear whether i t w i l l prevail. I n this struggle, our history

Was brought to trial a n d convicted of treason against V i r g i n i a , murder,

textbooks offer l i t t l e help. Just as they underplay w h i t e racism, the\ -'I''''

° n d criminal conspiracy. He w a s hanged o n December 2 , 1 8 5 9 .

neglect racial idealism. I n so d o i n g , they deprive students o f p o t e n t i i role models to call u p o n as they t r y to bridge the new fault lines rh^

1^ all, seven o f the twelve textbooks take this neutral approach t o J o h n

w i l l spread o u t i n the future f r o m the great rift i n o u r past. I lie Since ideas a n d ideologies played an especially i m p o r t a n t role in mchc-.>t^ C i v i l W a r era, A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks give a singulady inch they view o f that struggle. Just as textbooks treat slavery w i t h o u t racism, al treat a b o l i t i o n i s m w i t h o u t m u c h idealism.'' Consider the most radi'white abolidonist o f them all, John Brown.

J

T h e treatment o f B r o w n , like the treatment o f slavery a n d Reconstri^l

ne^li'^ to'*

T h e i r b l a n d paragraphs don't i m p l y that B r o w n was crazy, b u t '^^

enough about h i m to explain w h y he became a hero

many blacks a n d nonslaveholding whites. (,^^^^/^'^ textbooks still linger i n a former era. "John B r o w n was almost ^ t t a i n l y insane," opines American fap^^^'^'

History.

The American

Way tells a

f^later B r o w n was proved to be m e n t a l l y i l l . " The

American

""t characterizes B r o w n as "deranged," "gaunt," " g r i m , " "terrible,"

"crackbrained," "probably o f u n s o u n d m i n d , " and says that " t h i r -

behalf o f the r i c h , the powerful, i t w o u l d have been all n g h t . " H e

teen o f his near relatives were regarded as insane, i n c l u d i n g his m o t h e r

referred to the Bible, w h i c h he saw i n the c o u r t r o o m , " w h i c h teaches

and

jne

and

grandmother." T w o other books finesse the sanity issue by calling

should do even so to t h e m . I t teaches me further, to remember t h e m

or takes any pleasure i n his ideals and actions.

that are i n bonds as b o u n d w i t h t h e m . I endeavored to act up to that

For the benefit o f readers w h o , like me, grew up reading that B r o w n

i n s t r u c t i o n . " B r o w n w e n t o n to claim the h i g h m o r a l g r o u n d : " I believe

was at least fanatic i f n o t crazed, let's consider the evidence. T o be sure,

that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely a d m i t t e d I

some o f Brown's lawyers and relatives, h o p i n g to save his neck, suggested

have done, i n behalf o f H i s despised poor, I d i d no w r o n g b u t r i g h t . "

an insanity defense. B u t no one w h o k n e w B r o w n t h o u g h t h i m crazy

A l t h o u g h he objected that his i m p e n d i n g death penalty was unjust, he

He

favorably impressed people w h o spoke w i t h h i m after his capture,

accepted i t and p o i n t e d to graver injustices: " N o w , i f i t is deemed

including his jailer a n d even reporters w r i t i n g for D e m o c r a t i c newspa-

necessary that I should forfeit m y life for the furtherance o f the ends o f

pers, which supported slavery G o v e r n o r 'Wise o f V i r g i n i a called h i m "a

justice, and m i n g l e m y b l o o d further w i t h the b l o o d o f m y children a n d

man

o f clear head" after B r o w n got the better o f h i m i n an informal

w i t h the b l o o d o f m i l l i o n s i n this slave c o u n t r y whose rights are disre-

interview. " T h e y are themselves mistaken w h o take h i m to be a m a d -

garded by w i c k e d , cruel, and unjust enactments, I say, let i t be done." ' '

Governor 'Wise said. I n his message to the V i r g i n i a legislature he

Brown's willingness to go to the gallows for w h a t he t h o u g h t was r i g h t

said Brown showed " q u i c k and clear perception," " r a t i o n a l premises and

had a m o r a l force o f its o w n . " I t seems as i f no m a n had ever died i n

consecutive reasoning," "composure and self-possession.""

America before, for i n order to die y o u m u s t first have l i v e d , " H e n r y

man,"

After 1890 t e x t b o o k authors inferred Brown's madness f r o m his plan,

D a v i d T h o r e a u observed i n a eulogy i n Boston. "These m e n , i n teaching

w h i c h a d m i t t e d l y was farfetched. Never m i n d that J o h n B r o w n himself

us h o w to die, have at the same t i m e taught us h o w to live." T h o r e a u

presciently t o l d Fredetick Douglass that the venture w o u l d make a stun-

went o n to compare B r o w n w i t h Jesus o f Nazareth, w h o had faced a

n i n g impact even i f i t failed. N o r that his r w e n t y - o d d followers can

similar death at the hands o f the state.'^ D u r i n g the rest o f November, B r o w n p r o v i d e d the n a d o n graceful

hardly all be considered crazed too.'' Rather, we must recognize that the insanity w i t h w h i c h historians have charged John B r o w n was never

instruction i n h o w to face death. I n L a r c h m o n t , N e w York, George

psychological. I t was ideological. Brown's actions made no sense to

Templeton Strong w r o t e i n his d i a r y "One's faith i n a n y t h i n g is t e r n b l y

textbook writers between 1890 and about 1970. To make no sense is to

shaken by anybody w h o is ready to go to the gallows c o n d e m n i n g and

be crazy.

denouncing i t . " " Brown's letters to his family and friends softened his

Clearly Brown's contemporaries d i d n o t consider h i m insane. B r o w n s

image, showed his h u m a n side, and p r o m p t e d an o u t p o u r i n g o f sympa-

ideological influence i n the m o n t h before his hanging, and c o n t i n u i n g

thy for his children and soon-to-be w i d o w , i f n o t for B r o w n h i m s e l f

after his death, was immense. H e m o v e d the b o u n d a r y o f acceptable

His letters to supporters and remarks to journalists, w i d e l y circulated,

thoughts and deeds regarding slavery Before Harpers Ferry, to be an

formed a c o n d n u i n g i n d i c t m e n t o f slavery W e see his charisma i n this

abolitionist was n o t quite acceptable, even i n the N o r t h . Just talking

letter from "a conservative C h r i s t i a n " — s o the author signed i t — w r i t t e n

about freeing slaves—advocating i m m e d i a t e e m a n c i p a t i o n — w a s behav-

to B r o w n i n jail: " W h i l e I cannot approve o f all y o u r acts, I stand i n

ior at the outer l i m i t o f the ideological c o n t i n u u m . B y engaging m

awe o f y o u r p o s i t i o n since y o u r capture, and dare n o t oppose y o u lest I

armed action, i n c l u d i n g murder, J o h n B r o w n made mere verbal abolit i o n i s m seem m u c h less radical. After an i n i t i a l shock wave o f revulsion against B r o w n , i n the N o r t h

s found

fighting

against G o d ; for y o u speak as one h a v i n g a u t h o n t y ,

and seem to be strengthened from o n h i g h . " '•* W h e n V i r g i n i a executed fo

^ ™ ^ t i o n December 2, m a k i n g h i m the first A m e r i c a n since the

as well as i n the S o u t h , Americans were fascinated to hear w h a t he h;K

o n n d i n g o f the n a d o n to be hanged as a traitor, c h u r c h bells m o u r n e d i n

to say I n his 1859 trial John B r o w n captured the a t t e n t i o n o f the nation

^ties t h r o u g h o u t the N o r t h . Louisa M a y A l c o t t , W i l l i a m D e a n Howells,

like no other abolitionist or slaveowner before or since. H e k n e w i t : M )

^ ^ r m a n M e l v i l l e , John Greenleaf W h i t t i e r , and W a l t W h i t m a n were

w h o l e life before had n o t afforded me one h a l f the o p p o r t u n i t y to plea^

^tnong the poets w h o responded to the event. " T h e gaze o f Europe is

for the r i g h t . " " ' I n his speech to the court o n N o v e m b e r 2, just befoH

^ u

the judge sentenced h i m to die. B r o w n argued, " H a d I so interfered LIES

that all things whatsoever I w o u l d that m e n s h o u l d d o to me, I

B r o w n merely "fanatical." N o textbook has any sympathy for the m a n

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

at this m o m e n t o n A m e r i c a , " w r o t e V i c t o r H u g o from

France.

'^'^ging B r o w n , H u g o predicted, " w i l l open a latent fissure that w i l l JOHN

BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

finally

split the U n i o n asunder. T h e p u n i s h m e n t o f J o h n B r o w n may

and black nationalists coincide. So i t was w i t h their views o f John

consolidate slavery i n V i r g i n i a , b u t i t w i l l c e r t a i n l y shatter the A m e r i c a n

g r o w n . D u r i n g the heyday o f the Black Power m o v e m e n t , 1 listened to

Democracy. You preserve your shame b u t y o u k i l l y o u r glory."

speaker after speaker i n a Mississippi f o r u m denounce whites. " T h e y are

B r o w n remained controversial after his d e a t h . Republican congress-

our enemies," thundered one black m i l i t a n t . " N o t one w h i t e person

m e n kept their distance f r o m his felonious a c t s . Nevertheless, Southern

has ever had the best interests o f black people at heart." J o h n B r o w n

slaveowners were appalled at the show o f N o r t h e r n sympathy for Brown

sprang to m y m i n d , b u t the speaker anticipated m y objection: " Y o u

and resolved to m a i n t a i n slavery by any m e a n s necessary, i n c l u d i n g

niight say J o h n B r o w n d i d , b u t remember, he was crazy." J o h n B r o w n

q u i t t i n g the U n i o n i f they lost the next e l e c t i o n . Brown's charisma in

might provide a defense against such global attacks o n whites, b u t ,

the N o r t h , meanwhile, was n o t spent b u t o n l y increased due to what

unfortunately, A m e r i c a n history textbooks have erased h i m as a usable

m a n y came to view as his m a r t y r d o m . As the w a r came, as thousands o f

character.

Americans f o u n d themselves

No

m a k i n g the s a m e c o m m i t m e n t to face

black leaders o f the d a y — M a r t i n Delaney, H e n r y H i g h l a n d Garnet,

relevance. That's w h y soldiers marched i n t o b a t t l e s i n g i n g "John Brown's

Frederick Douglass, H a r r i e t T u b m a n , and o t h e r s — k n e w a n d respected

sang Julia W a r d Howe's

Brown. O n l y illness kept T u b m a n f r o m j o i n i n g h i m at Harpers Ferry.

new words to the song: "As H e d i e d to m a k e m e n holy, let us die to

The day o f his execution black-owned businesses closed i n m o u r n i n g

Body." T w o years later, church congregations

make m e n free"—and the identification o f J o h n B r o w n and Jesus Christ

across the N o r t h . Frederick Douglass called B r o w n "one o f the greatest

t o o k another t u r n . T h e next year saw the 5 4 t h Massachusetts Coloted

heroes k n o w n to A m e r i c a n f a m e . " A black college deliberately chose

Regiment parading t h r o u g h Boston to the t u n e , en route to its heroic

to locate at Hatpers Ferry, a n d i n 1918 its a l u m n i dedicated a m e m o r i a l

destiny w i t h death i n South Carolina, w h i l e W i l l i a m L l o y d Garrison

stone to B r o w n and his m e n "to c o m m e m o r a t e their heroism." T h e

surveyed the cheering bystanders f r o m a b a l c o n y , his h a n d resting on a

stone stated, i n part, " T h a t this n a d o n m i g h t have a new b i r t h o f

bust o f J o h n B r o w n . I n February 1865 a n o t h e r Massachusetts colored

freedom, that slavery s h o u l d be removed forever f r o m A m e r i c a n soil,

regiment marched t o the tune t h r o u g h the streets o f Charleston, South

John B r o w n a n d his 2 1 m e n gave their lives."

Carolina."'

Quite possibly textbooks s h o u l d n o t p o r t r a y this murderer as a hero,

T h a t was the h i g h p o i n t o f o l d J o h n B r o w n . A t the t u r n o f the

although other murderers, f r o m C h r i s t o p h e r C o l u m b u s to N a t Turner,

century, as southern and border states d i s f r a n c h i s e d A f n c a n Americans,

get the heroic treatment. However, the flat prose that textbooks use for

as lynchings proliferated, as blackface m i n s t r e l shows came to dominate

Brown is n o t really neutral. T e x t b o o k authors' w i t h d r a w a l o f sympathy

A m e r i c a n popular culture, w h i t e A m e r i c a a b a n d o n e d the last shards ot

from Brown is perceptible; their tone i n presenting h i m is different f r o m

its racial idealism. A history published i n 1 9 2 3 makes plain the connec-

the tone they employ for almost everyone else. W e see this, for instance,

t i o n to Brown's insanity: " T h e farther we g e t away f r o m the excitement

"1 their treatment o f his religious beliefs. J o h n B r o w n was a serious

o f 1859 the m o r e we are disposed t o c o n s i d e r this extraordinary man

Chnstian, well read i n the Bible, w h o t o o k its m o r a l commands

the v i c t i m o f m e n t a l delusions."

N o t u n t i l the civil rights movement

heart. Yet o u r textbooks d o n o t credit B r o w n w i t h r e l i g i o s i t y — s u b t l y

o f the 1960s was w h i t e A m e r i c a freed f r o m enough o f its racism to

they blame h i m for i t . "Believing h i m s e l f c o m m a n d e d by G o d to free

accept that a w h i t e person d i d n o t have t o be crazy to die for black

t e slaves. B r o w n came u p w i t h a scheme . . . ," i n the wotds o f Land

equality. I n a sense, the murders o f M i c k e y Schwerner and Andrew

^oniise. The American

to

of

Pageant calls B r o w n "narrowly i g n o r a n t , " perhaps

G o o d m a n i n Mississippi, James Reeb a n d V i o l a Liuzzo i n Alabama, and

^j^^^Pbemism for overly religious, a n d "God's angry m a n . " " H e believed

various other w h i t e civil rights workers i n v a r i o u s other southern states

at C o d had c o m m a n d e d h i m to free the slaves by force," states Ameri-

d u r i n g the 1960s liberated t e x t b o o k w r i t e r s t o see sanity again i n John

History. G o d never c o m m a n d e d B r o w n i n the sense o f g i v i n g h i m

B r o w n . Rise of the American

Nation,

w n t t e n i n 1 9 6 1 , calls the Hatpe"''

Ferry p l a n "a w i l d idea, certain t o f a i l , " w h i l e i n Triumph Nation,

oftheAmernii"

published i n 1986, the plan b e c o m e s "a b o l d idea, b u t almost

certain to fail."

MY

TEACHER

Ch

TOLD

ME

tather. B r o w n t h o u g h t deeply about the m o r a l m e a n i n g o f

^ ^ " • ^ ' a n i t y a n d decided that slavery was i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h i t . H e was Stat als

Frequently i n A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y the i d e o l o g i c a l needs o f w h i t e racist'' LIES

black person w h o met John B r o w n t h o u g h t h i m crazy. M a n y

death that J o h n B r o w n h a d made, the force o f his example t o o k o n new

narrowly ignorant," h a v i n g traveled widely i n the U n i t e d ^ " g l a n d , and Europe and talked w i t h m a n y A m e r i c a n intellectuthe d a y black a n d w h i t e . JOHN

BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

By w a y o f comparison, consider N a t Turner, w h o i n 1831 led the

Inspirations and explanations o f h u m a n enterprise i n this country. Yet

most i m p o r t a n t slave revolt since the U n i t e d States became a n a t i o n .

textbooks, w h i l e they may m e n t i o n religious organizations such as the

J o h n B r o w n and N a t T u r n e r b o t h k i l l e d whites i n cold b l o o d . B o t h were

Shakers or C h r i s t i a n Science, never treat teligious ideas i n any p e r i o d

religious, b u t , u n l i k e B r o w n , T u r n e r saw visions and heard voices. I n

senously.^" A n i n - d e p t h portrayal o f M o r m o n i s m , C h r i s t i a n Science,

most textbooks, T u r n e r has become s o m e t h i n g o f a hero. Several text-

or the M e t h o d i s m o f the Great A w a k e n i n g w o u l d be controversial.

books call T u r n e r "deeply religious." N o n e calls h i m "a religious fanatic."

Jvlentioning atheism or D e i s m w o u l d be even worse. "Are y o u g o i n g to

T h e y reserve that t e r m for B r o w n . T h e closest any textbook comes to

tell kids that T h o m a s Jefferson

suggesting that T u r n e r m i g h t have been crazy is this passage f r o m

textbook editor exclaimed to me. Treating religious ideas neutrally, n o n -

can History:

Ameri-

" H i s t o r i a n s still argue about whether o r n o t T u r n e r was

religiously, simply as factors i n society, w o n ' t do either, for that w o u l d

insane." B u t the author i m m e d i a t e l y goes o n to qualify, " T h e p o i n t is

likely offend some adherents. T h e textbooks' s o l u t i o n is to leave o u t

that nearly every slave hated bondage. Nearly all were eager to see

religious ideas entirely.-' Q u o t i n g J o h n Btown's c o u r t r o o m w o r d s —

s o m e t h i n g done to destroy the system." T h u s even American

"whatsoever I w o u l d that m e n s h o u l d do to me, I s h o u l d do even so to

History

emphasizes the political and social m e a n i n g o f Turner's act, n o t its

t h e m " — w o u l d violate the taboo.

psychological genesis i n an allegedly questionable m i n d .

Ideological c o n t r a d i c t i o n is terribly i m p o r t a n t i n history. Ideas have

T h e textbooks' w i t h d r a w a l o f s y m p a t h y f r o m B r o w n is also apparent

power. T h e ideas that m o t i v a t e d J o h n B r o w n and the example he set

i n w h a t they include and exclude about his life before Harpers Ferry.

lived o n l o n g after his b o d y lay a - m o l d e r i n g i n the grave. Yet A m e r i c a n

" I n the 1840's he somehow got interested i n h e l p i n g black slaves,"

history textbooks give us no way to understand the role o f ideas i n o u r

according to American

past.

Adventures.

Brown's interest is no mystery: he

learned i t f r o m his father, w h o was a trustee o f O b e r l i n College, a centet

Conceivably, t e x t b o o k authors ignore J o h n Brown's ideas because i n

o f abolitionist sentiment. I f Adventures w a n t e d , i t c o u l d have related the

their eyes his v i o l e n t acts make h i m ineligible for sympathetic consider-

w e l l - k n o w n story about h o w y o u n g J o h n made friends w i t h a black boy

ation. W h e n we t u r n f r o m B r o w n to A b r a h a m L i n c o l n , we shift f r o m

d u r i n g the War o f 1812, w h i c h convinced h i m that blacks were not

one o f the most controversial to one o f the most venerated figures i n

inferior. Instead, its sentence reads like a slur. T e x t b o o k authors make

American history. Textbooks describe A b r a h a m L i n c o l n w i t h sympathy,

Brown's Pottawatomie killings seem equally u n m o t i v a t e d by neglecting

of course. Nonetheless they also m i n i m i z e his ideas, especially o n the

to tell that the violence i n Kansas had h i t h e r t o been perpetrated primar-

subject o f race. I n life A b r a h a m L i n c o l n wrestled w i t h the tace question

i l y b y the proslavery side. Indeed, slavery sympathizers h a d previously

more openly than any other president except perhaps T h o m a s Jefferson,

k i l l e d six free-soil settlers. Several m o n t h s after Pottawatomie, at Osa-

and, unlike Jefferson, Lincoln's actions sometimes matched his words.

w a t o m i e , Kansas, B r o w n then helped thirty-five free-soil m e n defend

Most o f o u r textbooks say n o t h i n g about Lincoln's internal debate. I f

themselves against several h u n d r e d m a r a u d i n g proslavery m e n f r o m M i s -

they d i d show i t , w h a t teaching devices they w o u l d become! Students

souri, thereby earning the n i c k n a m e "Osawatomie J o h n B r o w n . " N o t

Would see that speakers m o d i f y their ideas to appease and appeal to

one t e x t b o o k mentions w h a t B r o w n d i d at Osawatomie, where he was

different audiences, so we cannot s i m p l y take their statements literally.

the defender, b u t eight o f the twelve tell w h a t he d i d at Pottawatomie,

| f textbooks recognized Lincoln's racism, students w o u l d learn that rac-

whete he was the attacket.'''

ism n o t o n l y affects K u K l u x K l a n extremists b u t has been " n o r m a l "

O u r textbooks also handicap B r o w n b y n o t l e t t i n g h i m speak for h i m s e l f Even his jailer let B r o w n p u t pen to paped American

History

includes three i m p o r t a n t sentences; American Adventures gives us almost t w o . The American

throughout our history. A n d as they watched L i n c o l n struggle w i t h himself to apply America's democratic principles across the color line, l^tudents w o u l d see h o w ideas can develop and a person can grow.

Pageant reprints three sentences f r o m a letter Brown

I n conversation, L i n c o l n , like most whites of his century, referred

w r o t e his brother. T h e other n i n e books do n o t provide even a phrase.

^

Brown's words, w h i c h m o v e d a n a t i o n , therefore d o n o t move students

^sscended i n t o explicit w h i t e supremacy, as we saw i n the last chapter.^^

today.

LIES

didn't believe i n Jesus? N o t me!" a

blacks as "niggers." I n the L i n c o l n - D o u g l a s debates, he sometimes 'ncolns attitudes about race were m o r e c o m p l i c a t e d t h a n Douglas's,

T e x t b o o k authors have an a d d i t i o n a l reason to avoid Brown's ideas:

fiowever. T h e day after Douglas declared for w h i t e supremacy i n C h i -

they are t i n g e d w i t h C h r i s t i a n i t y . Religion has been one o f the great

cago, saying the issues were "distinctly d r a w n , " L i n c o l n replied and

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

JOHN

BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

indeed drew the issue distinctly: " I should like to k n o w i f t a k i n g this

coin f r o m undue idealism about slavery. T h e y venerate L i n c o l n m a i n l y

o l d Declaration o f Independence, w h i c h declares that all m e n are equal

because he "saved the U n i o n . " By far their favorite statement o f L i n -

u p o n p r i n c i p l e , and m a k i n g exceptions to i t — w h e r e w i l l i t stop? I f one

coln's, q u o t e d or paraphrased by nine o f the twelve books, is his letter o f

m a n says i t does n o t mean a Negro, w h y does n o t another say i t does

August 22, 1862, to Horace Greeley's N e w York

Tribune:

not mean some other man? I f that Declaration is n o t . . . true, let us tear i t out! [Cries o f "no, no!"] L e t us stick to i t t h e n , let us stand firmly by

if I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I w o u l d d o it; a n d if 1

i t t h e n . " ^ ' N o t e x t b o o k quotes this passage, a n d every b o o k b u t one

could save it by freeing all the slaves, I w o u l d d o it; a n d if I could save it

leaves o u t Lincoln's t h u n d e r i n g s u m m a t i o n o f w h a t his debates w i t h

by freeing some a n d leaving others alone, I w o u l d also d o that. W h a t I

Douglas wete really about: " T h a t is the issue that w i l l c o n t i n u e i n this

do about slavery a n d the colored race I d o because I believe it helps to

c o u n t r y w h e n these poor tongues o f Judge Douglas and myself shall be

save this U n i o n ; a n d w h a t I forbear, I forbear because 1 d o not believe it

silent. I t is the eternal struggle between these rwo p r i n c i p l e s — r i g h t and

would help to save the Union. . . . I have here stated my purpose ac-

w r o n g — t h r o u g h o u t the w o r l d . " Lincoln's realization o f the basic h u m a n i t y o f African Americans may

cording to my view of official oft-expressed personal

duty, a n d 1 intend no modification of my

wish that all men, everywhere could be free.

have derived f r o m his father, w h o m o v e d the family t o I n d i a n a partly because he disliked the racial slavery that was sanctioned i n K e n t u c k y

Most textbooks don't let students see all o f the above q u o t a t i o n ; seven

O r i t may stem f r o m an experience L i n c o l n had o n a steamboat t r i p in

of the nine leave o u t the last sentence.^" T h u s they present a L i n c o l n

w h i c h he recalled years later w h e n w r i t i n g to his f t i e n d Josh

^bnrho was m o r a l l y indifferent to slavery and certainly d i d n o t care about

Speed: " Y o u m a y remember, as I well do, that f r o m Louisville to the

black people. Ironically, this is also the L i n c o l n w h o m black nationalists

1841,

m o u t h o f the O h i o there were o n board ten or twelve slaves, shackled together w i t h irons. T h a t sight was c o n t i n u a l t o r m e n t t o me, and 1 see

present to African Americans to persuade t h e m to stop t h i n k i n g well o f him.^'

s o m e t h i n g like i t every t i m e I t o u c h the O h i o , o r any other slave-

Every historian knows that the fragment o f Lincoln's letter to Greeley

border." L i n c o l n concluded that the m e m o r y sdll had "the power of

that most textbooks supply does n o t represent his i n t e n t regarding slav-

m a k i n g me miserable." ^'^ N o textbook quotes this letter.

ery. L i n c o l n w r o t e the letter to seek support for the war f r o m N o r t h e r n

As early as 1835, i n his first t e r m i n the I l l i n o i s House o f Representa-

supporters o f slavery. H e aimed i t n o t at Greeley, w h o w a n t e d slavery to

tives, L i n c o l n cast one o f o n l y five votes o p p o s i n g a resolution that

end, b u t at antiwar Democrats, antiblack Irish Americans, governors o f

c o n d e m n e d abolitionists. Textbooks i m p l y that L i n c o l n was nominated

the border states, and the m a n y Republicans w h o opposed e m a n c i p a t i n g

for president i n 1860 because he was a moderate o n slavery b u t , in iaci.

the slaves. Saving the U n i o n h a d never been Lincoln's sole concern, as

Republicans chose L i n c o l n over f r o n t - r u n n e r W i l l i a m H . Seward p.iriiy

shown by his 1860 rejection o f the eleventh-hour C r i t t e n d e n C o m p r o -

because o f Lincoln's " r o c k - s o l i d antislavery beliefs," w h i l e Seward was

niise, a c o n s t i t u t i o n a l a m e n d m e n t i n t e n d e d t o preserve the U n i o n by preserving slavery forever.'" Every t e x t b o o k w r i t e r k n o w s that a m o n t h

considered a compromiser^''

etore L i n c o l n w r o t e t o Greeley, he h a d presented the E m a n c i p a t i o n

As president, L i n c o l n understood the i m p o r t a n c e o f symbolic leader

rockimation to his cabinet as an irreversible decision, b u t n o t e x t b o o k

ship i n i m p r o v i n g race relations. For the first t i m e the U n i t e d Stat< exchanged d i p l o m a t s w i t h H a i t i and Liberia. I n 1863 L i n c o l n desegr* gated the W h i t e House staff w h i c h i n i t i a t e d a desegregadon o l d federal government that lasted u n t i l W o o d r o w W i l s o n . L i n c o l n open' the W h i t e House to black callers, notably Frederick Douglass. H e c o n t i n u e d to wrestle w i t h his o w n racism, asking aides to investigate r^^ feasibility o f d e p o r t i n g (euphemisdcally termed "colonizing") A h " Americans to A f n c a or L a t i n America. Six o f the twelve textbooks m e n t i o n that L i n c o l n opposed sla^'- -.^ T w o even quote his 1864 letter: " I f slavery isn't w r o n g , then nothi'J^^^ wrong." LIES

MY

However, most t e x t b o o k authors take pains to separate

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

tnakes this clear. N o t one explains the p o l i t i c a l context o r the intended col ''^"'^^ ^""^

Greeley letter. N o r does a single t e x t b o o k quote L i n -

1^

encouragement that same s u m m e r t o U n i t a r i a n ministers to "go

a^Th

^"'^ ^'^

b r i n g the people to y o u r views," because "we shall need

j ^ ^ ^ ^ anti-slavery feeling i n the country, and m o r e . " I f they d i d , stuspo ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ understand that indifference was n o t Lincoln's o n l y reto the issue o f slavery i n America. L i ^ ^ ^ p '^^''tbooks discuss the E m a n c i p a t i o n Proclamation, they explain Unipfj^^

actions i n realpolitik terms. " B y September

°J the American

Nation, JOHN

1862," says Tri-

" L i n c o l n had reluctantly decided that a BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

at th same t i m e using the Declaration to redefine the U n i o n cause, at the suggesting that i t u l t i m a t e l y i m p l i e d equal nghts for all Amencans, regardless o f race.

war fought at least p a r t l y to free the slaves w o u l d w i n European support a n d lessen the danger o f foreign i n t e r v e n t i o n o n the side o f the C o n f e d eracy." Triumph has forgotten its o w n earlier j u d g m e n t : "President L i n c o l n had l o n g believed slavery to be w r o n g . " For i f L i n c o l n

" N o w we are engaged i n a great civil war," L i n c o l n c o n t i n u e d , "testing

opposed

vvrhether that n a t i o n or any n a t i o n , so conceived a n d so dedicated, can

slavery, w h y w o u l d he emancipate "reluctantly" a n d merely for reasons

long endure." A g a i n , L i n c o l n k n e w better: by 1863 other nanons had

related t o i n t e r n a t i o n a l politics?

joined us i n democracy. For that matter, every European n a t i o n a n d

T o be sure, international and domestic political concerns d i d i m p i n g e

most A m e r i c a n nations h a d o u t l a w e d slavery. H o w d i d o u r c i v i l war test

o n A b r a h a m L i n c o l n , master p o l i t i c i a n that he was. B u t so d i d consider-

whether they c o u l d endure? Here L i n c o l n was w r a p p i n g the U n i o n cause

ations o f r i g h t a n d w r o n g . Political analysts then and n o w believe that

in the o l d "last best hope o f m a n k i n d " cloak, a secular version o f the

Lincoln's September 1862 announcement o f emancipation cost R e p u b l i -

idea o f a special covenant between the U n i t e d States a n d G o d . " A l -

cans the c o n t r o l o f Congress the f o l l o w i n g November, because N o r t h e r n

though bad history, such rhetoric makes for great speeches. T h e presi-

w h i t e p u b l i c o p i n i o n w o u l d n o t evolve to favor black freedom for an-

dent thus appealed to the antiwar Democrats o f the N o r t h t o support

other year." T e x t b o o k authors suppress the possibility that L i n c o l n acted

the war effort for the g o o d o f all m a n k i n d .

at least i n part because he t h o u g h t i t was r i g h t . F r o m I n d i a n wars to

After i n v o k i n g a t h i r d powerful s y m b o l — " t h e brave m e n , l i v i n g a n d

slavery to V i e t n a m , t e x t b o o k authors not o n l y sidestep p u t t i n g questions

dead, w h o struggled h e r e " — L i n c o l n closed by i d e n t i f y i n g the cause for

o f r i g h t a n d w r o n g to our past actions b u t even a v o i d acknowledging

w h i c h so m a n y had died: "that this n a t i o n , under G o d , shall have a new

that Americans o f the t i m e d i d so.

birth o f freedom." T o w h a t freedom d i d he refer? Black freedom, o f

A b r a h a m L i n c o l n was one o f the great masters o f the English lan-

course. As L i n c o l n w e l l knew, the war itself was u n d e r m i n i n g slavery,

guage. Perhaps more than any other president he i n v o k e d a n d m a n i p u -

for what began as a war t o save the U n i o n increasingly h a d become a

lated p o w e r f u l symbols i n his speeches to move p u b l i c o p i n i o n , often

war for black freedom. Citizens at the t i m e understood L i n c o l n per-

o n the subject o f race relations a n d slavery. Textbooks, i n keeping with

fiKtly. Indeed, t h r o u g h o u t this p e r i o d Americans purchased copies o f

their habit o f t e l l i n g everything i n the authorial m o n o t o n e , d r i b b l e out

political speeches, read t h e m , discussed issues, a n d v o t e d at rates that

Lincoln's words three and four at a t i m e . T h e o n l y complete speech or

now seem impossibly h i g h . T h e Chicago Times, a D e m o c r a t i c newspa-

letter any o f t h e m provide is the G e t t y s b u r g Address, a n d o n l y four ot

per, denounced the address precisely because o f "the p r o p o s i t i o n that all

the twelve textbooks dispense even that. Lincoln's three paragraphs at

men are created equal." T h e U n i o n dead, claimed the Times, "were m e n

G e t t y s b u r g comprise one o f the most i m p o r t a n t speeches ever given in

I

poKessing too m u c h self-respect

A m e r i c a a n d take u p o n l y a f o u r t h o f a page i n the textbooks that



equals, or were e n t i d e d to equal privileges."^''

to declare that Negroes were their

i n c l u d e t h e m . Nonetheless five books d o n o t even m e n t i o n the spcei.li. •

Textbooks need n o t explain Lincoln's words at G e t t y s b u r g as I have

w h i l e three others provide o n l y the last sentence or phrase from ir: I

one. 1 he Gettysburg Address is r i c h enough t o survive various analy-

"government o f the people, b y the people, for the people."

'

^^s-

BLU o f the four books that do reprint the speech, three merely p u t

L i n c o l n understood that fighting a war for freedom was i d e o l o g i c Uy

I ' i n a box by itself i n a corner o f the page. O n l y Life and Liberty asks

more satisfying than fighting s i m p l y to preserve a m o r a l l y neutral Unim'-

sch^ '^"^^"^ questions about i t . " ' As a result, 1 have yet to meet a h i g h ool graduate w h o has devoted any t i m e t o t h i n k i n g about the Gettys-

T o save the U n i o n , i t was necessary to find ranonales for the war oil'^''

" t g Address.

t h a n "to save the U n i o n . " A t Gettysburg he provided one. L i n c o l n was a fine lawyer w h o k n e w full well that the U n i t e d

'' J

was conceived i n slavery, for the C o n s t i t u t i o n specifically treats shn^"^. I i n at least three places. Nevertheless he began, " F o u r score and s^^*-

I

years ago, o u r fathers b r o u g h t f o r t h o n this c o n t i n e n t a new naU' conceived i n l i b e r t y a n d dedicated to the p r o p o s i t i o n that all men -^^^ • created equal." T h u s L i n c o l n wrapped the U n i o n cause i n the ^'^'•"'^1,1 o f the Declaration o f Independence,

w h i c h emphasized freedom " ^ •

w h i l e m a n y o f its signers were slaveowners." I n so d o i n g , L i n c o l n ^

J

t h i ^ ^ ^ " ^ ° t s e is t e x t b o o k treatment o f Lincoln's Second Inaugural. I n cojn'^"^'^'-'"^ speech, one o f the masterpieces o f A m e r i c a n oratory, L i n °f the^r-'^*^^"^ identified differences over slavery as the p r i m a r y cause that A m of

^^^^

'''^ f o u r t h b l o o d y year.^^ " I f we shall suppose

'^rican slavery is one o f those offenses w h i c h , i n the providence

^Ppoint'edT"^'^ needs come, b u t w h i c h , h a v i n g c o n t i n u e d t h r o u g h his time, he n o w wills to remove, a n d that he gives to b o t h N o r t h

true and righteous altogether.' " T h i s last is an astonishing sentence. Its a n d S o u t h this terrible war, as the w o e due to those b y w h o m the offense

length alone astounds. Politicians don't talk like that nowadays. W h e n

came, shall we discern therein any departure f r o m those d i v i n e attributes

students read this passage aloud, slowly and deliberately, they do n o t fail

w h i c h the believers i n a l i v i n g G o d always ascribe to h i m ? " L i n c o l n

to perceive i t as a searing i n d i c t m e n t o f America's sins against black

c o n t i n u e d i n this vein b y i n v o k i n g the d o c t r i n e o f predestination, a

people. T h e C i v i l W a r was by far the most devastating experience i n o u r

m o r e vital element o f the nation's idea system t h e n t h a n n o w : " F o n d l y

nation's history. Yet we had i t c o m i n g , L i n c o l n says bete. A n d i n his

d o w e h o p e — f e r v e n t l y d o we p r a y — t h a t this m i g h t y scourge o f war

rhetoncal context, sin or crime, n o t mere tragedy, is the

m a y speedily pass away. Yet, i f G o d wills that i t c o n t i n u e u n t i l a l l the

proper t e r m . Indeed, this i n d i c t m e n t o f U . S . race relations echoes J o h n

wealth piled b y the bondman's t w o h u n d r e d and fifty years o f unrequited

Brown's last note: " 1 , John B r o w n , a m n o w quite certain that the crimes

t o i l shall be sunk, a n d u n t i l every d r o p o f b l o o d d r a w n w i t h the lash

o f this g u i l t y land w i l l never be purged away, b u t w i t h B l o o d . " ' "

fitting

and

shall be p a i d b y another d r a w n w i t h the s w o r d , as was said three t h o u -

Lincoln's Second Inaugural made such an i m p a c t o n Americans that

sand years ago, so still i t m u s t be said, ' T h e j u d g m e n t s o f the L o r d are

when the president was shot, a m o n t h later, farmers i n N e w York and O h i o greeted his funeral train w i t h placards bearing its phrases. B u t o n l y The United States—A

History of the Republic includes any o f the material

quoted above. Five other textbooks restrict their q u o t a t i o n to

the

speech's final phrase, about b i n d i n g u p the nation's w o u n d s " w i t h malice toward none." T h e other six textbooks ignore the speech altogether. Like Helen Keller's concern about the injustice o f social class, L i n coln's concern about the c r i m e o f racism m a y appear unseemly to textbook authors. M u s t we remember L i n c o l n for that? Let's leave i t o u d Such an approach to L i n c o l n m i g h t be called the W a l t Disney interpretation: Disney's exhibit at the 1964 N e w York World's Fair featured an animated sculpture o f L i n c o l n that spoke for several minutes, choosing "his" words carefully to say n o t h i n g about slavery. Having disconnected A b r a h a m L i n c o l n f r o m considerations o f r i g h t and w r o n g , several textbooks present the C i v i l W a r the same way. I n teality. U n i t e d States soldiers, w h o began fighting to save the U n i o n a n d not much more, ended by fighting for all the vague b u t portentous ideas 'n the C iettysburg Address. F r o m 1862 o n . U n i o n armies sang "Batde C r y The strange career symbolizes

of the log cat>in in which Abraham

in a way what textbooks

into disrepair

probably

before

D. T Pitcaithley, the new cabin, amusement birthplace

park owners, cabin

cabin

also became

president.

Island, where

Davis (another hoax], in Kentucky,

a children's

The actual cabin According

a hoax built in 1894, was leased

went to Coney

of Jefferson

inside a marble pantheon

Lincoln was born

have done to Lincoln.

Lincoln became

where,

of Freedom," composed by George R o o t i n the summer o f that year: fell

to research

it got commingled

with

toy: Lincoln Logs, invented

textkiooks,

signifying

mobility. No wonder much-repeated hands."

The cabin still makes its archetypal

the rags to riches legend one college

blooper,

of Abraham

And although he may be poor, not a man shall be a slave, Shouting the battle cry offreedom.'"'

and was finally shrunk to fit

reassembled,

We will welcome to our numbers the loyal true and brave. Shouting the battle cry of freedom.

it still stands. The by Frank Lloyd

Wrigi^'U

son John in 1920, came with instructions on how to build both Lincoln's log and Uncle Tom's cabin!

;•

to two

appearance Lincoln's

cab't^J

in our upward

both^ " ° " " ^ ^ ' " ^ ^^^^^ ' ' " ^ ^ today w i t h o u t perceiving that '^nited^'^'^"'^ preservadon o f the U n i o n were war aims o f the ^omb' ^^.^^^^ ^ " ' ^ w i t h o u t feeling some o f the power o f that p o t e n t ' n k l i n " ^ ^ " ° " ' ^ ^ ' ^ power is w h a t textbooks o m i t : they give students n o

student could only say of him, in a

"hie was born in a log cabin

which he built with his

actions o f African Americans played a b i g role i n challenging JOHN

BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

I Triumph of the American N a t i o n includes

this evocative

the USS H u n c h b a c k in the Civil War Such racial the nadir of race relations

in the United States,

photograph

integration

of the crew of

disappeared

from 1890 to

during

1920.

w h i t e racism. Slaves fled to U n i o n lines. After they were a l l o w e d to

fight,

the c o n t r i b u t i o n s o f black troops to the w a r effort made i t harder for whites to deny that blacks were fully human.'*" A U n i o n captain w r o t e to his wife, " A great m a n y [whites] have the idea that the entite Negro race are vastly t h e i r i n f e r i o r s — a few weeks o f c a l m u n p r e j u d i c e d life here w o u l d disabuse t h e m , 1 t h i n k — 1 have a m o r e elevated o p i n i o n o f their abilities t h a n 1 ever had before."'" U n l i k e historians o f a few decades ago, today's t e x t b o o k authors realize that t r y i n g to present the war w i t h o u t the actions o f A f r i c a n A m e r i c a n s makes for bad history. A l l twelve c u r r e n t textbooks at least m e n t i o n that m o r e t h a n 180,000 blacks fought i n the U n i o n a r m y and navy. Several o f the textbooks include an i l l u s t r a t i o n o f African A m e r i c a n soldiers a n d describe the unequal pay they received u n t i l late i n the war."*^ Discovering

American

History

men-

tions that U n i o n soldiers trapped b e h i n d Confederate lines f o u n d slaves to be " o f invaluable assistance." O n l y The United the Republic,

States—A

History

of

however, takes the next step by p o i n t i n g o u t h o w the

existence a n d success o f black troops decreased w h i t e racism.

OPPOSITE; Ihis is the October throughout the nineteenth words

are from the Democratic

show shortcomings party today seeking

LIES

186

MY

TEACHER

15, 1864, centerfold

century was the mouthpiece platform.

in the Democratic

of harper's

The illustrations,

plan.

ME

by young

which party. The

Thomas

One could hardly imagine

white votes on the basis of such racial

TOLD

magazine,

of the Republican

idealism.

a

Nast,

political

I

The Democratic unswerving foundation Nast's hapless

platform began

innocuously

fidelity to the UNION of our STRENGTH,

runaways

These are people

into a swamp.

" W e will adhere

under the CONSTITUTION

SECURITY,

illustration was a knockout:

enough:

and HAPPINESS

he shows

slavecatchers

He jolts the reader

with

as the ONLY as a PEOPLE." and dogs

to exclaim.

solid But

pursuing

What about them?

tool

As n o t e d i n the previous chapter, songs such as " N i g g e r D o o d l e D a n d y " reflect the racist tone o f the Democrats' presidendal campaign in 1864. H o w d i d Republicans counter? I n part, they sought w h i t e

T h e antiracist repercussions o f the C i v i l W a r were p a r t i c u l a r l y appar-

votes by being antiracist. T h e Republican campaign, boosted by m i l i t a r y

ent i n the border states. Lincoln's E m a n c i p a t i o n Proclamation applied

victories i n the fall o f 1864, proved effective. T h e Democrats' overt

o n l y to the Confederacy. I t left slavery u n t o u c h e d i n U n i o n i s t Delaware, M a r y l a n d , K e n t u c k y , a n d M i s s o u r i . B u t the war d i d n o t . T h e status o f planters became ambiguous: o w n i n g black people was n o longer w h a t a y o u n g w h i t e m a n aspired to d o or w h a t a y o u n g w h i t e w o m a n aspired to accomplish by marriage. M a r y l a n d was a slave state w i t h considerable s u p p o r t for the Confederacy at the onset o f the war. B u t M a r y l a n d held for the U n i o n a n d sent thousands o f soldiers to defend W a s h i n g t o n .

on this slavery question . . . is a great and historic fact. W h o c o u l d have predicted . . . this great a n d blessed r e v o l u t i o n ? " P e o p l e a r o u n d the w o d d supported the U n i o n because o f its ideology. F o r t y thousand Canadians alone, some o f t h e m black, came south to volunteer for the U n i o n cause.'*'

W h a t happened next provides a "positive" example o f the effects o f

Ideas made the opposite i m p a c t i n the Confederacy. Ideological c o n -

cognitive dissonance: for M a r y l a n d whites t o fight a w a r against slave-

tradictions afflicted the slave system even before the war began. J o h n

owners w h i l e a l l o w i n g slavery w i t h i n their o w n state created a tension

Brown k n e w that masters secretly feared that their slaves m i g h t revolt,

that demanded resolution. I n 1864 the increasingly persuasive a b o l i t i o n -

even as they assured abolitionists that slaves really l i k e d slavery. O n e

ists i n M a r y l a n d b r o u g h t the issue to a vote. T h e tally w e n t n a r r o w l y

teason his Harpers Ferry raid p r o m p t e d such an o u t c r y i n the South was

against e m a n c i p a t i o n u n t i l the large n u m b e r o f absentee ballots were

that slaveowners feared their slaves m i g h t j o i n h i m . Yet their condemna-

c o u n t e d . By an enormous m a r g i n , these ballots were for freedom. W h o

tions o f B r o w n and the "Black Republicans" w h o

financed

him did

cast most absentee ballots i n 1864 i n M a r y l a n d ? Soldiers a n d sailors, o f

"^ot persuade N o r t h e r n moderates b u t o n l y pushed t h e m t o w a r d the

course. Just as these soldiers marched i n t o battle w i t h "John B r o w n s

abolitionist camp. After all, i f B r o w n was t r u l y dangerous, as slaveowners

B o d y " u p o n their lips, so their m i n d s h a d changed t o favor the freedom

*-'aimed, t h e n slavery was t r u l y unjust. H a p p y slaves w o u l d never revolt.

that their actions were forging.'" lES

appeals to racism failed, and antiracist Republicans t r i u m p h e d almost everywhere. O n e N e w York Republican wrote, " T h e change o f o p i n i o n

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

^ h i t e Southerners f o u n d e d the Confederacy o n the ideology o f w h i t e JOHN

BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

supremacy. A c c o r d i n g t o Alexander Stephens, vice president o f the C o n -

being h e l d . " T h u s states' rights as an ideology was c o n t r a d i c t o r y a n d

federacy: " O u r n e w g o v e r n m e n t s foundations are l a i d , its cornerstone

c o u l d n o t m o b i l i z e the w h i t e South for the l o n g haul.

rests, u p o n the great t r u t h that the N e g r o is n o t equal to the w h i t e m a n ,

T h e racial ideas o f the Confederate states proved even less serviceable

that s l a v e r y — s u b o r d i n a t i o n to the superior race—is his natural and

to the war effort. A c c o r d i n g to Confederate ideology, blacks l i k e d slav-

n o r m a l c o n d i d o n . " Confederate soldiers o n their way to A n t i e t a m and

ery; nevertheless, to avert revolts a n d runaways, the Confederate states

Gettysburg, their t w o m a i n forays i n t o U n i o n states, p u t this ideology

passed the " t w e n t y nigger law," e x e m p t i n g f r o m m i l i t a r y conscription

i n t o practice: they seized scores o f free black people i n M a r y l a n d and

one w h i t e m a n as overseer for every t w e n t y slaves. T h r o u g h o u t the war

Pennsylvania a n d sent t h e m south i n t o slavery. Confederates maltreated

Confederates w i t h h e l d as m u c h as a t h i r d o f t h e i r fighting forces f r o m

black U n i o n troops w h e n they captured them.*'' T h r o u g h o u t the war,

the front lines and scattered t h e m t h r o u g h o u t areas w i t h large slave

"the p r o t e c t i o n o f slavery had been and still remained the central core

populations to prevent slave uprisings.''" W h e n the U n i t e d States allowed

o f Confederate purpose."*'' Textbooks d o w n p l a y all this, probably be-

African Americans to enlist. Confederates were forced by their ideology

cause they d o n o t w a n t to offend w h i t e Southerners today. T h e safeguarding o f states' rights, often m e n t i o n e d as a m o t i v e for the establishment o f the Confederacy, was for the most part merely an

to assert that i t w o u l d n o t w o r k — b l a c k s w o u l d hardly fight like w h i t e men. T h e undeniable bravery o f the 5 4 t h Massachusetts

and other

black regiments disproved the idea o f black inferiority. T h e n came the

a c c o m p a n y i n g rationale. Historically, whatever faction has been o u t o f

i n c o n g r u i t y o f t r u l y beastly behavior b y Southern whites t o w a r d cap-

power i n A m e r i c a has pushed for states' rights. Slaveowners were de-

tured black soldiers, such as the infamous F o r t P i l l o w massacre b y troops

l i g h t e d w h e n Supreme C o u r t C h i e f Justice Taney decided i n 1857 that t h r o u g h o u t the n a t i o n , irrespective o f the wishes o f state or territorial governments, blacks had n o rights that whites m u s t respect. Slaveowners

under N a t h a n Bedford Forrest, w h o crucified black prisoners o n tent frames and then b u r n e d t h e m alive, all i n the name o f preserving w h i t e civilization.''

pushed President Buchanan t o use federal power to legitimize slavehold-

C o n t r a d i c t i o n piled u p o n c o n t r a d i c t i o n . After the fall o f V i c k s b u r g ,

i n g i n Kansas the next year. O n l y after they lost c o n t r o l o f the executive

President Davis proposed to a r m slaves to fight for the Confederacy,

branch i n the 1860 election d i d they advocate l i m i t i n g federal power.*" As the w a t c o n t i n u e d , neither states' rights n o r w h i t e supremacy

promising t h e m freedom to w i n their cooperation. B u t i f servitude was the best c o n d i t i o n for the slave, protested supporters o f slavery, h o w

proved adequate to the task o f i n s p i r i n g a n e w n a t i o n . As early as

could freedom be a reward? T o w i n foreign r e c o g n i t i o n , other Confeder-

December 1862, Pres. Jefferson Davis denounced states' rights as de-

ate leaders proposed to abolish slavery altogether. Some newspaper edi-

structive to the Confederacy. T h e m o u n t a i n o u s counties i n western

tors concurred. " A l t h o u g h slavery is one o f the principles that we started

V i r g i n i a b o l t e d to the U n i o n . Confederate troops h a d to occupy east

to fight for," said the Jackson Mississippian,

i f i t must be jettisoned

Tennessee to keep i t from e m u l a t i n g West V i r g i n i a . W i n n Parish, Louisi-

to achieve o u r "separate nationality, away w i t h i t ! " A m o n t h before

ana, refused to secede f r o m the U n i o n . W i n s t o n C o u n t y , Alabama,

A p p o m a t t o x , the Confederate Congress passed a measure to enroll black

declared itself the Republic o f W i n s t o n . U n i o n i s t farmers and woods-

troops, s h o w i n g h o w the war had elevated even slaveowners' estimations

m e n i n Jones C o u n t y , Mississippi, declared the Free State o f Jones. Every

o f black abilities and also revealing complete ideological disarray. W h a t ,

Confederate state except South C a r o l i n a supplied a regiment or at least

after all, w o u l d the new black soldiets be fighting j^r.''Slavery? Secession?

a c o m p a n y o f w h i t e soldiers to the U n i o n army, as well as m a n y black

W h a t , for that matter, w o u l d w h i t e Southern troops be

recruits. A r m e d guerrilla actions plagued every Confederate state. ( W i t h

once blacks were also armed? A s H o w e l l C o b b o f Georgia said, " I f slaves

the exception o f M i s s o u r i , a n d the 1863 N e w Y o r k C i t y draft riots, few

w i l l make g o o d soldiers o u r w h o l e t h e o r y o f slavery is w r o n g . "

U n i o n states were afflicted w i t h such problems.) I t became dangerous for Confederates to travel i n parts o f Alabama, F l o n d a , N o r t h Carolina,

fighting

I n part o w i n g to these contradictions, some Confederate

for,

soldiers

switched sides, b e g i n n i n g as early as 1862. W h e n Sherman made his

Tennessee, a n d Texas. T h e w a r was f o u g h t n o t just between N o r t h and

famous march to the sea f r o m A d a n t a to Savannah, his a r m y actually

S o u t h b u t between U n i o n i s t s a n d Confederates w i t h i n the Confederacy

grew i n number, because thousands o f w h i t e Southerners volunteered

(and Missouri).'*'' By February 1864 President Davis despaired: "Public

along the way. M e a n w h i l e , almost t w o - t h i r d s o f the Confederate a r m y

meetings o f treasonable character, i n the name o f state sovereignty, are

opposing Sherman disappeared t h r o u g h d e s e r d o n . " Eighteen thousand

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

JOHN

BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

slaves also j o i n e d Sherman, so m a n y that the a r m y had t o t u r n some

as equally idealistic. T h e N o r t h f o u g h t to h o l d the U n i o n

away. C o m p a r e these facts w i t h the p o r t r a i t c o m m o n i n o u r textbooks

w h i l e the Southern states fought, according to The American

o f Sherman's marauders l o o t i n g their way t h r o u g h a u n i t e d South!

the preservation o f their rights a n d freedom to decide for themselves."

Way, "for

T h e increasing ideological confusion i n the Confederate states, cou-

N o b o d y fought to preserve racial slavery; n o b o d y fought to end i t . As

pled w i t h the increasing ideological strength o f the U n i t e d States, helps

one result, u n l i k e the N a z i swastika, w h i c h lies disgraced, even i n the

explain the U n i o n victory. "Even w i t h all the hardships," C a r l e t o n Beals

N o r t h whites still p r o u d l y display the Stars a n d Bars o f the Confederacy

has n o t e d , "the S o u t h u p to the very end still had great resources and

on den walls, license plates, T-shirts, a n d h i g h school logos. Even some

with

(white) Northerners vaguely regret the defeat o f the "lost cause." I t is as

Confederacy's

i f racism against blacks c o u l d be remembered w i t h nostalgia.''" I n this

manpower." M a n y nations a n d people have c o n t i n u e d to far inferior means a n d weapons. Beals t h i n k s that the

fight

sense, l o n g after A p p o m a t t o x , the Confederacy finally w o n .

ideological contradictions were its gravest liabilities, u l t i m a t e l y causing its defeat. H e shows h o w the Confederate a r m y was d i s b a n d i n g b y the

Five days after A p p o m a t t o x , President L i n c o l n was m u r d e r e d . H i s

spring o f 1865 i n Texas a n d other states, even i n the absence o f U n i o n

m a r t y r d o m pushed U n i o n ideology one step further. Even whites w h o

approaches. O n the h o m e front too, as Jefferson Davis p u t i t , " T h e zeal

had opposed e m a n c i p a t i o n n o w j o i n e d to call L i n c o l n the great emanci-

o f the people is f a i l i n g . " ' *

pator.''' U n d e r Republican leadership, the n a t i o n entered Reconstruct i o n , a p e r i o d o f c o n t i n u i n g ideological conflict.

Five textbooks tell h o w the issue o f states' rights interfered w i t h the

A t first Confederates

Confederate cause." O n l y The American Adventure ^wts students a clue U n i o n . Adventure

t r i e d to m a i n t a i n prewar c o n d i t i o n s t h r o u g h

new laws, m o d e l e d after their slave codes a n d a n t e b e l l u m restrictions o n

o f any other ideological weakness o f the Confederacy or strength o f the

free blacks. Mississippi was the first state to pass these draconian " B l a c k

tells h o w slavery broke d o w n w h e n U n i o n armies

came near a n d that m a n y p o o r whites i n the S o u t h d i d n o t s u p p o r t the

Codes." T h e y d i d n o t w o r k , however. T h e C i v i l W a r had

war because they felt they w o u l d be fighting for slaveowners.

American ideology. T h e n e w antiracism forged i n its flames w o u l d d o m i -

Adventure

changed

also quotes original sources o n the e v o l u t i o n o f U n i o n war aims and

nate N o r t h e r n t h i n k i n g for a decade. T h e Chicago Tribune,

asks, " H o w w o u l d such attitudes affect the c o n d u c t and o u t c o m e o f the

i m p o r t a n t organ o f the Republican party i n the M i d w e s t , responded

the most

war?" N o other textbook mentions ideas or ideologies as a strength or

angrily: " W e tell the w h i t e m e n o f Mississippi that the m e n o f the N o r t h

weakness o f either side. T h e C i v i l W a r was about s o m e t h i n g , after all.

w i l l convett the state o f Mississippi i n t o a frog p o n d before they w i l l allow any such laws t o disgrace one foot o f soil i n w h i c h the bones o f

Textbooks s h o u l d tell us what.""

our soldiers sleep a n d over w h i c h the flag o f freedom waves."''^ T h u s

T h i s silence has a history. T h r o u g h o u t this c e n t u r y textbooks have

black civil rights again became the central issue i n the congressional

presented the C i v i l W a r as a struggle between " v i r t u a l l y identical peo-

elections o f 1866. "Support Congress a n d Y o u Support the N e g r o , " said

ples." T h i s is all part o f the unspoken agreement, reached d u r i n g the

the Democrats i n a campaign broadside featuring a disgusting caricature

nadir o f race relations i n the U n i t e d States ( 1 8 9 0 - 1 9 2 0 ) , that whites in

of an African A m e r i c a n . "Sustain the President a n d You Protect the

the South wete as A m e n c a n as whites i n the N o r t h . ' ' ' W h i t e Northerners

W h i t e M a n . " ' ' ' N o r t h e r n voters d i d n o t b u y i t . T h e y returned "radical"

and w h i t e Southerners reconciled o n the backs o f A f r i c a n Americans,

Republicans t o Congress i n a thunderous r e p u d i a t i o n o f Pres. A n d r e w

w h i l e the abolitionists became the bad guys.

Johnson's a c c o m m o d a t i o n o f the ex-Confederates. Even more t h a n i n

I n the 1920s the G r a n d A r m y o f the Republic, the organization o l

1864, w h e n Republicans swept Congress i n 1866 antiracism became the

U n i o n veterans, c o m p l a i n e d that A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks presented

policy o f the n a t i o n , agreed t o b y most o f its voters. Despite Johnson's

the C i v i l W a r w i t h "no suggestion" that the U n i o n cause was rightA p p a r e n t l y the U n i t e d Daughters o f the Confederacy earned

opposition. Congress and the states passed the Fourteenth A m e n d m e n t ,

more

t i a k i n g all persons citizens and guaranteeing t h e m "the equal p r o t e c t i o n

w e i g h t w i t h publishers.'" T h e U D C was even able to erect a statue to

the Confederate dead i n Wisconsin,

°^ the laws." T h e passage, o n behalf o f blacks, o f this s h i n i n g jewel o f

c l a i m i n g they "died to repe

I^g"^ ^ ° t i s t i t u t i o n shows h o w idealistic were the officeholders o f the

u n c o n s t i t u t i o n a l invasion, t o protect the rights reserved to the peopleto perpetuate the sovereignty o f the states."''' N o t a w o r d about slavery>| or even d i s u n i o n .

|

H i s t o r y textbooks still present U n i o n and Confederate s y m p a t h i ^ f * LIES

together,

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

j j ^ ^ ^ ^ ' i c a n Party, particularly w h e n we consider that similar legislation ^ ^ e h a l f o f w o m e n cannot be passed today.'"* • t t ^ U r i n g Reconstruction a surprising variety o f people w e n t to the JOHN

BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

new civilian "front lines" a n d w o r k e d a m o n g the n e w l y freed African Americans i n the South. M a n y were black Northerners, i n c l u d i n g several graduates o f O b e r l i n College. T h i s passage f r o m a letter by E d m o n i a Highgate, a w h i t e w o m a n w h o w e n t south t o teach school, describes her life i n Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. The majority o f my pupils come from plantations, three, four a n d even eight miles distant. So anxious are they to learn that they w a l k these distances so early in the morning as never to be tardy. There has been much opposition to the School. Twice I have been shot at in my room. M y night school scholars hove been shot but none killed. A week a g o an aged freedmon just across the w a y was shot so badly as to break his a r m a n d leg. The rebels here threatened to burn d o w n the school a n d house in which I b o a r d yet they hove not materially harmed us. The nearest military protection is 2 0 0 miles distant at N e w Orleans.*^ Some U n i o n soldiers stayed i n the South w h e n they were demobilized. Some N o r t h e r n Republican w o u l d - b e politicians m o v e d south t o organize their party i n a region where i t h a d n o t been a factor before the war. Some w e n t h o p i n g t o w i n office by election or a p p o i n t m e n t . M a n y abolitionists c o n t i n u e d their c o m m i t m e n t by w o r k i n g i n the Freedman's Bureau a n d private organizations t o help blacks o b t a i n full civil and political rights. I n terms o f party affiliation, almost all o f these petsons were Republicans; otherwise, they were a diverse group. Still, all b u t one

Thewhne

o f the twelve textbooks r o u t i n e l y use the disgraceful o l d tag carpetbag-

woman

a, left, whom textbooks

'--^'-^^-^00/

gers, w i t h o u t n o t i n g its bias, t o describe N o r t h e r n w h i t e Republicans

would call a 'carpetbagger, near V,cksburg,

was done. This woman risked her life to bring basic children and adults during Reconstruction.

w h o lived i n the South d u r i n g Reconstrucdon."'

where I s yvii^ic

iMii

literacy to African

" could illustratton

iiiusirarion

American

M a n y whites w h o were b o r n i n the South supported Reconstruction. Every Southern state boasted Unionists, some o f w h o m had volunteered for the U n i o n army. T h e y n o w became Republicans. Some former C o n federates, i n c l u d i n g even G e n . James Longstreet, second i n c o m m a n d under Lee at Gettysburg, became Republicans because they had g r o w n convinced that equality for blacks was m o r a l l y right. Robert Flournoy, a

either race, convinced some p o o r whites t o vote for the party. M a n y former W h i g s became Republicans rather than j o i n their o l d nemesis, the Democrats. Some w h i t e Southerners became Republicans because they were c o n v i n c e d that black suffrage was an accomplished fact; they preferred w i n n i n g political power w i t h blacks o n their side t o losing.

Mississippi planter, h a d raised a c o m p a n y o f Confederate soldiers b u t

Others became Republicans t o make connections or w i n contracts f r o m

then resigned his commission a n d returned h o m e because "there was a

the new Republican state governments. O f the 113 w h i t e Republican

conflict i n m y conscience." D u r i n g the w a r he was once arrested for

congressmen f r o m the South d u n n g Reconstruction, 53 were Southern-

encouraging blacks t o flee t o U n i o n lines. D u r i n g Reconstruction he

ers, m a n y o f t h e m f r o m wealthy families.''" I n s u m , this is another

helped organize the Republican party, published a newspaper. Rights,

Equal

a n d argued for desegregating the University o f Mississippi and

diverse group, a m o u n t i n g t o between o n e - f o u r t h a n d o n e - t h i r d o f the ^ h i t e p o p u l a t i o n a n d i n some counties a majority. Nevertheless all b u t

the n e w state's p u b l i c school system.''' Republican policies, i n c l u d i n g

*^fe textbook still r o u t i n e l y apply the disgraceful o l d tag scalawags t o

free p u b l i c education, never before available i n the South t o c h i l d r e n ot

Southern w h i t e Republicans.'"'^

LIES

MY TEACHER

TOLD ME JOHN

BROWN

AND ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

Carpetbaggers a n d scalawags are terms c o i n e d b y w h i t e Southern D e m ocrats to defame their opponents as illegitimate.

Reconstrucnon-era

newspapers i n Mississippi, at least, used Republicans

groes, a n d their hands in their rear pockets, seeing if they cannot pick a paltry dollar out of them."

far more often

than carpetbaggers or scalawags. Carpetbagger implies that the dregs o f

A n d here is the paragraph o n "scalawags":

N o r t h e r n society, carrying all their belongings i n a carpetbag, h a d come Scalawag

Some of these native-born southerners h o d the best of motives. Having

means "scoundrel." E m p l o y i n g these terms w o u l d be appropriate i f

opposed slavery a n d secession, they h a d sympathized with the Union

textbook authors made clear that they were terms o f the t i m e and

during the war. N o w they believed that the best w a y to restore peace a n d

d o w n to make their fortunes o f f the "prostrate [white] south."

explained w h o used t h e m and i n w h a t circumstances. B u t textbooks

prosperity to the South a n d to the nation was to forgive a n d forget.

incotporate t h e m as i f they were proper historical labels, w i t h n o quota-

However, others were selfish a n d ambitious individuals w h o seized a n y

t i o n marks, i n preference to neutral terms such as Reconstruction

opportunity to advance their o w n fortunes at the expense of their neigh-

Repub-

bors.

licans. Consider these sentences f r o m Republic:

The United

States—A

History of the

" I n Mississippi the carpetbaggers c o n t r o l l e d politics. I n T e n -

nessee the scalawags d i d . " O r this f r o m

The American

Tradition:

"De-

T h e new treatment is kinder. T h e authors are t r y i n g to be positive about w h i t e Republicans, even i f they cannot resist e n d i n g each paragraph by

spite southern w h i t e claims to the contrary, the Radical regimes were

i n v o k i n g greed. O f course, t e x t b o o k authors m i g h t use the n o t i o n o f

not d o m i n a t e d by blacks, b u t b y scalawags and carpetbaggers." I n reality,

private gain to disparage every t e x t b o o k hero f r o m C h r i s t o p h e r C o l u m -

"scalawags"

were Southern whites, o f course, b u t this sentence writes

bus a n d the Pilgrims t h r o u g h George W a s h i n g t o n t o Jackie R o b i n s o n .

t h e m o u t o f the w h i t e S o u t h , just as die-hard Confederates wete w o n t

T h e y don't, t h o u g h . Textbooks a t t r i b u t e selfish motives o n l y to charac-

to d o . Moreover, referring t o perfectly legal governments as "regimes" is

ters w i t h w h o m they have l i t t l e sympathy, such as the idealists i n Recon-

a w a y o f d e l e g i t i m i z i n g t h e m , a technique Tradition

applies to n o other

struction. T h e negatives then stick i n the m i n d , cemented by the catchy

a d m i n i s t r a t i o n , n o t even the 1836 Republic o f Texas o r the 1893 D o l e

pejoratives carpetbaggers and scalawags, w h i l e the q u a l i f y i n g phrases—

pineapple takeover i n H a w a i i .

"some sincerely w a n t e d . . ."—are likely to be forgotten. N o t e x t b o o k

T o be sure, newer editions o f A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks no longer

introduces us to idealists such as E d m o n i a Highgate, facing d o w n w h i t e

denounce Northerners w h o participated i n Southern politics and society

violence, or Robert Flournoy, casting his l o t w i t h black Republicans

as "dishonest adventurers whose o n l y t h o u g h t was to feather their o w n

because he believed i n justice. Everyone w h o supported black rights i n

put

the South d u r i n g Reconstruction d i d so at personal risk. A t the begin-

i t i n 1 9 6 1 . A g a i n , the civil rights m o v e m e n t has allowed us to r e t h i n k

ning o f Reconstruction, s i m p l y to w a l k to school to teach c o u l d be

o u r history. H a v i n g watched Northerners, black a n d w h i t e , go south to

life-threatening. T o w a r d the end o f the era, there were c o m m u n i t i e s

nests at the expense o f their fellows," as Rise of the American

Nation

help blacks w i n c i v i l rights i n the 1960s, today's t e x t b o o k authors display more sympathy for N o r t h e r n e r s w h o w o r k e d w i t h Southern blacks d u r i n g Reconstruction."" Here is the paragraph o n "carpetbaggers" Rises successor, Triumph of the American

from

Nation:

in w h i c h s i m p l y to vote Republican was life-threatening. W h i l e some Reconstructionists u n d o u b t e d l y achieved economic gain, i t was a dangerous way to make a buck. Textbooks need to show the risk, and the racial idealism that p r o m p t e d most o f the people w h o t o o k i t . ^ ' Instead, textbooks deprive us o f o u r racial idealists, f r o m Highgate

LIES

The carpetbaggers came for many different reasons. Some sincerely

and Flournoy, w h o m they o m i t , t h r o u g h B r o w n , w h o m they make

wanted to help the freed slaves exercise their newly acquired rights. Some

fanatic, t o L i n c o l n , whose idealism they flatten. I n the course o f events,

hoped to get themselves elected to political office. Some come to make

L i n c o l n w o u l d come t o accomplish o n a national scale w h a t B r o w n tried

their fortunes b y o c q u i n n g f a r m l a n d or b y starting new businesses. How-

to accomplish at Harpers Ferry: h e l p i n g African Amencans m o b i l i z e to

ever, some came for reasons of pure greed o r f r a u d . Horace Greeley, the

% h t slavery. Finally, like J o h n B r o w n , A b r a h a m L i n c o l n became a mar-

editor of the N e w Vbrfc Tribune,

w r o t e that such carpetbaggers were

tyr and a hero. Seven m i l l i o n Americans, almost o n e - t h i r d o f the entire

"stealing a n d p l u n d e r i n g , m a n y of them w i t h both arms a r o u n d the N e -

L^nion p o p u l a t i o n , stood to w a t c h his funeral t r a i n pass.-'^ African

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

JOHN

BROWN

AND

ABRAHAM

LINCOLN

Americans m o u r n e d w i t h pardcular intensity. G i d e o n Welles, secretary o f the navy, w a l k e d the streets o f W a s h i n g t o n at d a w n an h o u r before the president breathed his last and described the scene: " T h e colored people especially—and there were at this t i m e more o f t h e m perhaps, than o f w h i t e s — w e r e overwhelmed w i t h g r i e f " Welles w e n t o n to tell h o w all day l o n g " o n the avenue i n front o f the W h i t e House were several h u n d r e d black people, mostly w o m e n and c h i l d t e n , weeping for their loss," a c r o w d that " d i d n o t appear to d i m i n i s h t h r o u g h the w h o l e o f that cold, wet day." I n their grief African Americans were neither misguided n o r c h i l d l i k e . W h e n the h o u r came for dealing w i t h slavery, as L i n c o l n had surmised, he had done his d u t y and i t had cost his life.^' A b r a h a m L i n c o l n , racism and a l l , was blacks' legitimate hero, as earlier John B r o w n had been. I n a sense, B r o w n and L i n c o l n were even killed for the same deed: a r m i n g black people for their o w n l i b e r a d o n . People

II] Vicksburg,

a r o u n d the w o r l d m o u r n e d the passing o f b o t h m e n .

hear the news of Lincoln's death confirmed,

B u t w h e n 1 ask m y (white) college students o n the first day o f class

seek protection

Mississippi,

these African Arvericans

in the face of an uncertain

gathered

to express

at the courthouse

to

their grief, and perhaps

to

future.

w h o their heroes are i n A m e r i c a n history, o n l y one or t w o i n a h u n d r e d p i c k Lincoln.^* Even those w h o choose L i n c o l n k n o w o n l y that he was

Africa to N o r t h e r n Ireland, movements o f oppressed people c o n t i n u e to

"really great"—they don't k n o w w h y . T h e i r ignorance makes sense—

use tactics a n d words b o r r o w e d f r o m o u r a b o l i t i o n i s t a n d c i v i l rights

afi:er all, textbooks present A b r a h a m L i n c o l n almost devoid o f content.

movements. T h e clandestine eady meetings o f a n t i c o m m u n i s t s i n East

N o students choose John B r o w n . N o t one has ever named a w h i t e

Germany were marked by singing " W e Shall O v e r c o m e . " Iranians used

abolitionist, a Reconstruction Republican, or a civil rights martyr. Yet

nonviolent methods b o r r o w e d f r o m T h o r e a u a n d M a r t i n L u t h e r K i n g ,

these same students feel sympathy w i t h America's struggle to improve

Jr., to o v e r t h r o w their hated shah. O n H o C h i M i n h ' s desk i n H a n o i o n

race relations. A m o n g their more popular choices are African Americans,

the day he d i e d lay a biography o f J o h n B r o w n . A m o n g the heroes

f r o m Sojourner T r u t h a n d Frederick Douglass to Rosa Parks and M a l -

whose ideas inspired the students i n T i a n a n m e n Square a n d

colm X .

whose

words spilled f r o m their lips was A b r a h a m Lincoln.^'' Yet we i n A m e r i c a ,

W h i l e J o h n B r o w n was o n t n a l , the a b o l i t i o n i s t W e n d e l l Phillips

whose antiracist idealists are a d m i r e d a r o u n d the globe, seem to have

spoke o f Brown's place i n history. Phillips foresaw that slavery was a

lost these m e n a n d w o m e n as heroes. O u r textbooks need t o present

cause whose t i m e was passing, and he asked "the A m e r i c a n people" o l

them i n such a way that w e m i g h t again value o u r o w n idealism.

the future, w h e n slavery was l o n g dead i n "the civilization o f the r w e n t i eth century," this question: " W h e n that day comes, w h a t w i l l be t h o u g h t o f these first martyrs, w h o teach us h o w to live and h o w to die?" " Phillips meant the question rhetorically. H e never dreamed that A m e r i cans w o u l d take no pleasure i n those w h o had helped lead the nation to abolish slavery, or that textbooks w o u l d label Brown's small band misguided i f n o t fanatic and B r o w n h i m s e l f possibly mad.^'' A n t i r a c i s m is one o f America's great gifts to the w o r l d . Its relevance extends far beyond race relations. A n t i r a c i s m led to "a new b i r t h o l freedom" after the C i v i l War, and n o t o n l y for African Americans. Twice, once i n each century, the m o v e m e n t for black rights triggered the m o v e m e n t for women's rights. T w i c e i t reinvigorated o u r democratic spirit, w h i c h had been a t r o p h y i n g . T h r o u g h o u t the w o r l d , f r o m South MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can't buy enough to eat. —Will

Rogers,

1931

The history of a nation is, unfortunately, too easily written as the history of its dominant class. —Kwame

" h e Land ot Opportunity

HIGH S C H O O L STUDENTS HAVE

EYES,

Nkrumah^

ears, and television

ts (all too m a n y have their o w n T V sets), so they k n o w a l o t about 'ative privilege i n A m e r i c a . T h e y measure their family's social p o s i t i o n "inst that o f other families, and their c o m m u n i t y ' s p o s i t i o n against other c o m m u n i t i e s . Middle-class students, especially, k n o w little about h o w the A m e r i c a n class structure works, however, and n o t h i n g at all about h o w i t has changed over t i m e . These students do n o t leave h i g h school merely i g n o r a n t o f the w o r k i n g s o f the class structure; they come out as terrible sociologists. " W h y are people poor?" I have asked

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital

first-

year college students. Or, i f their o w n class p o s i t i o n is one o f relative privilege, " W h y is y o u r family well off?" T h e answers I've received, to

is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if

characterize t h e m charitably, are half-formed and naive. T h e students

labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital,

blame the p o o r for n o t being successful.* T h e y have no understanding o f the ways that o p p o r t u n i t y is n o t equal i n A m e r i c a and no n o t i o n that

and deserves much the higher consideration. —Abraham

social structure pushes people a r o u n d , influencing the ideas they h o l d Lincoln'

and the lives they fashion. H i g h school h i s t o r y textbooks can take some o f the credit for this

I hod once believed that w e were all masters of our

state o f affairs. Some textbooks cover certain h i g h points o f labor history, such as the 1894 P u l l m a n strike near Chicago that President Cleveland

fate—that w e could mould our lives into any form w e

broke w i t h fedetal troops, or the 1911 Tnangle Shirtwaist fire that k i l l e d

pleased. . . . I had overcome deafness and blindness

146 w o m e n i n N e w Y o t k City, b u t the most recent event m e n t i o n e d i n most books is the T a f t - H a r t l e y A c t o f fifty years ago. N o b o o k m e n t i o n s

sufficiently to be happy, and I supposed that anyone could come out victorious if he threw himself valiantly into life's struggle. But as I went more and more about the

the H o r m e l meat-packers' strike i n the m i d - 1 9 8 0 s or the air traffic controllers' strike broken by President Reagan. N o r do textbooks describe any c o n t i n u i n g issues facing labor, such as the g r o w t h o f m u l t i n a t i o n a l corporations and their e x p o r t i n g o f jobs overseas. W i t h such omissions,

country I learned that I had spoken with assurance on a

textbook authors can construe labor h i s t o r y as s o m e t h i n g that happened

subject I knew little about. . . . I learned that the power

long ago, like slavery, and that, like slavery was corrected l o n g ago. I t ogically follows that unions appear anachronistic. T h e idea that they

to rise in the world is not within the reach of everyone. —Helen

Keller^

'^•ght be necessary i n order for workers to have a voice i n the workplace goes unstated. THE

LAND

OF

OPPORTUNITY

Stressing h o w middle-class we all are is particularly problematic today, because the p r o p o r t i o n o f households earning between 75 percent and 125 percent o f the median income has fallen steadily since 1967. T h e Reagan-Bush administrations accelerated this shrinkage o f the m i d d l e class, and most families w h o left its ranks fell rather than rose.^ T h i s is the k i n d o f historical t r e n d one w o u l d t h i n k h i s t o r y books w o u l d take as appropriate subject matter, b u t o n l y four o f the twelve books i n m y sample provide any analysis o f social stratification i n the U n i t e d States. Even these fragmentary analyses are set mostly i n colonial A m e r i c a .

Land

of Promise lives u p to its reassuring title by heading its discussion o f social class "Social M o b i l i t y . " " O n e great difference between colonial and European society was that the colonists had more social m o b i l i t y , " echoes The American

Tradition.

" I n contrast w i t h c o n t e m p o r a r y Europe,

eighteenth-century A m e r i c a was a s h i n i n g l a n d o f equality and o p p o r t u n i t y — w i t h the n o t o r i o u s exception o f slavery," chimes i n The

American

Pageant. A l t h o u g h The Challenge of Freedom identifies three social classes —upper, m i d d l e , and l o w e r — a m o n g whites i n colonial society, c o m pared to Europe "there was greater social

mobility."

Never m i n d that the most v i o l e n t class conflicts i n A m e r i c a n history —Bacon's Rebellion and Shays's R e b e l l i o n — t o o k place i n and just after colonial times. Textbooks still say that colonial society was relatively This photograph 1990s,

of a sweatshop

illustrates that the working

in New York's Chinatown, class still works in America,

so different from a century ago, often in the same

classless a n d m a r k e d by u p w a r d m o b i l i t y . A n d things have gotten rosier

taken in the early under conditions

not

locations.

since. " B y 1815," The Challenge of Freedom assures us, t w o classes had withered away and "America was a c o u n t r y o f m i d d l e class people a n d o f m i d d l e class goals." T h i s b o o k returns repeatedly, at intervals o f every

Textbooks' treatments o f events i n labor h i s t o r y are never anchored i n any analysis o f social class.' T h i s amounts to d e l i v e r i n g the footnotes instead o f the lecture! Six o f the dozen h i g h school A m e r i c a n history textbooks I examined c o n t a i n no index l i s t i n g at all for "social class," "social stratification," "class structure," " i n c o m e d i s t r i b u t i o n , " "inequality," or any conceivably related t o p i c . N o t one b o o k lists "upper class, " w o r k i n g class," o r "lower class." T w o o f the textbooks list "middle class," b u t o n l y to assure students that A m e r i c a is a middle-class country. "Except for slaves, most o f the colonists were members o f the ' m i d d l i n g ranks,'" says Land

of Promise,

a n d nails h o m e the p o i n t that we are a

middle-class c o u n t r y b y asking students t o "Describe three 'middle-class values that u n i t e d free A m e n c a n s o f all classes." Several o f the textbooks note the explosion o f middle-class suburbs after W o r l d W a r 11. T a l k i n g about the m i d d l e class is h a r d l y equivalent to discussing social stradficat i o n , however; i n fact, as Gregory Mantsios has p o i n t e d o u t , "such references appear t o be acceptable precisely because they m u t e class differences."''

fifty years or so, to the theme o f h o w open o p p o r t u n i t y is i n A m e r i c a . ' I n the years after 1945, social mobility—movement

cludes. " T h i s meant that people had a better chance to move u p w a r d i n society." T h e stress o n u p w a r d m o b i l i t y is s t r i k i n g . T h e r e is almost n o t h i n g i n any o f these textbooks about class inequahties or barriers o f any k i n d to social m o b i l i t y . " W h a t c o n d i t i o n s made i t possible for poor white i m m i g r a n t s to become richer i n the colonies?" Land

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

of Promise

asks. " W h a t c o n d i t i o n s made/make i t difficult?" goes unasked. T e x t b o o k authors thus present an A m e r i c a i n w h i c h , as preachers were f o n d o f saying i n the nineteenth c e n t u r y m e n start f r o m " h u m b l e origins" a n d attam "the most elevated positions."*

• ?;

;

^ Social class is probably the single most i m p o r t a n t variable i n society. torn w o m b to t o m b , i t correlates w i t h almost all other social characteristics o f people that we can measure. A f f l u e n t expectant mothers are t^ore likely to get prenatal care, receive current medical advice, a n d ^'^joy general health, fitness, and n u t r i t i o n . M a n y p o o r and w o r k i n g THE

LIES

f t o m one social

class to another—became more widespread i n A m e r i c a , " Challenge c o n -

LAND

OF

OPPORTUNI

i n the last

does any other factor, i n c l u d i n g intellectual ability, however measured.

m o n t h , sometimes the last hours, o f their pregnancies. R i c h babies come

After college, most affluent children get white-collar jobs, most w o r k i n g -

out healthier and w e i g h i n g more than poor babies. T h e infants go h o m e

class c h i l d r e n get blue-collar jobs, a n d the class differences continue. As

to very different situations. Poor babies are more likely to have high

adults, rich people are more likely to have h i r e d an attorney and to be a

class mothers-to-be

first

contact

the medical profession

levels o f poisonous lead i n their environments and their bodies. Rich

member o f formal organizations that increase their civic power. Poor

babies get more t i m e and verbal i n t e r a c t i o n w i t h their parents and

people are m o r e likely t o w a t c h T V . Because affluent families can save

higher q u a l i t y day care w h e n n o t w i t h their parents. W h e n they enter

some m o n e y w h i l e p o o r families must spend w h a t they make, wealth

kindergarten, and t h r o u g h the twelve years that follow, r i c h children

differences are ten times larger than i n c o m e differences. Therefore most

benefit f r o m suburban schools that spend t w o to three times as m u c h

poor and working-class families cannot accumulate the d o w n payment

m o n e y per student as schools i n inner cities o r impoverished rural areas.

required to b u y a house, w h i c h i n t u r n shuts t h e m o u t f r o m o u r most

Poor c h i l d r e n are taught i n classes that are often 50 percent larger than

i m p o r t a n t tax shelter, the w r i t e o f f o f h o m e mortgage interest. W o r k i n g -

the classes o f affluent c h i l d r e n . Differences such as these help account

class parents cannot afford to live i n elite subdivisions or hire h i g h -

for the higher s c h o o l - d r o p o u t rate a m o n g p o o r c h i l d r e n .

quality day care, so the process o f educanonal i n e q u a l i t y replicates itself in the next generation. Finally, affluent Amencans also have longer life

Even w h e n p o o r c h i l d r e n are fortunate enough to attend the same school as r i c h c h i l d r e n , they encounter teachers w h o expect o n l y chil-

expectancies

d r e n o f affluent families to k n o w the r i g h t answers. Social science re

cause o f w h i c h is better access to health care." E c h o i n g the results o f

search shows that teachers are often surprised and even distressed whei

Helen Keller's study o f blindness, research has d e t e r m i n e d that poor

p o o r c h i l d r e n excel. Teachers and counselors believe they can predilet

health is n o t d i s t r i b u t e d r a n d o m l y about the social structure b u t is

who

is "college material." Since m a n y working-class c h i l d r e n give off

concentrated i n the lower class. Social Security then becomes a huge

the w r o n g signals, even i n first grade, they end u p i n the "genera'

ttansfer system, using monies c o n t r i b u t e d by all Americans to pay bene-

education" track i n h i g h school.' " I f y o u are the c h i l d o f low-incom(le

fits disproportionately to longer-lived affluent Americans.

parents, the chances are g o o d that y o u w i l l receive l i m i t e d and often

Ultimately, social class determines h o w people t h i n k about social class.

careless a t t e n t i o n f r o m adults i n y o u r h i g h school," i n the words o i

W h e n asked i f poverty i n A m e r i c a is the fault o f the poor or the fault o f

T h e o d o r e Sizer's best-selling study o f A m e r i c a n h i g h schools, Compromise.

Horaces

" I f y o u are the c h i l d o f u p p e r - m i d d l e - i n c o m e parents, the

the system, 57 percent o f business leaders b l a m e d the poor; just 9 percent b l a m e d the system.

Labor leaders showed sharply

reversed

chances are g o o d that y o u w i l l receive substantial and careful atten-

choices: o n l y 15 percent said the p o o r were at fault w h i l e 56 percent

t i o n . " ' " Researcher Reba Page has p r o v i d e d v i v i d accounts o f h o w high

blamed the system. (Some replied "don't k n o w " or chose a m i d d l e

school A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y courses use rote learning to t u r n o f f lower-class

position.) T h e largest single difference between o u r t w o m a i n political

students." T h u s schools have p u t i n t o practice W o o d r o w Wilson's rec-

parties lies i n h o w their members t h i n k about social class: 55 percent o f

o m m e n d a t i o n : " W e w a n t one class o f persons to have a liberal educa-

Republicans blamed the p o o r for their poverty, w h i l e o n l y 13 percent

t i o n , and we w a n t another class o f persons, a very m u c h larger class o l

blamed the system for i t ; 68 percent o f Democrats, o n the other h a n d ,

necessity i n every society, to forgo the privilege o f a liberal education

blamed the system, w h i l e o n l y 5 percent blamed the poor.'*

and fit themselves to p e r f o r m specific difficult manual tasks." ' -

Few o f these statements are news, I k n o w , w h i c h is w h y I have n o t documented most o f t h e m , b u t the m a j o r i t y o f h i g h school students do tiot k n o w or understand these ideas. Moreover, the processes have changed

As i f this unequal h o m e and school life were n o t enough, rich teenagers then enroll i n the Princeton Review or other coaching sessions for the Scholastic A p t i t u d e Test. Even w i t h o u t coaching, affluent children are advantaged because their b a c k g r o u n d is similar to that o f the testmakers, so they are comfortable w i t h the vocabulary a n d subtle subcul' tural assumptions o f the test. T o n o one's surprise, social class correlateS| strongly w i t h S A T scores.

^

A l l these are a m o n g the reasons w h y social class predicts the rate " college attendance a n d the type o f college chosen more effectively th^in LIES

than lower- and working-class people, the largest single

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

over t i m e , for the class structure i n A m e r i c a today is n o t the ^ n i e as it was i n 1890, let alone i n colonial America. Yet i n Land

of

^omise, for example, social class goes u n m e n t i o n e d after 1670. M a n y teachers c o m p o u n d the p r o b l e m by a v o i d i n g t a l k i n g about ^°cial class. Recent interviews w i t h teachers "revealed that they had niuch broader knowledge o f the economy, b o t h academically and Perientially, t h a n they a d m i t t e d i n class." Teachers "expressed fear that THE

LAND

OF

OPPORTUNITY

there at g u n p o i n t . ' ^ M o r e recendy, social class played a major role i n d e t e r m i n i n g w h o fought i n the V i e t n a m War: sons o f the affluent w o n educational and medical deferments

t h r o u g h most o f the

conflict."

Textbooks and teachers ignore all this. Beer

is one of the few products

(pickup

trucks, Sonne patent medicines, false-teeth cleansers advertisers images.

are others) that

try to sell with

Advertisers

upper-middle-class

working-class

use

Signs of social

these two models, headgear. newspaper,

to sell most toilet-bowl

class

from footwear

a final statement,

from nonaffluent backgtounds learn about the class system, they

find

the experience liberating. O n c e they see the social processes that have image about being poor. I f to understand is to pardon, for working-class children to understand h o w stratification works is to p a r d o n

themselves

cover

and their families. Knowledge o f the social-class system also reduces the

to

tendency o f Americans from other social classes to blame the v i c t i m

Note who has the briefcase,

Teachers m a y avoid social class o u t o f a laudable desire n o t to embarrass theif charges. I f so, their concetn is misguided. W h e n m y students

helped keep their families poor, they can let go o f their negative self-

imagery

items, from wine to nylons to cleansers.

and

for being poor. Pedagogically, stratification provides a g r i p p i n g learning

lunchbox,

and, in

the cans and the

bottles.

experience. Students are fascinated

to discover h o w the upper class

wields disproportionate power relating to everything f r o m energy bills in Congress to z o n i n g decisions i n small towns. Consider a w h i t e ninth-grade student t a k i n g A m e r i c a n history i n a

students m i g h t find o u t about the injustices and inadequacies o f their economic and pohtical i n s t i t u t i o n s . " " By never b l a m i n g the system, A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y courses thus present "Republican history." Historically, social class is i n t e r t w i n e d w i t h all kinds o f events and processes i n o u r past. O u r g o v e r n i n g system was established b y r i c h m e n , f o l l o w i n g theories that emphasized government as a b u l w a r k o f the p r o p e r t i e d class. A l t h o u g h rich h i m s e l f James M a d i s o n w o r r i e d about social inequality and wrote The Federalist #10 to explain h o w the proposed government w o u l d n o t succumb to the influence o f the affluent. M a d i s o n d i d n o t fully succeed, according to E d w a r d Pessen, w h o examined

the

social-class

backgrounds

o f all A m e r i c a n

presidents

t h r o u g h Reagan. Pessen f o u n d that m o r e than 4 0 percent hailed from the upper class, m o s t l y f r o m the upper fringes o f that elite group, and another

15 percent originated i n families located between the upper

and u p p e r - m i d d l e classes. M o r e than 25 percent came f r o m a solid upper-middle-class b a c k g r o u n d , leaving just six presidents, or 15 percent, to come f r o m the m i d d l e a n d l o w e r - m i d d l e classes a n d just one, A n d r e w Johnson, representing any part o f the lower class. For good reason, Pessen t i t l e d his b o o k The Log Cabin Myth."' w h e n the great ship Titanic

W h i l e i t was sad

w e n t d o w n , as the o l d song refrain goes, it

was saddest for the lower classes: a m o n g w o m e n , o n l y 4 o f 143 first-class passengers were lost, w h i l e 15 o f 93 second-class passengers d r o w n e d , along w i t h 81 o f 179 third-class w o m e n and girls. T h e crew ordered third-class passengers to remain below deck, h o l d i n g some o f t h e m

p r e d o m i n a n t l y middle-class t o w n i n V e r m o n t . H e r father tapes Sheetrock, earning an i n c o m e that i n slow construction seasons leaves the family quite poor. H e r m o t h e r helps o u t by d r i v i n g a school bus parttime, i n a d d i t i o n to t a k i n g care o f her rwo younger siblings. T h e g i r l lives w i t h her family i n a small house, a w i n t e r i z e d former s u m m e r cabin, w h i l e most o f her classmates live i n large suburban homes. H o w is this girl to understand her poverty? Since history textbooks present the A m e t i c a n past as 390 years o f progress a n d portray o u r society as a land o f o p p o r t u n i t y i n w h i c h folks get w h a t they deserve and deserve what they get, the failures o f working-class Americans to transcend their class o r i g i n inevitably get laid at their o w n doorsteps. W i t h i n the w h i t e working-class c o m m u n i t y the g i r l w i l l probably find few resources—teachers, c h u r c h parishioners, family

except i n pockets o f c o n t i n u i n g class conflict, the w o r k i n g class usually forgets its o w n history. M o r e than any other group, w h i t e working-class students believe that they deserve their l o w status. A subculture o f shame results. T h i s negative self-image is foremost a m o n g w h a t Richard Sennett and Jonathan C o b b have called "the h i d d e n injunes o f class." Several years ago, t w o students o f m i n e provided a demonstration: they drove a r o u n d B u r l i n g t o n , V e r m o n t , i n a big, nearly new, shiny black • ' ' ^ e r i c a n car (probably a Lexus w o u l d be more appropriate today) a n d "^hen i n a battered ten-year-old subcompact. I n each vehicle, w h e n they teached a stoplight and i t t u r n e d green, they w a i t e d u n t i l they were THE

LIES

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME;

members—who

can tell her o f heroes or struggles a m o n g people o f her background, for,

LAND

OF

OPPORTUNITY 9 0 7

h o n k e d at before d r i v i n g o n . M o t o r i s t s averaged less t h a n seven seconds

rence stnke, necessanly

to h o n k at t h e m i n the subcompact, b u t i n the l u x u r y car the students

connote a certain inferiority. I f the larger c o m m u n i t y is so good, as

enjoyed 13.2 seconds before anyone h o n k e d . Besides p r o v i d i n g a good

textbooks tell us i t is, t h e n celebradng or even passing o n the m e m o r y

reason to b u y a l u x u r y car, this experiment shows h o w Americans u n c o n -

o f conflict w i t h i t seems somehow disloyal.

sciously grant respect to the educated and successful. Since motorists o f

Textbooks do present i m m i g r a n t h i s t o r y A r o u n d the t u r n o f the

all social stations h o n k e d at the subcompact more readily, working-class

century i m m i g r a n t s d o m i n a t e d the A m e r i c a n urban w o r k i n g class, even

drivers were i n a sense disrespecting themselves w h i l e deferring to their

in cides as distant f r o m seacoasts as Des M o i n e s and Louisville. W h e n

betters. T h e b i t i n g q u i p " I f you're so smart, w h y aren't y o u rich?" c o n -

jnore than 70 percent o f the w h i t e p o p u l a t i o n was native stock, less than

veys the i n j u r y done to the self-image o f the poor w h e n the idea that

10 percent o f the urban w o r k i n g class was.^* B u t w h e n textbooks tell

A m e r i c a is a meritocracy goes unchallenged i n school.

the i m m i g r a n t story, they emphasize Joseph Pulitzer, A n d r e w Carnegie,

Part o f the p r o b l e m is that A m e r i c a n h i s t o t y textbooks describe A m e r -

^ a n d theif i l k — i m m i g r a n t s w h o made supergood. Several textbooks

ican education itself as m e i i t o c r a t i c . A huge b o d y o f research confirms

apply the phrases rags to riches or land of opportunity

that education is d o m i n a t e d by the class structure and operates to repli-

experience. Such legendary successes were achieved, to be sure, b u t they

cate that structure i n the next generation.^" M e a n w h i l e , history text-

were the exceptions, n o t the rule. Ninety-five percent o f the executives

books b l i t h e l y tell o f such federal largesse to education as the Elementary

and financiers i n A m e r i c a a r o u n d the t u r n o f the century came f r o m

to the i m m i g r a n t

and Secondary E d u c a t i o n A c t , passed under Pres. L y n d o n Johnson. N o t

upper-class or upper-middle-class backgrounds. Fewer than 3 percent

one t e x t b o o k offers any data o n or analysis o f i n e q u a l i t y w i t h i n educa-

started as p o o r i m m i g r a n t s or farm c h i l d r e n . T h r o u g h o u t the nineteenth

t i o n a l i n s t i t u t i o n s . N o n e m e n t i o n s h o w school districts i n l o w - i n c o m e

century, just 2 percent o f A m e r i c a n industtialists came f r o m w o r k i n g -

areas labor under financial constraints so s h o c k i n g that Jonathan Kozol

class o r i g i n s . " B y concentranng o n the i n s p i r i n g excepnons, textbooks

calls t h e m "savage inequalities."^' N o t e x t b o o k ever suggests that stu-

present

dents m i g h t tesearch the h i s t o r y o f their o w n school and the p o p u l a t i o n

America as the l a n d o f unparalleled o p p o r t u n i t y .

i m m i g r a n t h i s t o r y as

another

heartening

confirmadon o f

i t serves. T h e o n l y t w o textbooks that relate education t o the class

Again and again, textbooks emphasize h o w A m e r i c a has differed f r o m

system at all see i t as a remedy! Schooling "was a key to u p w a r d m o b i l i t y

Europe i n h a v i n g less class stratification a n d m o r e economic and social

i n postwar A m e n c a , " i n the words o f The Challenge of

Freedom}^

T h e tendency o f teachers and textbooks to avoid social class as i f it

LIES

presuppose lower status and income, hence

mobility. T h i s is another aspect o f the archetype o f A m e r i c a n excepdonalism: our society has been u n i q u e l y fair. I t w o u l d never occur to h i s t o r i -

were a d i r t y little secret o n l y reinforces the reluctance o f working-class

ans

i n , say,

France

or Australia, to claim

that

their society

was

families to talk about i t . Paul C o w a n has t o l d o f i n t e r v i e w i n g the c h i l -

exceptionally equalitarian. Does this treatment o f the U n i t e d States

dren o f Italian i m m i g r a n t workers involved i n the famous 1912 Law-

prepare students for reality? I t certainly does n o t accurately descnbe o u r

rence, Massachusetts, m i l l strike. H e spoke w i t h the daughter o f one o f

country today. Social scientists have o n m a n y occasions compared the

the Lawrence workers w h o testified at a W a s h i n g t o n congressional hear-

degree o f economic equality i n the U n i t e d States w i t h that i n other

i n g investigating the strike. T h e worker, Camella Teoli, then thirteen

industrial nations. D e p e n d i n g o n the measure used, the U n i t e d States

years o l d , had been scalped by a c o t t o n - r w i s t i n g machine just before the

has ranked sixth o f six, seventh o f seven, n i n t h o f twelve, or fourteenth

strike and had been hospitalized for several m o n t h s . H e r testimony

o f fourteen.^'' I n the U n i t e d States the richest fifth o f the p o p u l a t i o n

"became front-page news all over A m e r i c a . " B u t Teoli's daughter, inter-

earns eleven times as m u c h i n c o m e as the poorest

fifth,

one o f the

viewed i n 1976 after her mother's death, c o u l d n o t help C o w a n . H e r

highest rados i n the industnalized w o d d ; i n Great B n t a i n the ratio is

m o t h e r had t o l d her n o t h i n g o f the incident, n o t h i n g o f her t n p to

seven to one, i n Japan just four to one.^^ I n Japan the average chief

W a s h i n g t o n , n o t h i n g about her i m p a c t o n America's conscience—even

executive officer i n an a u t o m o b i l e - m a n u f a c t u r i n g firm makes 20 times

t h o u g h almost every day, the daughter "had c o m b e d her mother's hair

as m u c h as the average w o r k e r i n an a u t o m o b i l e assembly plant; i n the

i n t o a b u n that disguised the bald spot."^' A professional o f w o r k i n g -

United States he (and i t is n o t she) makes 192 times as much.^** T h e

class o r i g i n t o l d me a similar story about being ashamed o f her uncle ' for

jeffersonian conceit o f a n a d o n o f independent farmers and merchants is

being a steelworker." A certain defensiveness is b u i l t i n t o working-class

also l o n g gone: o n l y one w o r k i n g A m e r i c a n i n t h i r t e e n is self-employed,

culture; even its successful acts o f working-class resistance, like the Law-

compared to one i n eight i n Western Europe.^*" T h u s n o t o n l y do we

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

THE

LAND

OF

OPPORTUNITY

have far fewer independent entrepreneurs compared to t w o h u n d r e d years ago, we have fewer c o m p a r e d to Europe today. Since textbooks claim that colonial A m e r i c a was radically less stratified

that i n 1950 physicians made r w o and a h a l f times w h a t u n i o n i z e d industrial workers made b u t n o w make six times as m u c h . Surely they

than Europe, they s h o u l d tell their readers w h e n i n e q u a l i t y set i n . I t

need to understand that t o p managers o f c l o t h i n g firms, w h o used to

surely was n o t a recent development. B y 1910 the t o p 1 percent o f the

earn fifty times w h a t their A m e r i c a n employees made, n o w make 1,500

U n i t e d States p o p u l a t i o n received m o r e t h a n a t h i r d o f all personal

times w h a t their Malaysian workers earn. Surely i t is w r o n g for o u r

i n c o m e , w h i l e the b o t t o m fifth got less than one-eighth.'" T h i s level o f

history textbooks and teachers to w i t h h o l d the historical i n f o r m a t i o n

inequality was o n a par w i t h that i n G e r m a n y or Great B r i t a i n . " I f

that m i g h t p r o m p t a n d i n f o r m discussion o f these trends.

textbooks acknowledged inequality, then they c o u l d describe the changes

W h y m i g h t they c o m m i t such a blunder? First and foremost, p u b -

in our class structure over t i m e , w h i c h w o u l d i n t r o d u c e their students

lisher censorship o f t e x t b o o k authors. " Y o u always r u n the risk, i f y o u

to fascinating histotical debate.'^

talk about social class, o f b e i n g labeled M a r x i s t , " the e d i t o r for social

For example, some historians argue that wealth i n colonial society was

studies and history at one o f the biggest p u b l i s h i n g houses t o l d me. T h i s

more equally d i s t r i b u t e d than i t is today and that economic inequality

editof communicates the taboo, f o t m a l l y or subtly, to every w r i t e r she

increased d u r i n g the presidency o f A n d r e w Jackson—a p e r i o d k n o w n ,

works w i t h , and she i m p l i e d that most other editors do too.

ironically, as the age o f the c o m m o n m a n . O t h e t s believe that the flowering

Publisher pressure derives i n part f r o m t e x t b o o k a d o p t i o n boards a n d

o f the large c o r p o r a t i o n i n the late nineteenth century made

committees i n states and school distticts. These are subject i n t u r n t o

the class structure m o r e r i g i d . Walter D e a n B u r n h a m has argued that

pressure f r o m organized groups a n d individuals w h o appear before t h e m .

the Republican presidential v i c t o r y i n 1896 ( M c K i n l e y over Bryan)

Perhaps the most robust such l o b b y is Educational Research Analysts,

b r o u g h t about a sweeping p o l i t i c a l realignment that changed "a fairly

led by M e l Gabler o f Texas. Gabler's stable o f r i g h t - w i n g critics regards

democratic regime i n t o a rather broadly based oligarchy," so by the

even alleging that a t e x t b o o k contains some class analysis as a devastating

1920s business c o n t r o l l e d p u b l i c p o l i c y . " Clearly the gap between rich

criticism. As one w r i t e r has p u t i t , " F o r m u l a t i n g issues i n terms o f class

a n d poor, like the distance between blacks a n d whites, was greater at the

is unacceptable, perhaps even u n - A m e r i c a n . " ' " Fear o f n o t w i n n i n g

e n d o f the Progressive Era i n 1920 t h a n at its b e g i n n i n g a r o u n d 1890.'"*

adoption i n Texas is a p r i m e source o f publisher angst, a n d m i g h t help

T h e story is n o t all one o f increasing stratificadon, for between the

explain w h y Life and Liberty

depression a n d the e n d o f W o r l d W a r I I i n c o m e and wealth i n America

times i n England!

l i m i t s its social-class analysis to colonial

By contrast, "the colonies were places o f great o p p o r -

gradually became m o r e equal. D i s t r i b u t i o n s o f i n c o m e then remained

tunity," even back then. Some Texans cannot easily be placated, however.

reasonably constant u n t i l President Reagan t o o k office i n 1 9 8 1 , when

Deborah L . Brezina, a Gabler ally, w r o t e t h a t Life and Liberty

inequality began to g r o w . " Still other scholars t h i n k that little change

America "as an unjust society," unfair t o lower economic groups, and

has occurred since the R e v o l u t i o n . Lee Soltow, for example, finds "sur-

therefore should n o t be approved.''^ Such pressure is hardly new. H a r o l d

describes

p r i s i n g i n e q u a l i t y o f wealth and i n c o m e " i n A m e r i c a i n 1798. A t least

Rugg's Introduction

for Boston, Stephan T h e r n s t r o m concludes that inequalities i n life

history textbook, w r i t t e n d u r i n g the depression, i n c l u d e d some class

chances o w i n g to social class show an eerie c o n t i n u i t y . " ' A l l this is part

analysis. I n the early 1940s, according to Frances FitzGerald, the N a -

o f A m e r i c a n history. B u t i t is n o t part o f A m e n c a n history as taught i n

tional Association o f Manufacturers attacked Rugg's books, partly for

h i g h school.

to Problems of American

Culture

a n d his popular

this feature, and " b r o u g h t to an e n d " social a n d economic analysis i n

T o social scientists, the level o f i n e q u a l i t y is a portentous t h i n g to

LIES

small import.^'' Surely h i g h school students w o u l d be interested t o learn

' ^ e r i c a n history textbooks.*"

k n o w about a society. W h e n we rank countries b y this vatiable, we find

M o r e often the influence o f the upper class is less direct. T h e most

Scandinavian nations at the top, the most equal, a n d agricultural socie-

potent rationale for class privilege i n A m e r i c a n history has been Social

ties like C o l o m b i a a n d I n d i a near the b o t t o m . T h e policies o f the

• M a r w i n i s m , an archetype that still has great power i n A m e r i c a n culture.

Reagan a n d Bush administrations, w h i c h o p e n l y favored the r i c h , abet-

B"he n o t i o n that people rise a n d fall i n a survival o f the fittest m a y n o t

ted a secular t r e n d already i n m o t i o n , causing i n e q u a l i t y to increase

• ° n f o r m to the data o n intergeneranonal m o b i l i t y i n the U n i t e d States,

measurably between 1981 a n d 1992. For the U n i t e d States to move

• " ^ t that has hardly caused the archetype to fade away f r o m A m e r i c a n

perceptibly t o w a r d C o l o m b i a i n social i n e q u a l i t y is a development o f no

P^'tication, p a r t i c u l a r l y f r o m A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y classes.*' Facts that do

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

THE

LAND

OF

OPPORTUNITY

n o t fit w i t h the archetype, such as the entire literature o f social stratificat i o n , s i m p l y get left o u t . T e x t b o o k authors may n o t even need pressure f r o m publishers, the r i g h t w i n g , the upper class, or cultural archetypes to avoid social stratification. As part o f the process o f heroification, t e x t b o o k authors treat America itself as a hero, indeed as thehero

o f their books, so they remove

its warts. Even to report the facts o f income and wealth d i s t r i b u t i o n m i g h t seem critical o f A m e r i c a the hero, for i t is difficult to come up w i t h a theory o f social justice that can explain w h y 1 percent o f the p o p u l a t i o n controls almost 4 0 percent o f the wealth. C o u l d the other 9 9 percent o f us be that lazy or otherwise undeserving? T o go o n to include some o f the mechanisms—unequal schooling and the l i k e — b y w h i c h the upper class stays upper w o u l d clearly involve c r i t i c i s m o f our beloved n a t i o n . For any or all o f these reasons, textbooks m i n i m i z e social stratification. T h e y then d o s o m e t h i n g less comprehensible: they fail t o explain the benefits o f free enterprise. W r i t i n g about an earlier generation o f textbooks, Frances FitzGerald p o i n t e d o u t that the books i g n o r e d "the virtues as w e l l as the vices o f their o w n economic system."*^ Teachers m i g h t m e n t i o n free enterprise w i t h respect, b u t seldom d o the words become more than a slogan.*^ T h i s omission is strange, for capitalism has its advantages, after all. Basketball star M i c h a e l Jordan, Chrysler executive Lee lacocca, and ice-cream makers Ben and Jerry all got rich by s u p p l y i n g goods and services that people desired. To be sure, m u c h social stratificadon cannot be jusdfied so neatly, because i t results from

T h e analogy o f gender points to the p r o b l e m w i t h this line o f t h o u g h t , f^ow c o u l d h i g h school girls understand their place i n A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y i f their textbooks t o l d t h e m that, f r o m colonial A m e r i c a to the present, w o m e n have had equal o p p o r t u n i t y for u p w a r d m o b i l i t y and political participation? H o w c o u l d they then explain w h y no w o m a n has been president? Girls w o u l d have to infer, perhaps unconsciously, that i t has been their o w n gender's fault, a conclusion that is hardly e m p o w e r i n g . Textbooks d o tell h o w w o m e n were denied the right to vote i n m a n y states u n t i l 1920 a n d faced other barriers to u p w a r d m o b i l i t y . Textbooks also tell o f barriers c o n f r o n t i n g racial m i n o r i t i e s . T h e Land

final

question

of Promise asks students f o l l o w i n g its "Social M o b i l i t y " section

is " W h a t social barriers prevented blacks, Indians, and w o m e n from competing o n an equal basis w i t h w h i t e male colonists?" After its passage extolling u p w a r d m o b i l i t y .

The Challenge

of Freedom notes, " N o t all

people, however, enjoyed equal rights or an equal chance to improve their way o f life," a n d goes o n to address the issues o f sexism a n d racism. But neither here n o r anywhere else do Promise or Challenge (or most other textbooks) h i n t that o p p o r t u n i t y m i g h t n o t be equal today for white Americans o f the lower and w o r k i n g classes.*'* Perhaps as a result, even business leaders and Republicans, the respondents statistically most likely to engage i n w h a t sociologists call " b l a m i n g the v i c t i m , " blame the social system rather than African Americans for black poverty and blame the system rather than w o m e n for the latter's unequal achievement i n the workplace. I n sum, affluent Americans, like their textbooks,

the abuse o f w e a l t h a n d power by those w h o have these advantages to

are w i l l i n g to credit racial d i s c r i m i n a t i o n as the cause o f poverty a m o n g

shut o u t those w h o d o n o t . As a social a n d e c o n o m i c order, the capitalist

blacks a n d Indians a n d sex d i s c r i m i n a t i o n as the cause o f women's

system offers m u c h to criticize b u t also m u c h t o praise. A m e r i c a is a

inequality b u t don't see class d i s c r i m i n a t i o n as the cause o f poverty i n

l a n d o f o p p o r t u n i t y for m a n y people. A n d for all the distortions capital-

general.*'

ism imposes u p o n i t , democracy also benefits f r o m the separation ot power between p u b l i c and private spheres. O u r h i s t o r y textbooks never t o u c h o n these benefits. Publishers or those w h o influence t h e m have evidently concluded that

M o r e than m a t h or science, more even than A m e r i c a n literature, courses in A m e r i c a n history h o l d the promise o f telling h i g h school students h o w they and their parents, t h e i t c o m m u n i t i e s , and their society came to be as they

w h a t A m e r i c a n society needs to stay strong is citizens w h o assent to its

are. O n e way things are is unequal by social class. A l t h o u g h p o o t

social structure and economic system w i t h o u t t h o u g h t . As a conse-

and working-class c h i l d r e n usually cannot identify the cause o f their

quence, today's textbooks defend o u r economic system mindlessly, w i t h

alienation, history often turns t h e m o f f because i t justifies rather than

insupportable pieties about its u n i q u e lack o f stratification; thus they

explains the present. W h e n these students react by d r o p p i n g o u t , i n t e l -

produce a l u m n i o f A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y courses unable to criticize or defend

ectually i f n o t physically, their p o o r school performance helps convince

o u r system o f social stratification knowledgeably.

em as well as their peers i n the faster tracks that the system is m e n t -

B u t isn't i t nice s i m p l y to believe t h a t A m e r i c a is equal? M a y b e the

°"^ratic and that they themselves lack m e r i t . I n the end, the absence o f

" l a n d o f o p p o r t u n i t y " archetype is an e m p o w e r i n g m y t h — m a y b e be-

Social-class analysis i n A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y courses amounts to one more

lieving i n i t m i g h t even help make i t come true. For i f students thin^^ LIES

tthe sky is the l i m i t , they may reach for the sky, w h i l e i f they don't, they vvon't.

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

ay that education i n A m e r i c a is rigged against the w o r k i n g class. THE

LAND

OF

OPPORTUNITY

A s long as you are convinced you have never done anything, you can never d o anything. —Malcolm

X'

To study foreign affairs without putting ourselves into others' shoes is to deal in illusion and to prepare students for a lifelong misunderstanding of our place in the w o r l d . :

W a t c h i n g Big Brother

—Poul

Gognon^

S O M E T R A D I T I O N A L H I S T O R I A N S , critics o f tfie new empltasis o n social and cultural history, believe that A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks have been seduced f r o m their central narrative, w h i c h they see as the

What Textbooks Teach about the Federal Government

story o f the A m e r i c a n state. M e t h i n k s they protest too m u c h . T h e expanded treatments that textbooks n o w give to w o m e n , slavery, modes of transportation, developments i n p o p u l a t music, and other topics n o t directly related to the state have yet to produce a new core narrative. Therefore they appear as unnecessary diversions that o n l y i n t e r r u p t the basic narrative that the textbooks still tell: the h i s t o r y o f the A m e r i c a n government. T w o o f the twelve textbooks I studied were " i n q u i r y " textbooks, assembled f r o m p r i m a r y sources. T h e y n o longer make the story

The historian must have no country.

of the state quite so central.'' T h e ten narrative textbooks i n m y sample

—John Quincy

Adams^

continue to pay o v e r w h e l m i n g a t t e n t i o n to the actions o f the executive branch o f the federal government. T h e y still demarcate U . S . h i s t o r y as a

W h a t did you learn in school today, dear little boy of

seties o f presidential administradons. T h u s , for instance. Land

mine?

-

of Promise grants each president a b i o g r a p h i -

cal vignette, even W i l l i a m H e n r y H a r r i s o n ( w h o served for one m o n t h ) ,

-

but never mentions arguably our greatest composer, Charles Ives; o u r

I learned our government must be strong.

most influential architect, Frank L l o y d W r i g h t ; or o u r most p r o m i n e n t

It's always right and never w r o n g . . • •

i o n - I n d i a n h u m a n i t a r i a n o n behalf o f Indians, H e l e n H u n t Jackson.

That's what I learned in school. —Song

A l t h o u g h textbook authors include more social history than they used by Tom Paxton,

I96J

to> they still regard the actions and words o f the state as i n c o m p a r a b l y *iore i m p o r t a n t than w h a t the A m e r i c a n people were d o i n g , listening

W e have to face the unpleasant as well as the

,

affirmative side of the human story, including our o w n story as a nation, our o w n stories of our peoples. W e have got to have the ugly facts in order to protect us from r

,

f

i-K,

—Bill

Mayers^

^0. sleeping i n , l i v i n g t h r o u g h , or t h i n k i n g about. Particularly for the Centuries before the W o o d r o w W i l s o n a d m i n i s t r a d o n , this stress o n the f^ate is inappropriate, because the federal executive was n o t nearly as • ^ p o r t a n t then as now. ^ W h a t story do textbooks tell about o u r government? First, they i m p l y at the state we live i n today is the state created i n 1789. T e x t b o o k

the official view of reality. WATCHING

BIG

BROTHER

authors overlook the possibility that the balance o f powers set f o r t h i n

H i g h school A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks do not, o f course, adopt or

the C o n s t i t u t i o n , g r a n t i n g some power to each branch o f the federal

even h i n t at the A m e r i c a n colossus view. Unfortunately, they also o m i t

government, some to the states, and reserving some for individuals, has

the realpolitik approach. Instead, they take a s t r i k i n g l y different tack.

been decisively altered over the last t w o h u n d r e d years. T h e federal

T h e y see o u r policies as part o f a m o r a l i t y play i n w h i c h the U n i t e d

government they picture is still the people's servant, manageable and tractable. Paradoxically, textbooks then underplay the role o f nongovern-

States typically acts o n behalf o f h u m a n rights, democracy, and " t he / ^ e r i c a n way." W h e n Americans have done w r o n g , according to this

m e n t a l i n s t i t u t i o n s or private citizens i n b r i n g i n g about improvements

view, i t has been because others misunderstood us, or perhaps because

i n the e n v i r o n m e n t , race relations, education, and other social issues. I n

we misunderstood the s i t u a t i o n . B u t always our motives were good.

short, t e x t b o o k authors portray a heroic state, and, like their other

This approach m i g h t be called the " i n t e r n a t i o n a l g o o d g u y " view.

heroes, this one is pretty m u c h w i t h o u t blemishes. Such an approach

Textbooks d o n o t indulge i n any direct discussion o f w h a t " g o o d " is

converts textbooks i n t o anticitizenship m a n u a l s — h a n d b o o k s for acqui-

or m i g h t mean. I n Frances FitzGerald's phrase, textbooks present the U n i t e d States as "a k i n d o f Salvadon A r m y to the rest o f the w o d d . " " I n

escence. Perhaps the best w a y to show textbooks' sycophancy is b y e x a m i n i n g

so d o i n g , they echo the n a t i o n o u r leaders like to present to its citizens:

h o w authors treat the government w h e n its actions have been least defen-

the supremely m o r a l , disinterested peacekeeper, the supremely responsi-

sible. Let us begin w i t h considerations reladng to U . S . foreign policy.

ble w o r l d citizen. " O t h e r countries l o o k to their o w n interests," said

College courses i n p o l i t i c a l science generally take one o f t w o ap-

Pres. J o h n F. K e n n e d y i n 1 9 6 1 , pridefully i n v o k i n g w h a t he t e r m e d o u r

proaches w h e n analyzing U . S . actions abroad. Some professors and text-

"obligations" a r o u n d the globe. " O n l y the U n i t e d States—and we are

books are quite critical o f w h a t m i g h t be called the A m e r i c a n colossus.

only six percent o f the world's p o p u l a t i o n — b e a r s this k i n d o f b u r d e n . " '

I n this "American century," the U n i t e d States has been the most power-

Since at least the 1920s, textbook authors have claimed that the U n i t e d

ful n a t i o n o n earth and has typically acted to m a i n t a i n its hegemony.

States is more generous than any other n a t i o n i n the w o r l d i n p r o v i d i n g

T h i s view holds that we Americans abandoned o u r r e v o l u t i o n a r y ideol-

foreign a i d . ' " T h e m y t h was u n t r u e then; i t is likewise u n t r u e now.

ogy l o n g ago, i f indeed we ever held one, and n o w typically act to

Today at least a dozen European and A r a b nations devote m u c h larger

repress the legidmate attempts at self-determination o f other nations

proportions o f their gross domestic p r o d u c t ( G D P ) o r t o t a l g o v e r n m e n tal expenditures to foreign aid than does the U n i t e d States."

and peoples. M o r e c o m m o n is the realpolitik view. George K e n n a n , w h o for almost

T h e desire to emphasize o u r h u m a n i t a r i a n dealings w i t h the w o r l d

h a l f a century has been an architect o f and c o m m e n t a t o r o n U . S . foreign

influences w h a t t e x t b o o k authors choose to include and o m i t . A l l b u t

policy, p r o v i d e d a succinct statement o f this approach i n 1948. As head

one o f the twelve textbooks c o n t a i n at least a paragraph o n the Peace

o f the Policy P l a n n i n g Staff o f the State D e p a r t m e n t , K e n n a n w r o t e in a n o w famous m e m o r a n d u m :

Corps. T h e tone o f these treatments is adoring. " T h e Peace Corps made friends for A m e r i c a everywhere," gushes Life and Liberty. American

Nation

Triumph of the

infers o u r larger purpose: " T h e Peace Corps s y m b o l -

W e have about 5 0 % of the woHd's wealth but only 6 . 3 % of its population.

ized America's desire to provide humane assistance as well as economic

In this situation, w e cannot fail to be the object of envy a n d resentment.

and m i l i t a r y leadership i n the n o n - C o m m u n i s t w o r l d . " As a shaper o f

O u r real test in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships

history, however, the Peace Corps has been insignificant. I t does n o t

w h i c h will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. W e need not

disparage this fine i n s d t u d o n to a d m i t that its m a i n i m p a c t has been o n

deceive ourselves that w e can a f f o r d today the luxury of altruism a n d

the intellectual development o f its o w n volunteers.

w o r l d benefaction—unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, a n d democratization.''

M o r e i m p o r t a n t a n d often less affable A m e n c a n exports are o u r m u l t i national corporations. O n e

m u l n n a t i o n a l alone, I n t e r n a d o n a l Tele-

phone and Telegraph ( I T T ) , w h i c h t o o k the lead i n p r o m p t i n g o u r U n d e r this view, the historian or p o l i t i c a l scientist proceeds by i d e n t i -

Sovernment to destabilize the socialist government o f Salvador Allende,

fying A m e r i c a n national interests as articulated by policymakers i n the

•lad more i m p a c t o n C h i l e than all the Peace Corps workers A m e n c a

past as well as b y historians today. T h e n s/he analyzes o u r acts and

e^er sent there. T h e same m i g h t be said o f U n i o n Carbide i n I n d i a and

policies to assess the degree to w h i c h they furthered these interests. LIES

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

nited Fruit i n Guatemala. By i n f l u e n c i n g U . S . government policies, WATCHING

BIG

BROTHER

o f most governments, national economies are b e c o m i n g obsolete. Robert j^eich, secretary o f labor i n the C l i n t o n a d m i n i s t r a t i o n , has p o i n t e d o u t , "The very idea o f an A m e r i c a n e c o n o m y is b e c o m i n g meaningless, as are the notions o f an A m e r i c a n c o r p o r a t i o n , A m e r i c a n capital, A m e r i c a n products, a n d A m e r i c a n technology."'* M u l t i n a t i o n a l s may represent a threat to national autonomy, affecting n o t o n l y small nations b u t also the U n i t e d States. W h e n Americans t r y to t h i n k t h r o u g h the issues raised by the complex interweaving o f o u t economic and political interests, they w i l l n o t be helped by w h a t they learned i n their A m e r i c a n history courses. H i s t o r y textbooks d o n o t even m e n t i o n m u l t i n a t i o n a l s . T h e topic doesn't fit their " i n t e r n a t i o n a l g o o d guy" approach. OvAy American

Adventures tMtw

lists " m u l t i n a t i o n a l s " i n its index, and its treatment consists o f a single sentence: "These investments —



Textbook



the development o f m u l t i n a t i o n a l corporations—large companies w i t h

• II

authors select irvages

to reinforce

the world is to bring about good. Peace

Corps

volunteer

teaching

[ i n Europe after W o r l d W a r I ] led to

the idea that our country's

This photograph in

main role in

from Life a n d Liberty shows

"a

Botswana."

interests i n several countries." Even this lone statement is inaccurate: European m u l t i n a t i o n a l s date back centuries, and A m e r i c a n m u l t i n a tionals have played an i m p o r t a n t role i n o u r history since at least 1900. Textbooks m i g h t begin discussing the influence o f m u l t i n a t i o n a l corpoiations o n U.S. foreign p o l i c y w i t h the a d m i n i s t r a t i o n o f W o o d r o w

other American-based

profound

Wilson. Pressure f r o m First N a t i o n a l Bank o f N e w York helped p r o m p t

effects o n other nations.'^ A t times the corporations' influence has been

m u l t i n a t i o n a l s have had even more

Wilson's i n t e r v e n t i o n i n H a i t i . U . S . interests o w n e d more o f M e x i c o

constructive. For example, w h e n Pres. Gerald F o r d was t r y i n g to pet-

than interests f r o m anywhere else, i n c l u d i n g M e x i c o itself w h i c h helps

suade Congress to support U . S . m i l i t a r y i n t e r v e n t i o n o n behalf o f the

explain Wilson's repeated invasions o f that country. I n Russia the new

U N I T A rebels i n Angola's c i v i l war. G u l f O i l l o b b i e d against interven-

communist government nationalized all p e t r o l e u m assets; as a conse-

t i o n . G u l f was h a p p i l y p r o d u c i n g o i l i n partnership w i t h Angola's M a r x -

quence. Standard O i l o f N e w Jersey was "the major impetus" b e h i n d

ist government w h e n i t f o u n d its refineries c o m i n g under fire from

American o p p o s i t i o n to the Bolsheviks, according to historian Barry

A m e n c a n arms i n the hands o f U N I T A . A t other nmes, multinationals

Weisberg."

have persuaded o u r government to intervene w h e n o n l y their corporate interest, n o t o u r national interest, was at stake. A l l this is a matter o f grave potential concern to students, w h o alter graduation m a y get drafted a n d then sent t o fight i n a foreign countr)'.

Textbooks mystify these circumstances,

however. T h e closest they

come to telling the story o f economic influences o n our foreign p o l i c y in passages such as this, f r o m

The Challenge

of Freedom,

regarding

Wilson's interventions i n M e x i c o : " M a n y Americans were very interested

partly because U . S . p o l i c y has been u n d u l y influenced b y some Delaware

•n the outcome o f these events i n M e x i c o . T h i s was because over 4 0 , 0 0 0

c o r p o r a t i o n or N e w York bank. O r students m a y find their jobs elimi-

Americans lived i n M e x i c o . Also, A m e r i c a n businesses had

nated b y m u l t i n a t i o n a l s that move factories to T h i r d W o r l d countties

about 1 b i l l i o n dollars i n M e x i c o . " Here Challenge makes almost a p u n

whose citizens m u s t w o r k for almost n o t h i n g . " Social scientists used to describe the w o r l d as stratified i n t o a wealthy industrialized center and a poor colonialized periphery; some n o w h o l d that m u l t i n a t i o n a l s and faster modes o f t r a n s p o r t a t i o n a n d c o m m u n i c a t i o n have made manage'

interested. I n its ensuing analysis o f Wilson's interventions.

invested Challenge

t^ever again m e n n o n s A m e r i c a n interests and instead takes Wilson's *^ 'cies at face value. T h e treatment o f Wilson's H a i t i a n invasion i n The ^erican

Pageant is still more naive:

m e n t the new center, workers at h o m e and abroad the n e w periphery' Even i f students are n o t personally affected, they w i l l have to deal with the m u l t i n a t i o n a l i z a t i o n o f the w o d d . As m u l n n a t i o n a l corporation^

°Ping to head off trouble, W a s h i n g t o n urged W a l l Street bankers to ^'^P dollars into the financial vacuums in Honduras a n d Haiti to keep .

such as E x x o n and M i t s u b i s h i come t o have budgets larger than thos*^ WATCHING LIES

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

M

BIG

BROTHER

out foreign funds. Tfie United States, under the M o n r o e Doctrine, would

quite different nature. A m o n g the less savory examples are various at-

not permit foreign nations to intervene, a n d consequently it h o d some

tempts by U . S . officials a n d agencies to assassinate leaders or b r i n g d o w n

moral obligation to interfere financially to prevent economic a n d political

governments o f other countries. T h e U n i t e d

States has i n d u l g e d i n

activities o f this sort at least since the W i l s o n a d m i n i s t r a t i o n , w h i c h

chaos.

hired t w o Japanese-Mexicans to t r y to poison Pancho V i l l a . ' ' ' 1 surveyed E v i d e n d y even our financial i n t e r v e n t i o n was h u m a n i t a r i a n ! T h e authors

the twelve textbooks to see h o w they treated six m o r e recent U . S . at-

o f Pageant c o u l d use a shot o f the realism supplied by former M a n n e

tempts to subvert foreign governments. To ensure that the events were

Corps G e n . Smedley D . Buder, whose 1931 statement has

adequately covered i n the histoncal literature, 1 examined o n l y incidents

become

that occurred before 1973, well before any o f these textbooks w e n t to

famous:

press. T h e episodes are: I helped moke M e x i c o safe for A m e n c a n oil interests in 1 9 1 4 . 1 helped moke Haiti a n d C u b a a decent place for the N o t i o n a l City Bank boys to

1. our assistance to the shah's faction in Iran in deposing Prime Minister

collect revenue i n . I helped purify N i c a r a g u a for the international banking house of Brown Brothers. . . . I brought light to the Dominican Republic for A m e r i c a n sugar interests in 1 9 1 6 . 1 helped moke Honduras " r i g h t " for A m e r i c a n fruit companies in 1 9 0 3 . Looking bock o n it, I might have given

Mussodegh a n d returning the shah to the throne in 1 9 5 3 ; 2. our role in b r i n g i n g d o w n the elected government of Guatemala in 1954; 3. our rigging of the 1 9 5 7 election in Lebanon, which entrenched the

A l C a p o n e a few hints.'*

Christians o n top a n d led to the Muslim revolt a n d civil w a r the next year;

Business influence o n U . S . foreign policy d i d n o t start w i t h W o o d r o w Wilson's a d m i n i s t r a t i o n , however. J o h n A . H o b s o n , i n his 1903 book Imperialism,

described "a constantly g r o w i n g tendency" o f the wealthy

class "to use their political power as citizens o f this State to interfere w i t h the political c o n d i t i o n o f those States where they have an industnal s t a k e . " N o r d i d such influence end w i t h W i l s o n . Jonathan

Kwitny's

4. our involvement in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba of Zaire in 1961; 5. our repeated attempts to murder Premier Fidel Castro of C u b a a n d bring d o w n his government b y terror a n d sabotage; a n d 6. our role in bringing d o w n the elected government of Chile in 1 9 7 3 .

fine b o o k Endless Enemies cites various distortions o f U . S . foreign policy o w i n g to specific economic interests o f i n d i v i d u a l corporations and/or to misconceived ideological interests o f U . S . foreign policy planners.

ism" w h e n other countries do t h e m to us. W e w o u l d be i n d i g n a n t to

K w i t n y points o u t that d u n n g the entire p e n o d f r o m 1953 t o 1977, the

learn o f C u b a n or L i b y a n attempts to influence o u r politics or destabilize

people i n charge o f U . S . foreign policy were all o n the Rockefeller family

our e c o n o m y O u r government expressed outrage at Iraq's Saddam H u s -

payroll. D e a n Rusk and H e n r y Kissinger, w h o ran o u r foreign policy

sein for t r y i n g to arrange the assassination o f former President Bush

from

u p o n Rockefeller payments for

when he visited K u w a i t i n 1993 and retaliated w i t h a b o m b i n g attack

their very solvency"* Nonetheless, n o t e x t b o o k ever m e n t i o n s the i n f l u -

1961 to 1977, were dependent

on Baghdad, yet the U n i t e d States has repeatedly orchestrated similar

ence o f m u l t i n a t i o n a l s o n U . S . p o l i c y T h i s is the case n o t necessarily

assassination attempts.

because textbook authors are afraid o f o f f e n d i n g m u l t i n a t i o n a l s , but

^ I n 1990 W a t r e n C o h e n resigned f r o m the histoncal c o m m i t t e e that

because they never discuss any influence o n U . S . policy. Rather, the\

e headed at the State D e p a r t m e n t to protest the government's deledon

present o u r governmental policies as rational h u m a n i t a r i a n responses to

torn Its official history o f U . S . foreign relations o f "all m e n d o n o f the

t r y i n g situadons, and they d o n o t seek to penetrate the surface o f the

iq

government's o w n explanations o f its actions.

^ ->3. ^" E i g h t o f the twelve textbooks I reviewed w o u l d side w i t h the

H a v i n g ignored why the federal government acts as i t does, textbooks

LIES

990

The U.S. government calls actions such as these "state-sponsored terror-

^^^^ P""- ^ ^ ^ ^ M o h a m m e d Riza Pahlevi i n power i n Iran i n

.S. government against C o h e n : they too say n o t h i n g about o u r over-

proceed to ignore m u c h o f what the government does. T e x t b o o k authors

^ row o f Mussadegh. The American

p o r t r a y the U . S . government's acdons as agreeable and nice, even when

Out With far and away the most accurate accounts. Here is the paragraph

U . S . government officials have a d m i t t e d motives a n d intentions o f ^r

^'''m Life and

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

Pageant and Life and Liberty

stand

Liberty: WATCHING

BIG

BROTHER

The United States h a d been a long-time friend of the ruler o f Iran, Shah Rezo Pahlevi. In fact, the United States h a d helped him to his throne by

(eovers, the United States continued to support unpopular conservative military governments in Latin A m e r i c a .

overthrowing a democratically elected government in 1 9 5 3 , which the United States felt w a s too leftist. America supplied the shah with large numbers of arms, a n d also trained the shah's a r m y a n d police. Unfortunately, the shah used the a r m y a n d police to f o r m a police state.

plere, as w i t h Promise's account o f Iran, Tradition

place at the height o f M c C a r t h y i s m , w h e n , as Lewis L a p h a m has p o i n t e d out,

Triumph

of the American

Nation

and Land

offers a n t i c o m m u n i s m

the sole m o t i v e for U . S . policies. Bear i n m i n d that this i n c i d e n t t o o k

of Promise m e n t i o n that the

the U n i t e d States saw c o m m u n i s m everywhere: " W h e n the d u l y

elected Guatemalan president, Jacobo Arbenz, began to talk too m u c h

U n i t e d States deposed Mussadegh b u t justify the act as a n t i c o m m u n i s t .

like a democrat, the U n i t e d States accused h i m o f c o m m u n i s m . "

I n the words o f Promise, " I n 1953, a C o m m u n i s t - b a c k e d p o l i t i c a l party

T h i r t y years later The American

seized c o n t r o l o f the government a n d attempted to assert c o n t r o l over

ment's M c C a r t h y i s t rhetoric as fact.

Tradition

maintains the U . S . govern-

Iran's o i l resources." T h i s w i l l n o t do: Mussadegh h i m s e l f had led the

N o t one textbook includes a w o r d about h o w the U n i t e d States helped

drive to expel the Soviets f r o m n o r t h e r n Iran after W o r l d W a r I I . A n d

the Christians i n Lebanon fix the 1957 padiamentary elecnon i n that

his party d i d n o t "seize c o n t r o l " any more than parties do i n other

then tenuously balanced country. T h e next year, denied a fair share o f

padiamentary democracies such as Canada or Great B r i t a i n . Indeed, the

power by electoral means, the M u s l i m s t o o k to armed combat, a n d

shah h i m s e l f h a d a p p o i n t e d Mussadegh p r i m e minister because o f his

President Eisenhower sent i n the marines o n the Christians' b e h a l f Five

immense p o p u l a r i t y i n parliament a n d a m o n g the people.

books discuss that 1958 i n t e r v e n t i o n . Land

T h e other eight textbooks say n o t h i n g about o u r government's actions

of Promise offers the fullest

tteatment:

i n prerevolutionary I r a n . T h e o n l y specific U . S . action i n Iran that A of the Republic reports, for example, is our assistance i n w i p i n g

Next, chaos broke out in Lebanon, a n d the Lebanese President, Camille

out malaria! W h e n these textbooks' authors later describe the successfiil

Chamoun, fearing a leftist coup, asked for A m e r i c a n help. A l t h o u g h reluc-

a t t e m p t i n 1979 by the people o f Iran to o v e r t h r o w the shah, their

tant to interfere, in July 1 9 5 8 Eisenhower sent 1 5 , 0 0 0 United States m o -

History

accounts cannot explain w h y Iranians m i g h t be so upset w i t h the U n i t e d

nnes into Lebanon. O r d e r was soon restored, a n d the marines were

States. O f the twelve textbooks, o n l y Life and Liberty and The

withdrawn.

Pageant exphin

American

the shah's u n p o p u l a r i t y as a ruler imposed f r o m w i t h o u t

and America's u n p o p u l a r i t y o w i n g to o u r identification w i t h the shah

This is standard t e x t b o o k rhetoric: chaos seems always t o be breaking

a n d his policies. T h u s o n l y r w o books give students a basis for under-

out or about to break o u t . O t h e r than c o m m u n i s m , "chaos" is w h a t

standing w h y Iranians held Americans hostage for more than a year

textbooks usually offer to explain the actions o f the other side. C o m m u -

d u r i n g the Carter a d m i n i s t r a t i o n . I n Guatemala i n 1954, the C I A threatened the government o f Jacobo

nism offers no real explanation either. K w i t n y points o u t that the U n i t e d States has often behaved so badly i n the T h i r d W o r l d that some govern-

Arbenz w i t h an armed invasion. A r b e n z had antagonized the U n i t e d

ments and independence movements saw n o alternative b u t to t u r n to

F r u i t C o m p a n y by proposing l a n d reform and p l a n n i n g a h i g h w a y and

the USSR.2^ Since t e x t b o o k authors are u n w i l l i n g to criticize the U . S .

railroad that m i g h t break their trade m o n o p o l y . T h e U n i t e d States chose

government, they present opponents o f the U n i t e d States that are n o t

an obscure a r m y colonel as the new president, a n d w h e n A r b e n z pan-

intelligible. O n l y by disclosing o u r actions can textbooks provide readers

icked a n d sought asylum i n the M e x i c a n embassy, w e flew o u r m a n to

w i t h rational accounts o f o u r adversaries.

the capital aboard the U . S . ambassador's private plane. O n l y one textb o o k , The American

Tradition,

mentions the i n c i d e n t :

Promise goes o n t o tell the happy results o f o u r i n t e r v e n t i o n : " A l though there was no i m m e d i a t e C o m m u n i s t threat to L e b a n o n , Eisenhower demonstrated that the U n i t e d States c o u l d react q u i c k l y As a

LIES

In the 1950's the United States, concerned with stopping the spread of

result, tensions i n the region receded." I n reality, the civil war i n Leba-

communism, directed its attention to Latin A m e n c a once a g a i n . In 1 9 5 4

t^on broke o u t again i n 1975, w i t h m o u n n n g destrucnon i n B e i r u t and

the C I A helped to overthrow the leftist government of Jacobo ArbenZ

t h r o u g h o u t the n a d o n . I n 1983 a w h o l e l o t o f chaos broke o u t , so

G u z m a n in G u a t e m a l a . In following years, in o r d e r to prevent communist

President Reagan sent i n our marines again. A t r u c k b o m b then k i l l e d

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

WATCHING

BIG

BROTHER

more t h a n t w o h u n d r e d marines i n their barracks, and three textbooks

attempts o n Castro's life personally, i n c l u d i n g the M a f i a contract, K e n -

treat that i n t e r v e n t i o n . T w o o f t h e m say n o t h i n g about o u r involvement

nedy's o w n assassination m i g h t be explained as a revenge slaying. Be-

i n either 1957 or 1958, and the r e m a i n i n g textbook. The

American

cause no textbook tells h o w K e n n e d y tried to k i l l Castro, however,

1958 i n t e r v e n t i o n i n even rosier terms

none can logically suggest a C u b a n or Mafia c o n n e c t i o n i n discussing

So n o t one o f twelve textbooks offers students

{Kennedy's d e a t h . T h e K e n n e d y a d m i n i s t r a d o n also lied about its spon-

Pageant,

tells o f Eisenhower's

t h a n Land

of Promise.

a n y t h i n g o f substance about the c o n t i n u i t y o f conflict i n Lebanon o,

sorship o f the Bay o f Pigs invasion; i m m e d i a t e l y after that

our role i n causing i t .

Kennedy launched O p e r a t i o n Mongoose, "a vast covert p r o g r a m " to

"Zaire" or "the C o n g o " appear i n the index o f just r w o textbooks. The

American

book

Pageant and

mentions

that

the

Triumph

of the American

C I A urged

L u m u m b a i n 1 9 6 1 . " Pageant oiftrs

the

Nation.

assassination

failed,

destabilize Cuba. Pierre Salinger, Kennedy's press secretary, has w r i t t e n

Neither

that J F K even p l a n n e d to invade C u b a w i t h U . S . armed forces u n t i l

Patrice

forestalled by the C u b a n missile c r i s i s . N o t e x t b o o k tells about Opera-

of

an accurate account o f the begin-

n i n g o f the strife: " T h e A f r i c a n C o n g o received its independence

from

don Mongoose. U n d a u n t e d by its failures i n Cuba, the C I A t u r n e d its a t t e n t i o n

B e l g i u m i n I 9 6 0 and i m m e d i a t e l y exploded i n t o violence. T h e United

farther south. O n l y three textbooks. Life

N a t i o n s sent i n a peacekeeping force, to w h i c h W a s h i n g t o n c o n t t i b u t c d

Adventure,

m u c h m o n e y b u t no manpower." T h e r e Pageant stops. T h e account in

dent N i x o n helped the C h i l e a n a r m y o v e r t h r o w Chile's elected govern-

Triumph

mentions L u m u m b a by name: "A new

ment because he d i d n o t like its radical socialist policies," Life

and

crisis developed i n 1961 w h e n Patrice L u m u m b a , leader o f the pro-

Liberty says b l u n t l y T h i s single sentence, w h i c h is all that Life

and

C o m m u n i s t facdon, was assassinated." Triumph sd^ys n o t h i n g about U.S.

Liberty offers, lies b u n e d i n a secdon about President Carter's h u m a n

involvement w i t h the assassination, however, and concludes w i t h the

rights record, b u t i t is far a n d away the best account i n any o f the

of the American

Nation

and Triumph of the American

and Liberty,

Nation,

The

American

m e n t i o n C h i l e . "Presi-

happiest o f endings: " B y the late 1960's, most scars o f the civil war

textbooks. A c c o r d i n g to Triumph,

seemed healed. T h e C o n g o (Zaire) became one o f the most prosperous

funds by the C I A to t r y to prevent a socialist-communist election v i c t o r y

African nations." W o u l d that i t were! T h e C I A helped b r i n g to power

in Chile. T h e C I A later made i t difficult for the M a r x i s t government

Joseph M o b u t u , a former a r m y sergeant. B y the end o f the Triumph

1960s,

to the contrary, Zaire under M o b u t u h a d become one o f the

most wretched A f n c a n nations, economically and p o l i t i c a l l y As o f 199.3,

N i x o n approved "the secret use o f

elected by these parties to govern." Since the "difficulties"

President

Allende faced i n c l u d e d his o w n murder, perhaps this is the u l t i m a t e euphemism! The American Adventure

offers a fuller account:

M o b u t u had yet to h o l d an election, allow the free f u n c t i o n i n g ot pohtical parties, or condone a free press. T h e New York Times n o t e d that

Some people, in the United States a n d a b r o a d , said that the United States

starvation was g r o w i n g i n Zaire and called the problems "self-inflicted,

arranged the overthrow of Allende. Indeed, in 1 9 7 4 , Pres. Ford admitted

the result o f nearly 30 years o f G o v e r n m e n t c o r r u p t i o n . "

W h i l e per

that the United States CIA h o d given help to the opposition to Allende.

capita i n c o m e i n Zaire fell by more than t w o - t h i r d s , M o b u t u himseil

However, he denied that the United States encouraged or knew of the

became one o f the richest persons o n the planet and perhaps the most

revolutionary plan.

hated person i n the c o u n t r y " As I w r i t e i n 1994, Zaire is npe for a "new" crisis to "develop," quite possibly w i t h a n t i - A m e r i c a n overtones.

leave o u r i n v o l v e m e n t open to question? H i s t o n a n s k n o w that the

I f i t does, we can be sure, textbooks w i l l be just as surprised as our

C I A had eadier j o i n e d w i t h I T T to t r y to defeat A l l e n d e i n the 1970

students w h e n "chaos breaks o u t . "

e ecnons. Failing this, the U n i t e d States sought to d i s r u p t the C h i l e a n

A l l twelve textbooks are silent about our repeated attempts to assassi

J °'^'^ed i n t e r n a d o n a l loans to C h i l e , subsidized o p p o s i t i o n newspapers,

k i l l Castro eight times by 1965, according to t e s t i m o n y before the U . ^ -

^a or unions, a n d p o l i d c a l parties, denied spare parts to industnes, p a i d

Senate; by 1975 Castro had t h w a r t e d t w e n t y - f o u r attempts, accordinu

994

" t and f o m e n t e d a n a t i o n w i d e truckers' strike that paralyzed the C h i l -

to Cuba. These undertakings ranged f r o m a botched effort to get Castro

ean e c o n o m y and trained and

to l i g h t an e x p l o d i n g cigar to a contract w i t h the Mafia to m u r d e r h i m -

j ^ o o d y coup i n 1973 i n w h i c h A l l e n d e was k i l l e d . T h e next year, C I A

Since Pres. J o h n E Kennedy probably ordered several o f the LIES

economy a n d b r i n g d o w n Allende's government. T h e U n i t e d States

nate Premier Fidel Castro o f Cuba. T h e federal government had tried to

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

ME

eadier

financed

the m i l i t a r y that staged the

•rector W i l l i a m C o l b y testified that "a secret high-level intelligence WATCHING

BIG

BROTHER 99.^

c o m m i t t e e led by Kissinger h i m s e l f had authorized C I A expenditures ot

T h i s debate cannot take place i n A m e r i c a n history courses, however,

over $ 8 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 d u r i n g the p e r i o d 1 9 7 0 - 7 3 to 'destabilize' the govern-

because most textbooks do n o t let o n about w h a t our government has

m e n t o f Pres. Allende."^* Secretary o f State Kissinger h i m s e l f later ex-

j o n e . H a l f o f the twelve textbooks I surveyed leave o u t all six incidents,

plained, " I don't see w h y we have to let a c o u n t r y go M a r x i s t just because

jvlost o f the other textbooks pretend, w h e n treating the one or t w o

its people are irresponsible."-'' Since the C h i l e a n people's "irresponsibil-

incidents they include, that o u r actions were based o n h u m a n i t a r i a n

i t y " consisted o f v o t i n g fot A l l e n d e , here Kissinger openly says that the

motives. T h u s textbook authots p o r t r a y the U n i t e d States basically as

U n i t e d States s h o u l d n o t a n d w i l l n o t respect the electoral process or

an idealistic actor, responding generously to other nations' social and

sovereignty o f another c o u n t r y i f the results d o n o t please us. W i t h this

economic woes. Robert Leckie has referred to "the m y t h o f 'the most

attitude and policy i n place i n o u r government, whether the C I A or its

peace-loving n a t i o n i n the w o d d ' " a n d n o t e d that i t persists " i n A m e n -

C h i l e a n allies p u l l e d the trigger o n A l l e n d e amounts to a n i t p i c k i n g

can folklore." I t also persists i n o u r h i s t o r y t e x t b o o k s . "

detail. The American

Adventure

at least mentions o u r action i n Chile;

D o textbooks need to include all government skulduggery? Certainly

with

als, and p o l i t i c a l parties violate the openness o n w h i c h o u r o w n democracy relies. I n e v i t a b l y covert i n t e r n a t i o n a l interference leads to domestic

m e n t i o n i n g . " " Textbooks do need to analyze at least one of ouv inter-

lying. U . S . citizens cannot possibly c n t i q u e government policies i f they

ventions i n d e p t h , however, for they raise i m p o r t a n t issues. T o defend

do n o t k n o w o f t h e m . T h u s covert v i o l e n t acdons usually

these acts o n m o r a l grounds is n o t easy T h e acts d i m i n i s h U . S . foteign

popular w i l l . These acdons also threaten o u r long-standing separation

p o l i c y to the level o f M a f i a t h u g g e r y strip the U n i t e d States o f its claim

of powers, w h i c h textbooks so justly laud i n their chapters o n the

flout

the

to lawful conduct, a n d reduce o u r prestige a r o u n d the w o d d . To be

C o n s d t u d o n . Covert actions are always undertaken by the executive

sure, covert violence may be defensible o n realpolitik grounds as an

branch, w h i c h typically lies to the legislative branch about w h a t i t has

appropnate way to deal w i t h i n t e r n a d o n a l problems. I t can be argued

done and plans to d o , thus preventing Congress f r o m p l a y i n g its consti-

that the U n i t e d States should

tunonally intended role.

be destabilizing governments i n other

countnes, assassinating leaders u n f r i e n d l y to us, and

undeclared

T h e U . S . government lied about most o f the six examples o f foreign

u n p u b l i c i z e d wars. T h e six cloak-and-dagger operations tecounted here

intervennon just descnbed. O n the same day i n 1961 that o u r C u b a n

do n o t support this view, however. I n Cuba, for instance, the C I A s

exiles were l a n d i n g at the Bay o f Pigs i n their hapless a t t e m p t to over-

"pointless

sabotage operadons,"

fighting

i n R h o d r i words,

"only

increased

throw Fidel Castro, Secretary o f State Dean Rusk said, " T h e A m e n c a n

Castro's p o p u l a n t y " Even w h e n they succeed, these covert acts provide

people are e n t i t l e d to k n o w whether we are i n t e r v e n i n g i n C u b a or

o n l y a s h o r t - t e r m fix, keeping people w h o w o r r y us o u t o f power for a

intend to do so i n the future. T h e answer to that question is n o . " A m o n g

t i m e , b u t i d e n n f y i n g the U n i t e d States w i t h repressive, undemocratic,

the dead three days later were four A m e r i c a n pilots. W h e n asked about

u n p o p u l a r regimes, hence u n d e r m i n i n g o u r l o n g - t e r m interests.'- T he

Chile i n his Senate c o n f i t m a t i o n hearings for U . S . Secretary o f State i n

h i s t o n a n R o n a l d Kessler relates that a C I A officer responsible for engi-

1973, H e n r y Kissinger replied, " T h e C I A had n o t h i n g to do w i t h the

neering Arbenz's d o w n f a l l i n Guatemala agreed later that o v e r t h r o w i n g

[Chilean] coup, to the best o f m y knowledge and b e l i e f and I o n l y p u t

elected leaders is a short-sighted p o l i c y " "Was i t desirable to trade

in that qualification i n case some m a d m a n appeats d o w n there w h o ,

Mussadegh for the AyatoUah K h o m e n i ? " asks the historian Chades A m -

w i t h o u t i n s t r u c t i o n , talked to s o m e b o d y " O f course, later statements

eringer about o u r "success" i n Iran. W h e n covert attacks fail, like the Bay

o f Pigs l a n d i n g i n 1 9 6 1 , they leave the U . S . government w i t h

no viable next step short o f embarrassed w i t h d r a w a l or overt military i n t e r v e n t i o n . I f instead o f covert a c n o n we had had a p u b l i c debate

y C I A D i r e c t o r W i l l i a m C o l b y and Kissinger h i m s e l f direcdy contradicted this t e s t i m o n y T h e U . S . Senate Intelligence C o m m i t t e e eventually denounced our campaign against the A l l e n d e government."' President Eisenhower used national secunry as his excuse w h e n he was

about h o w to handle Mussadegh or Castro, we m i g h t have avoidec

^atight i n an obvious lie: he denied that the U n i t e d States was

K h o m e n i or the Bay o f Pigs debacle. Unless we become more open to

oyer Soviet airspace, o n l y to have captured a i r m a n G a r y Powers a d m i t

nationalist governments that e m b o d y the dreams o f their people, Robei i

'ne t r u t h o n Russian television. M u c h later, the p u b l i c learned that

E S m i t h believes we w i l l face "crisis after crisis.""*

99^

issue: are they c o m p a d b l e

I a m not arguing i n favor o f w h a t Paul G a g n o n calls "relentless

not.

LIES

These interventions raise another

democracy? Covert v i o l e n t operadons against foreign nations, i n d i v i d u -

however, nine books ovedook i t e n t i r e l y ' "

MY

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ME

flying

owers had been just the t i p o f the iceberg: i n the 1950s we had some WATCHING

BIG

BROTHER

t h i r t y - o n e flights d o w n e d over the USSR, w i t h 170 m e n aboard. For

R i c h a r d Rubenstein has p o i n t e d o u t , "the p r o b l e m w i l l n o t go

decades o u r government lied to the families o f the lost m e n and never

avvay w i t h the departure o f Richard N i x o n , " because i t is structural,

made substantial representation to the U S S R to get t h e m back, because

stemming f r o m the vastly increased power o f the federal executive b u -

the flights were illegal and were supposed to be secret." Similarly, d u r i n g

reaucracy. Indeed, i n some ways the I r a n - C o n t r a scandal o f the Reagan-

the V i e t n a m W a r the government kept o u r b o m b i n g o f Laos secret for

gush administrations, a web o f secret legal and illegal acts i n v o l v i n g the

years, later c i t i n g national security as its excuse. T h i s d i d n o t fool Lao-

president, vice-president, cabinet members, special operatives such as

tians, w h o k n e w full w e l l we were b o m b i n g t h e m , b u t d i d fool A m e r i -

Oliver N o r t h , and government officials i n Israel, Iran, B r u n e i , a n d else-

cans. O f t e n presidents and their advisors keep actions covert n o t for

where, shows an executive branch more o u t o f c o n t r o l than Nixon's.'"

reasons o f tactics abroad, b u t because they suspect the actions w o u l d

Textbooks' failure to p u t Watergate i n t o this perspective is part o f their

not be popular w i t h Congress or w i t h the A m e r i c a n people.

authors' apparent p r o g r a m to whitewash the federal government so that

O v e r and over, presidents have chosen n o t to risk their p o p u l a r i t y by

ment has n o t gone away, i t is likely that students w i l l again, i n their

secret m i l i t a r y policies."* O u r C o n s d t u d o n provides that Congress must

adult lives, face an o u t - o f - c o n t r o l federal executive p u r s u i n g c r i m i n a l

declare war. Back i n 1918 W o o d r o w W i l s o n tried to keep o u r interven-

foreign and domesnc policies.''^ To the extent that their understanding

t i o n i n Russia h i d d e n f r o m Congress and the A m e n c a n people. Helen

of the government comes f r o m their A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y courses, students

Keller helped get o u t the t r u t h : " O u r governments are n o t honest. T h e y

will be shocked by these events a n d unprepared to t h i n k about t h e m .

do n o t openly declare war against Russia and p r o c l a i m the reasons," she

c o u n t r y . . . may she always be i n the n g h t , " toasted

Stephen

Decatur i n 1816, " b u t o u r country, right or w r o n g ! " Educators

people half-secretly and i n the dark w i t h the lie o f democracy o n their

textbook authors seem to w a n t to inculcate the next generation i n t o

l i p s . " " U l n m a t e l y , W i l s o n failed to keep his invasion secret, b u t he was

blind allegiance to o u r c o u n t r y G o i n g a step beyond Decatur, textbook

able to keep i t h i d d e n f r o m A m e r i c a n history textbooks. T h e r e i n lies

analyses fail to assess o u r actions abroad according to either a standard

the p r o b l e m : textbooks cannot report accurately o n the six foreign inter-

of n g h t and w r o n g or realpolitik. Instead, textbooks merely assume that

ventions described i n this chapter w i t h o u t m e n t i o n i n g that the U.S.

the government tried to do the right t h i n g . Citizens w h o embrace the

and

textbook view w o u l d presumably support any i n t e r v e n t i o n , armed or

T h e sole piece o f c r i m i n a l government activity that most textbooks

othetwise, and any policy, protective o f our legidmate national interests

treat is the senes o f related scandals called Watergate. I n its i m p a c t on

or not, because they w o u l d be persuaded that all o u r policies and inter-

the p u b l i c , the Watergate break-in stood o u t . I n the early 1970s C o n -

vendons are o n behalf o f h u m a n i t a r i a n aims. T h e y c o u l d never credit

gress and the A m e r i c a n people learned that President N i x o n had helped

our enemies w i t h equal h u m a n i t y .

cover up a string o f illegal acts, i n c l u d i n g robberies o f the Democratic

This " i n t e r n a t i o n a l g o o d guy" approach is educationally dysfuncnonal

N a t i o n a l C o m m i t t e e a n d the office o f Lewis Fielding, a psychiatrist.

' f we seek citizens w h o are able to t h i n k rationally about A m e r i c a n

N i x o n also tried w i t h some success to use the I n t e r n a l Revenue Service,

foreign p o l i c y ' " To the cidzen raised o n t e x t b o o k platitudes, George

the F B I , the C I A , and various regulatory agencies to inspire fear i n the

Kennan's realpolitik m a y be painful to contemplate. U n d e r the t h r a l l o f

hearts o f his "enemies list" o f people w h o had dared to oppose his

die America-the-good archetype, we expect more f r o m o u r c o u n t r y B u t

policies or his reelection. I n telling o f Watergate, textbooks blame Rich-

*>-ennan descnbes h o w nations actually behave. W e w o u l d n o t nsk the

ard

N i x o n , as they should.'"' B u t they go n o deeper. Faced w i t h this

ecline o f democracy and the end o f Western civilization i f we s i m p l y

undeniable instance o f governmental w r o n g d o i n g , they manage to retain

students see a realistic description and analysis o f o u r foreign policies,

their u n i f o r m l y rosy view o f the government. I n the representative words

omg so w o u l d also help close the embarrassing gap between w h a t h i g h

o f The United States—A

History of the Republic,

" A l t h o u g h the Watergate

^c ool textbooks say about A m e n c a n foreign p o l i c y and h o w their b i g

crisis was a shock to the n a t i o n , i t demonstrated the strength o f the

rothers, college textbooks i n p o l i t i c a l science courses, treat the subject.

federal system o f checks and balances. Congress and the Supreme C o u r t

^ w h e n h i g h school history textbooks t u r n to the internal affairs o f the

had successfully checked the power o f the President w h e n he appeared

^•^ • government, the books again part c o m p a n y w i t h p o l i t i c a l sciennsts.

to be abusing that power."

228

"Our

w r o t e to a N e w York newspaper i n 1919. " T h e y are fighting the Russian

government covered t h e m up.

LIES

schoolchildren w i l l respect i t . Since the structural p r o b l e m i n the govern-

w a g i n g the campaign required to persuade Americans to support their

MY

TEACHER

TOLD

v ME

arge c h u n k o f i n t r o d u c t o r y p o l i n c a l science coursework is devoted to WATCHING

BIG

BROTHER

analyzing the various forces that influence o u r government's

domestic

chief*' of'^en precisely the people f r o m w h o m the civil rights m o v e m e n t

policies. H i g h school A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y textbooks s i m p l y credit the gov-

sought p r o t e c t i o n .

e r n m e n t for most o f w h a t gets done. T h i s is n o t surpnsing, for when

gven i n the 1960s H o o v e r remained an avowed w h i t e supremacist

authors idealize the federal government, perforce they also distort the

^ h o t h o u g h t the 1954 Supreme C o u r t decision o u d a w i n g racial segrega-

real d y n a m i c between the governed and the government. I t is particu-

tion i n Brown

larly upsetting to w a t c h this happen i n the field o f c i v i l rights, where the

v. Board

of Education

jCentucky prosecute a Caucasian

courageous acts o f thousands o f citizens i n the 1960s entreated and even

was a terrible error. H e helped

civil rights leader, C a r l Braden, for

selling a house i n a w h i t e n e i g h b o r h o o d t o a black f a m i l y I n A u g u s t

forced the government to act.

1963 Hoover i n i t i a t e d a campaign to destroy M a r t i n L u t h e r K i n g , Jr.,

Between I 9 6 0 and 1968 the c i v i l rights m o v e m e n t repeatedly ap-

and the civil nghts m o v e m e n t . W i t h the approval o f A t t o t n e y General

pealed t o the federal government for p r o t e c t i o n a n d for i m p l e m e n t a t i o n

Robert E K e n n e d y he tapped the telephones o f King's associates, bugged

o f federal law, i n c l u d i n g the Fourteenth A m e n d m e n t and other laws passed d u r i n g Reconstruction. Especially d u r i n g the K e n n e d y administ r a t i o n , governmental response was woefully inadequate. I n Mississippi, m o v e m e n t offices displayed this b i t t e r rejoinder:

j^stj„i America, 239-59. Also see a,ul Wisdom of the Ancients, 124. For Crees, Navajos, and Inuits: '"'am Fitzhugh, "Crossroads of p:°"tineius: Review and Prospect," in p'*ugh and V. Chaussonet, eds., {^'^"u"'^^ o/the Crossroads Symposium Ins "Ston, Smithsonian ^_ "tution Press, 1988). See also Ian '•'^nson. Twenty Cases Suggestive of . •

Reincarnation (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1974), 218-19. For Chinese: Joseph Needham and Lu Gwei-Djen, Trans-Pacific Echoes and Resonances (Singapore: World Scientific, 1985). Also see Feats and Wisdom of the Ancients, 121; Stevenson, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, 218-19; Irwin, Fair Gods and Stone Faces, 24951; Paul Shao, The Origins ofAncient American Culture (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1983); and Sorenson and Raish, entries L228, 231, 238-41 et al. For Atro-Phoenicians: Alexander von Wuthenau, The Art of Terracotta Pottery in Pre-Columbian Central and South America (New York: Crown, 1970), and Unexpected Faces in Ancient America (New York: Crown, 1975). Also see Ivan Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus (New York: Random House, 1976); Thor Heyerdahl, "The Bearded Gods Speak," in Ashe et al.. The Quest for America, 199-238; Feats and Wisdom of the Ancients, 123; Irwin, Fair Gods and Stone Faces, 67-71, 89-96, 122-45, 176-86; J. A. Rogers, 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro (St. Petersburg, Fla.: Helga Rogers, 1970), 21-22; and Sorenson and Raish, entries J13-17, G71 et al. Kenneth Feder attacks Van Sertima's evidence in Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries (Mountain View, Calif: Mayfield, 1990), 75-77. For Celts: Barry Fell, America B.C. (New York: Quadrangle, 1976), and Saga America (New York: Times Books, 1980). For Irish: Ashe et al., The Quest for America, 24-48. Ashe concludes that the evidence for Irish voyages is weak. For Norse: Erik Wahlgren, The Vikings and America (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1986). For West Africans: Marble, Before Columbus, 22-25. See also Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus: Arthur E. Morgan, Nowhere Was Somewhere (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1946), 198; Michael : Anderson Bradley, Dawn Voyage (Toronto: Summer Hill Press, 1987); Pathe Diagne, "Du Centenaire de la Decouverte du Nouveau Monde par NOTES

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4 5 - 4 6

Bakari I I , en 1312, et Christopher Colomb, en 1492" {Dakar[?]: privately printed, 1990); and Sorenson and Raish, entry H344. For Portuguese: Marble, Before Columbus, 25. See also Van Sertima, They Came before Columbus; Morgan, Nowhere Was Somewhere, 197; Ashe et al.. The Quest for America, 265-66; Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, 4\-43, 85-86; and H . Y. Oldham, "A Pre-Columbian Discovery of America," Geographical Journal 3 (1895): 221-33. For Basques: Forbes, Black Africans and Native Americans, 20. For Bristol fishers: Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, 5-105. Also see A. A. Ruddock, "John Day of Bristol," Geographical Journal 132 (1966): 225-33; Blow, Abroad in America, 17; G. R. Crone, The Discovery of America (New York: Weybright and Talley, 1960), 157-58; and Carl Sauer, Sixteenth Century North America (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971), 6. 22. Charles H. Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings (New York: Chilton, 1966). Hapgood argues for the Turkish map, which he believes contains details unknown to European explorers in 1513, hence could not be fraudulent. Current Anthropology 2\, no. 1 (February 1980) contains arguments for and against coins as evidence of Roman visits. 23. Forbes, Black Africans and Native Americans, 7-14; William Fitzhugh, personal communication, November 16, 1993; Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus, chapter 12. See also Alice B. Kehoe, "Small Boats upon the North Atlantic," in Riley et al., Man Across the Sea, T7(). 24. James West Davidson and Mark H . Lytle, After the Fact (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992). 25. Forbes, Black Africans and Native Americans, 19. Morgan Llywelyn, "The Norse Discovery of the New World," Early Man 2, no. 4 (1980): 3-6; Marshall McKusick and Erik Wahlgren, "Viking in America—Facr and Fiction," Early Man 2, no. 4 (1980): 7-9. Unlike NOTES QO/1

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4 6 - 5 2

most authorities. Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 374, is unsure that Columbus reached Iceland. The Norse findings were known in Europe, according to James Duff The Truth about Columbus (London: Jarrolds, 1937), 9-13. 26. Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus, 30. See also Irwin, Fair Gods and Stone Faces, 126. 27. Von Wuthenau, The Art of Terracotta Pottery in Pre-Columbian Central and South America, 50, 28. Note 21 includes pro and con sources for Afro-Phoenician contact. 29. Quoted by Jan Carew, Fulcrums of Change (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1988), 13. 30. For example, "Acknowledge Your Own History" by Jungle Brothers. 31. A controversy rages over what impact these alleged newcomers had. Older Eurocenrric theories credited white visitors ro the Americas with the ideas that led to Olmec and Mayan civilizations. Pierre Honore, In Quest (f the White God (New York: Purnam, 1964), is a late example. A few authors believe the black visitors to be the sourc^ of many Olmec skills and ideas. See H Irving Wallace, David Wallechinskv, and Amy Wallace, Significa (New York: >" Dutton, 1983), 58. Most * Mesoamericanists believe the Olniec^ developed entirely on their own. For an early statement of this criticism, see Gregory Mason, Columbus Came IM (New York: Century, 1931). A fourth view holds that the Afro-Phoenician contact might have triggered a Houcring of Olmec society This view retains the potential for genius in both hemispheres. 32. Adventure is an "inquiry textbook," composed of maps, illustrations, and extracts from P " " " J sources such as diaries and laws, hn e by narrative passages. Questions of t sort are the bane of inquiry book*Wrestling with them would reqmre^ abundant library materials, curricu time, and reaching savvy. , 33. Marble, Before Columb'"'^ • 34. De Soto's only geoP"''"^,^ ^, significance was smallpox, ^'"Y^ft among the Indians, and whic'i^^ populations much reduced e\t"

jjine LaSalle floated down the '! • j^lssissippi 140 years later. Among the books I reviewed only Life and Liberty 0ientions this plague, giving it just five

38. Riley et al., Man Across the Sea, especially Alice B. Kehoe, "Small Boats upon the North Atlantic," 275-92. 39. The three small fragmenrs of knowledge about Columbus's K: 35- After I published this imagined background are described in Lorenzo "jjssroom exchange in The Truth about Camusso, The Voyages of Columbus (New Columbus (New York: The New Press, York: Dorset, 1991), 9-10. See also Sale, 1992), I read an account of the African The Conquest of Paradise, 51-52. ^(^erican novelist Ishmael Reed's 40. Las Casas, History of the Indies, bfinging up similar material, learned 21. from the historian J. A. Rogers, in his 41. Sale, The Conquest ofParadise, fourth-grade history class. His teacher 23-26. dismissed his ideas in "a lengthy 42. Ibid. 344; J. B. Russell, Inventing outburst," Reed reports. See "The the Flat Earth (New York; Praeger, Forbidden Books of Youth," New York 1991) . Times Book Review, June 6, 1993, 2 6 43. Sale, The Conquest ofParadise, 28. 171, 185, 204-14, 362; John Hebert, 36. Diagne, "Du Centenaire de la ed., 1492: An Ongoing Voyage Decouverte du Nouveau Monde par (Washington, D . C : Library of Congress, Bakari II, en 1312, et Christopher 1992) , 100. Colomb, en 1492," 2-3; Van Sertima, 44. Koning, Columbus, His Enterprise They Came Before Columbus, 6. Forbes, (New York: Monthly Review Press, Black Africans and Native Americans, 131976), 39-40; Sale, The Conquest of 14, cites Las Casas as evidence that Paradise, 238. Columbus knew of American trade from 45. Pietro Barozzi, "Navigation and West Africa. Ships in the Age of Columbus," Italian 37. Van Sertima, They Came Before Journal no. 4 (1990): 38-41. Columbus, 21, 26. Regarding African 46. Samuel Eliot Morison, The Great diseases in the Americas, see Sorenson Explorers (New York: Oxford University and Raish, entry H344, and Richard Press, 1978), 397-98. Elsewhere Hoeppli, "Parasitic Diseases in Africa Morison gives talk of revolt a bit more and the Western Hemisphere," in Acta credence, but Koning, Columbus, His Tropica, Supplementum 10 (Basel: Verlag Enterprise, 50, pooh-poohs the mutiny. fUr Reeht und Gesellschaft, n.d.), 54The best source for the trip, Columbus's 59. Forbes, Black Africans and Native journal, now lost but summarized by Americans, cautions that black and . Bartolome de las Casas, offers this "I'ght be misleading terms, for account: "Here [October 10] the men Europeans often applied them to any could bear no more and complained of J^wk person of low status. Forbes the length of the voyage. But the Admiral encouraged them in the best ^ inks ihese blacks might have come way he could, giving them hope of the ^j>meh„w from Haiti. Since African advantage they might gain from it »v« were brought to Haiti only in [riches]. He added that however much they might complain, having come so esca t ^ '^""''^ ^^''^ "^^^ t ° ''^ve far, he had nothing to do but go to the Indi Panama with Indies, and he would go on until he Balbo"' ' ° '^^^^ preceded found them." Sale, The Conquest of Re °^'. arrived in Panama in 1510. Paradise, 60, believes the story has little •^«tico'"^ black oral tradition in historical credibility. Indeed, by October : ^'^'^ Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran, La 9, they were following large flocks of Fondo 7 '^'^'^ ^^'"'^ (Mexico City: birds, which they believed (correctly) aidjo, "''"ra Economica, 1989); Ot,,/- " G . Jackson, Man. God and •.. would take them toward land, making ^r,iv,^.'"";(New Hyde Park, N.Y: ' an October 10 mutiny threat quite '^y Boob, 1972), 283. i'> unlikely < • NOTES

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52

47. Bill Bigelow, "Once Upon a Genocide . . . ," in Rethinking Schoob 5, no. 1 (October-November 1990): 7-8. 48. Madariaga, Christopher Columbus, 20.3-4. 49. rhe Journal of Christopher Columbus, translated by Cecil Jane (New York: Bonanza, 1989), 171. 50. Ibid., 23. 51. The Log of Christopher Columbus's First Voyage to America in the Year 1492, as copied out in brief by Las Casas. (Hamden, Conn.: Linnet, 1989), unpaginated. 52. Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 122. 53. Philip Klass, "Wells, Welles, and the Martians," New York Times Book Review, October 30, 1988. Ironically, in Wells's story, the aliens are finally done in by microbes, while, in reality, disease wiped out the Natives. 54. Quoted in Michael Paiewonsky, The Conquest of Eden, 1493-1515 (Chicago: Academy, 1991), 109. I have slighdy modified the translation based on a translation in Juan Friede and Benjamin Keen, Bartolome de las Casas in History (De Kalb: Northern Illinois Press, 1971), 312. 55. Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 153-54. 56. Cuneo, quoted in Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 138. See also Fioward Zinn, A People's History of the United States (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), 4. 57. 1496 letter, quoted in Eric Williams, Documents of West Indian History (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad: PNM, 1963), 1:57. 58. Ferdinand Columbus, The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1959), 149-50. 59. Maria Norlander-Martinez, "Christopher Columbus: The Man, the Myth, and the Slave Trade," Adventures of the Incredible Librarian, April 1990, 17; Troy Floyd, The Columbus Dynasty in the Caribbean (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1973), 29. 60. James Axtell, "Europeans, Indians, and the Age of Discovery in i NOTES

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59-6 5

American History Textbooks," American Historical Review 92 (1987): 621-32; Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 156. 61. De Cordoba letter in Williams, Documents of West Indian History, 1:94. 62. Benjamin Keen, "Bkack Legend," in The Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991). Las Casas cited by Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 160-61. See also Alfred W. Crosby, Jr., The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of1492 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1972), 45. 63. Regarding Isabella, see J. Leitch Wright, Jr., The Only Land They Knew (New York: Free Press, 1981), 128; Forbes, Black Africans and Native Americans, 28; Morison, The Great Explorers, 78. Warren Lowes, Indian Giver (Penticton, British Columbia: Theytus, 1986), 32, says Labrador means "place to get cheap labor." Regarding the Natchez, see James W. Loewen and Charles Sallis, Mississippi: Conflict and Change (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 40. 64. Letter by Michele de Cuneo quoted in Paiewonsky, The Conquest of Eden, 50. 65. Letter by Columbus quoted in Williams, Documents of West Indian History, 1:36-37. 66. Ronald Sanders, Lost Tribes and Promised Lands: The Origins of America)! Racism (Boston: Little, Brown, 1978), 131, also quoting and paraphrasing Peter Martyr, De Orbe Novo (1516). 67. Las Casas, History of the Indies, quoted in Williams, Documents of West Indian History, 1:67. See also Sanders, Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, 131. idso quoting and paraphrasing Las Casas. 68. Norlander-Martinez, "Christopher Columbus: The Man, the Myth, and the Slave Trade," 17; Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 156; Sanders, Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, 169; Eduardo Galeano, Memory of Fire (New York: Pantheon, 1988), 72; Floyd, The Columbus Dynasty in the Caribbean. / J222. Diego Columbus was almost killed in this revolt, according to J. A. Rogers. J Your History (Baltimore: Black Cia.ssic \ Press, 1983 [1940]), 71. Nicholas de

I Hando may have imported Africans as slaves even before 1505. 69. Sale, The Conquest ofParadise, 129. 70. Quoted in Sanders, Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, 290. 71. Koning, Columbus, His Enterprise, 86. 72. Alfred W. Crosby, Jr., established the term in 1972 with his book The Columbian Exchange. 73. Marcel Dunan, ed., Larousse Encyclopedia of Modern History, (New York: Crescent, 1987), 40. 74. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 11-12. See also Calder, Revolutionary Empire, 13-14; Marcel Dunan, ed., Larousse Encyclopedia of Modern History, 40, 67; Crone, Discovery of America, 184. I 75. Morgan, Nowhere Was f. Somewhere; Marble, Before Columbus, 1,73-75; Calder, Revolutionary Empire, 13. Lowes, Indian Giver, 82, re 1 Montaigne. Also Sanders, Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, 208-9. The direct influence of the anthropologist L. H . Morgan on Marx and Engels is described by Bruce Johansen, Forgotten Founders: How the American Indian Helped Shape Democracy (Harvard, Mass.: Harvard Common Press, 1982), 122-23. Sale, rhe Conquest of Paradise. See also Crone, Discovery of America, 184. 76. Quoted by Peter Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization (New York: Avon, 1969), 296. The Tempest shows Shakespeare's own fascination: he modeled its Native character, Caliban, after the Carib Indians, who were cannibals, .according to what the Arawaks had told Columbus. 77. For that matter, Europe isn't n continent, unless the word is defined Eurocentrically! Europe is a peninsula; the division between Europe and Asia is arbitrary, unlike the divisions between other continents. 78. Leon Festinger, A Theory of 'Cognitive Dissonance (Evanston, 111.: Row, Peterson, 1957). 79. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, p 4 - 2 5 and chapter 5; William Langer, American Foods and Europe's Population Growth, 1750-1850,"

Journal of Social History % (winter 1975): 51 -66; Jack Weatherford, Indian Givers (New York: Fawcert, 1988), 65-71; "Seeds of Change" exhibit (Washington, D . C : National Museum of Natural History, 1991). 80. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 124-25; Lowes, Indian Giver, 59-60; Weatherford, Indian Givers, 65-71; Boyce Rensberger, "Did Syphilis Sail to Europe with Columbus and his Crew?," Budington Free Press, July 31, 1992, 3D. 81. See also Williams, DofKOTCwfe o/ West Indian History l:xxxi. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "Communist Manifesto," in Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: Norton, 1978), 474. Weatherford, Indian Givers, 43, 58, argues that long-staple American cotton, more useful for making clorh than Old World varieties, prompted the industrial revolution; he also considers the early producrion of coins in Bolivia and sugar in the Caribbean to amount to proto-factories that spurred rhe industrial revolurion in Europe. 82. Weatherford, Indian Givers, 12, 15-17. Larousse, 69, and Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 236, re inflation. Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto. 83. This turn of phrase is Bill Bigelow's. 84. Official sratement, June 8, 1989, quoted in Five Hundred (magazine of the Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission), October 1989, 9. 85. Jeffrey Hart, "Discovering Columbus," National Review (October 15, 1990), 56-57. 86. Herman J. Viola and Carolyn Margolis, eds.. Seeds of Change, (Washington, D . C ; Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 186-207. 87. Michael Wallace, "The Politics of Public History," in Jo Blatti, ed.. Past Meets Present (Washington, D . C : Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987), 41-42. See also Garry Wills, "Goodbye, Columbus," New York Review of Books, November 22, 1990, 6-10. Interestingly, in response to the Columbus quincentenary the United Nations voted to declare the 1990s "the Decade to Eradicate Colonialism." Only the United NOTES

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States dissented. Even Spain and other Western European former colonial powers abstained out of respect for the new global reality. See John Yewell, "To Growing Numbers, Columbus No Hero," St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 11, 1990. 88. Johnson v. M'Intosh; see Robert K. Faulkner, The Jurisprudence of John Marshall {Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968), 53; and Bruce A. Wagman, "Advancing Tribal Sovereign Immunity as a Pathway to Power," University of San Francisco Law Reviewll, no. 2 (Winter 1993): 41920. 89. John Burns, "Canada Tries to Make Restitution to Its Own," New York Times, September 1, 1988. 90. Roy Preiswerk and Dominique Perrot, Ethnocentrism and History (New York: NOK, 1988[?]), 245-46. 91. Columbus quoted in Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 116; see also 201. 92. Virgil Vogel, This Country Was Ours (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 38, re Carrier. Weatherford, Indian Givers, 30, re Drake. Regarding Lewis and Clark, one textbook, American History, gives full credit to their Indian guides. Romeo B. Garrett, Famous First Facts about the Negro (New York: Arno, 1972), 68-69, re Henson as first ar Pole. Some claim Peary's expedition never reached the Pole; if it did, we cannot now determine which person did so first. Interestingly, Peary and Henson both fathered sons during the expedition. In 1987 these men, now eighty years old, participated in a reunion with Peary's and Henson's "legirimate" descendants. For the first time, the men's mothers' role in the expedition was recognized. See "Discoverers' Sons Arrive for Reunion," Burlington [Vt.] Free Press. May 1, 1987; also Susan A. Kaplan's introduction to Matthew Henson, A Black Explorer at the North Pole (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989). A good short account of Henson appears in Wallace, Wallechinsky, and Wallace, Significa, 17-18. For a view of how Peary took advantage of the Inuits, including a

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charge of "scientific criminality," see Michael T. Kaufman, "A Museum's Eskimo Skeletons and Its Own," New York Times. August 21, 1993, 1, 24. 93. Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, 238. 94. Las Casas, oral history collected from Tainos, in Williams, Documents of West Indian History, 1:17, 92-93. 95. Las Casas quoted in J. H . Elliott, The Old World and the New (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 48; Las Casas, History of the Indies, 289; John Wilford, The Mysterious History of Columbus (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 40. Las Casas is justly criticized for suggesting that African slaves be brought in to replace Indian slaves. However, he recanted this proposal and concluded "that black slavery was as unjust as Indian slavery" (History of the Indies, 257). Chapter 3. The Truth about the First Thanksgiving

1. Michael Dorris, "Why I'm Not Thankful for Thanksgiving" (New York: Council on Interracial Books for Children Bulletin 9, no. 7, 1978): 7. 2. Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975), 15. 3. Howard Simpson, Invisible Armies: The Impact of Disease on American History (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. 1980), 2. 4. Col. Thomas Aspinwall, quoted^ m Jennings, The Invasion ofAmerica, 175. 5. Kathleen Teltsch, "Scholars and Descendants Uncover Hidden Legacy ol Jews in Southwest," New York Times. November 11, 1990, A30; "Hidden JCNV^ of the Southwest," Groundrock, sprnii; 1992. 6. Alfred W. Crosby, Jr., The Columbian Exchange: Biological ard Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westpo"Conn.: Greenwood, 1972), 83. Our ^^^^ cowboy culture's Spanish origin expl^nns why it is so similar to the gaucho tradition of Argentina.

7. James Axtell, "Europeans, Indians, and the Age of Discovery in American History Textbooks," 630. 8. The passage is basically accurate, although the winter of 1620-21 was not particularly harsh and probably did not surprise the British, and Indians did not assist them until spring. 9. William Langer, "The Black Death," Scientific American, February 1964. 10. Ibid.; see also William H . McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976), 166-85. 11. William H . McNeill, "Disease in History," lecture at the University of Vermont, October 18, 1988. I use "microbe" and later "germ" in their larger meaning, including viral as well as bacterial pathogens. 12. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 34. Although people do get pneumonia or other illnesses after exposure to the elements, they do not get sick from the cold but in the cold, because their bodily defenses are weakened. Pneumonia and other pathogens do not lurk in icy lakes and snowy hillsides but dwell on and within us, where it is warm. 13. Peter Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization (New York: Avon, 1969), 42-43; Hubbert McCulloch Schnurrenberger, Diseases Transmitted from Animals to Man (Springfield, 111.: Charles C. Thomas, 1975); see also Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 9001900 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 31. Andeans did have llamas; the Andes may be too high and cold to promote disease among llamas or people, however, as is implied by the fact that European and African epidemics after 1492 were less devastating there than elsewhere. H . William H . McNeill, "Disease in History"; Crosby, The Columbian Exchange. 37; Henry Dobyns, Their ^umber Become Thinned {KnoxviWe: •University of Tennessee Press, 1983). , ^ 5 . Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, ~39, argues that smallpox epidemics •^an repeatedly wipe out most of the population among such groups, each

time they recur, perhaps every generation. 16. William M c N e i l l , W Peoples, 201. 17. Gregory Mason, Columbus Came Late (New York: Century, 1931), 26970. 18. Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization, 268. See also Jennings, Thejnvasion of America, 86; Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, 210. 19. Feenie Ziner, Squanto (Hamden, Conn.: Linnet Books, 1988), 141. See also Jennings, The Invasion ofAmerica, 48-52; Robert Loeb, Jr., Meet the Real Pilgrims (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1979), 23, 87; and Warren Lowes, Indian Giver (Penticton, British Columbia: Theytus, 1986), 51. It wasn't only the Pilgrims: Queen Isabella boasted that she took only rwo baths in her life, at birth and before her marriage, according to Jay Stuller, "Cleanliness," Smithsonian 2\y 1991): 12635. 20. Simpson, Invisible Armies, 2; Crosby, The Columbian Exchange, 37. 21. Neal .Salisbury, "Red Puritans: The 'Praying Indians' of Massachusetts Bay and John Eliot," in Bruce A. Glasrud and Alan M . Smith, eds.. Race Relations in British North America, 1607-1783 (Chicago: Nelson-Hall), 1982), 44; and Salisbury, "Squanto: Last of the Patuxets," in David Sweet and Gary Nash, eds.. Struggle and Survival in Colonial America (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Universiry of California Press, 1981), 231-37. Dobyns agrees that the 1617 plague was bubonic but believes it swept up the Atlantic seaboard all the way from Florida; see Their Number Become Thinned William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation, rendered by Valerian Paget (New York: McBride, 1909), 258, implies that the Indians knew that smallpox was not the epidemic that laid them waste in 1617, for in describing a 1634 outbreak of smallpox, Bradford stated, "They fear it worse than the plague." William Cronon, Changes in the Land (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983), 87, votes for chicken pox. 22. Excluding other plagues in the

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Internarional, 1992). Charles Darwin, Americas, of course. Cushman is quoted Voyage of the Beagle, quoted in Crosby, in Charles M . Segal and David C. Ecological Imperialism, vii. As Darwin Stineback, Puritans, Indians, and knew, the same sad processes have Manifest Destiny (New York: Putnam's, recurred wherever F^uropeans, Asians, or 1977), 54-55. Africans encountered isolared peoples, 23. Simpson, Invisible Armies, 6. from Australia to Easter Island, Hawaii 24. Quoted in Simpson, Invisible to Siberia. Thus, for example, the Armies, 7. population of the Marquesan Islands in 25. Cushman quoted in Segal and rhe South Pacific sank from 100,000 at Stineback, Puritans, Indians, and first contact to 2,500 in 1955. See Thor Manifest Destiny 54-55; William S. Heyerdahl, Aku-Aku (Chicago: Rand Willis, "Division and Rule: Red, "White, McNally, 1958), 352. and Black in the Southeast," in Leonard 37. Langer, "The Black Death," 5; Dinnerstein and Kenneth Jackson, eds., see also McNeill, Plagues and Peoples. American Vistas, 1607-1877 {New York: 38. Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1975), 66. 294-95. 26. Particularly the remnanrs of the once hostile Massachusets, reduced in 39. Colin McEvedy, The Penguin number from 4,500 to 750, converted, Atlas of North American History (New according to James Axtell, The European York: Viking, 1988), 3. and the Indian (New York: Oxford 40. Jennings, The Invasion of University Press, 1981), 252, 370; see America, 16. also James W. Davidson and Mark H . 41. Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation. Lyde, After the Fact (New York: 258. McGraw-Hill, 1992), iii. 42. Hurtado, Indian Survival on the California Frontier (New Haven: Yale 27. Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation, University Press, 1988), 1. 93; cf Peter Hulme, Colonial Encounters 43. Sources estimating precontact (London: Methuen, 1986), 147-48. populations in this range include R M . 28. Ibid., 7. Ashburn, The Ranks of Death 29. Karen Ordahl Kupperman, (Philadelphia: Porcupine, 1980 [1947]); Settling with the Indians (London: J. M . Woodrow Borah, "The Historical Dent, 1980), 186; cf Simpson, Invisible Demography of Aboriginal and Colonial Armies, 8. America," in William Denevan, ed., The 30. Tee Loftin Snell, America's Native Population of the Americas in Beginnings (Washington, D . C : National 1492 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Geographic, 1974), 73, 77. Press, 1976), 13-34; Sherburne Cook 31. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, and Woodrow Borah, Essays in 50-51. Population History: Mexico and the 32. Ibid., 202-15. Caribbean, vol. 1 (Berkeley and Los 33. Simpson, Invisible Armies, 35. Angeles: University of California Press, 34. Dobyns, Their Number Become 1971); Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Thinned. Jared Diamond, "The Arrow of 35. David Quummen, "Columbus Disease," Discover October 1992, 64and Submuloc," Outside, June 1990, 73; Dobyns, Their Number Become 31-34. C f Crosby, The Columbian Thinned, 42; Jennings, Invasion of Exchange, 49; McNeill, Plagues and America, 16-30; Simpson, Invisible Peoples, IQYb-l. Armies; David Stannard, American 36. James Brooke, "For an Amazon Holocaust (New York: Oxford Universirv Indian Tribe, Civilization Brings Mostly Press, 1992), 11-24; and Rus.sell Disease and Death," New York Times, Thornton, American Indian Holocaust December 24, 1989. Violent uprooting and Survival: A Population History Since of Native cultures continues as well; see 1492 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Amnesty International, Human Rights Press, 1987) and "The Native American Violations against the Indigenous Peoples of Holocaust," Winds of Change A, no. 4 the Americas (New York: Amnesty NOTES

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(autumn 1989): 23-28. For a review of the population literature, see Meli.ssa Meyer and Russell Thornton, "Indians and the Numbers Game," in Colin Calloway, ed.. New Directions in American Indian History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), chapter 1. 44. A paragraph in The American Pageant does tell of the 90 percent toll throughout the hemisphere but leaves out any mention of the plague at Plymouth. '45. Michael W. Apple and Linda K. Christian-Smith, The Politics of the Textbook {New York: Routledge, 1991), 66. 46. Richard Hofstadter, William Miller, and Daniel Aaron, The American Republic (Englewood CliflFs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1959), 47-48. 47. Quoted in Ziner, Squanto, 147. I 48. J. W. Barber, Interesting Events in the History of the United States (New 1 Haven: Barber, 1829), 30. Barber does 1, not cite the authority he quotes. 49. Even though "Virginia" then J included most of New Jersey, the I Mayflower nonetheless landed hundreds of miles northeast. Historians who support the "on purpose" theory include George F. Willison, Saints and Strangers (New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1945); Lincoln Kinnicutt, "The Settlement at Plymouth Contemplated before 1620," Publications of the American Historical Association, 1920, , 211-21; and Neal Salisbury, Manitou i and Providence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 109, 270. Leon Clark Hills, History and Genealogy of the Mayflower Planters (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ. Co., 1975), and Francis R. Stoddard, The Truth about the ; Pilgrims (New York: Society of 'Mayflower Descendants, 1952), 19-20, support the "Dutch bribe" theory, based °n primary source material by Nathanial Morton. Historians at Plimoth Plantation support the theories of pilor ^rror or storm. , 5 0 . Ziner, Squanto. 147; Kinnicutt, rhe Settlement at Plymouth ^ontemplated before 1620"; Almon W. -auber, Indian Slavery in Colonial Times

within the Present Limits of the United States (Williamstown, Mass.: Corner House, 1970 [1913]), 156-59; Stoddard, The Truth about the Pilgrims, 16. 51. The Mayflower ^lAeA .south for half a day, until encountering "dangerous shoals," according to several of our textbooks. Then the captain and the Pilgrim leadership insisted on returning to Provincetown and eventually New Plymouth. C'onspiracy theorists take this to be a charade to dissuade the majority from insisting on Virginia. See Willison, Saints and Strangers, 145, 466; Kinnicutt, "The Settlement at Plymouth Contemplated before 1620"; and Salisbury, Manitou and Providence, 109, 270. 52. Willison, Saints and Strangers, 53. Speech in Sioux Falls, September 8, 1919, in Addresses of President Wilson (Washington, D . C : Government Printing Office, 1919), 86 . 54. T. H . Breen, "Right Man, Wrong Place," New York Review of Books, November 20, 1986, 50. 55. Written by Robert Beverley in 1705 and quoted in Wesley Frank Craven, The Legend of the Founding Fathers (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1983 [1956]), 5-8. 56. Axtell, The European and the Indian. 292-95. 57. J. Leitch Wright, Jr., The Only Land They Knew (New York: Free Press, 1981), 78. 58. Kupperman, Settling with the Indians, 173; James Truslow Adams, The March of Democracy, vol. 1 (New York: Scribner's, 1933), 12. 59. I encountered most of these students in New England, but many of them came from suburbs of Philadelphia, Washington, D . C , and New Jersey. I suspect that replies from the rest of the United States would be similar, except perhaps the Far West. 60. Gary Nash, Red White, and Black (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974), 139, describes the same process in Pennsylvania. 61. Emmanuel Altham letter quoted in Sydney V. James, ed.. Three Visitors to NOTES

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Early Plymouth (Plymouth: Plimoth Plantation, 1963), 29. 62. Could there be a fairy tale parallel to this Pilgrim incident? Like Goldilocks, the Pilgrims broke-and-entered, trespassed, vandalized, and stole, and like Goldilocks, educators forgive them because they are Aryan. The Goldilocks tale makes her victims less than human, and the shadowy way our histories represent Indians makes the Pilgrims' victims also less than human. My thanks to Toni Cade Bambara for this analysis of Goldilocks. 63. Kupperman, Settling with the Indians, 125. 64. All five had names other than Squanto or Tisquantum, but Indians sometimes went by different names in different tribes. Squanto's biographer, Feenie Ziner, believes he was one of the five. Ferdinando Gorges stated in 1658 that Squanto was among those abducted in 1605 and lived with him in England for three years, which convinced Lincoln Kinnicutt ("The Settlement at Plymouth Contemplated Before 1620," 212-1.3) but not historians at Plimoth Plantation or Salisbury (Manitou and Providence, 265-66), although Salisbury seems more positive in "Squanto: Last of the Patuxets." See also Lauber, Indian Slavery in Colonial Times, 156-59. 65. Simpson, Invisible Armies, G. 66. William Bradford, OfPlimouth Plantation, 99. See also, inter alia, Salisbury, "Squanto: Last of the Patuxets," 22S-46. 67. Robert Moore, Stereotypes, Distortions, and Omissions in U.S. History Textbooks (New York: CIBC, 1977), 19. 68. Robert M . Bartlett, The Pilgrim W&y (Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press, 1971), 265; and Loeb, Meet the Real Pilgrims. 65. 69. Charles Hudson et al., "The Tristan de Luna Expeditions, 1559-61," in Jerald T. Milanich and Susan Milbrath, eds.. First Encounters (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1989), 119-34, supplies a vivid illustration of European dependence on Indians for food. They tell of the little-known second Spanish expedition NOTES

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(after De Soto) into what is now the southeastern United States. Because the Indians retreated from them and burned their crops, the Europeans almost starved. 70. Bessie L. Pierce, Public Opinion and the Teaching of History in the United States (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1926), 113-14. See also Alice B. Kehoe, "'In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed . . .': The Primacy of the National Myth in U.S. Schools," in Peter Stone and Robert MacKenzie, eds.. The Excluded Past (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990), 207. 71. Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), 18-19. 72. Robert N . Bellah, "Civil Religion in America," Daedalus, winter 1967, 1 21. See Hugh Brogan, The Pelican History of the U.S.A. (Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1986), 37, re Plymouth Rock. See also Michael Kammen, Mystic Chords of Memory (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1991), 207-10. 73. Valerian Paget, introduction to Bradford's History of the Plymouth Settlement. 1608-1650 (New York: McBride, 1909), xvii. 74. Dorris, "Why I'm Not Thankful for Thanksgiving," 9. The addition is mine, in the interest of accuracy. 75. Plimoth Plantation: "The American Thanksgiving Tradition, or How Thanksgiving Stole the Pilgrims (Plymouth, Mass.: n.d., photocopy); Stoddard, The Truth about the Pilgrims. 13. 76. Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 5. 77. Arlene Hirshfelder and Jane Califf "Celebration or Mourning? It's All in the Point of View" (New York: Council on Interracial Books tor Children Bulletin 10, no. 6, l';79), 978. Frank James, "Frank James' Speech" (New York: Council on Interracial Books for Children Bullet'" 10, no. 6, 1979), 13. 79. Willison, Saints and Strange"' Neil Salisbury, Manitou and Provider!^' 114-17; Wright, The Only Land ThO Knew. 220. Salisbury, Manitou and

Providence. 120-25, tells of the ^militaristic and coercive nature of Plymouth's dealings with the Indians, however, right from the first. | | Chapter 4, Red Eyes

1. James Axtell, "Europeans, Indians, and the Age of Discovery in American History Textbooks," American Historical ;?mw92 (1987): 629-30. 2. Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America (Chapel Hill: University of North C^arolina Press, 1975), vii. 3. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (New York: MacMillan, 1907), 86. 4. Rupert Costo, "There Is Not One Indian Child Who Has Not Come Home in Shame and Tears," in Miriam Wasserman, Demystifying School (New York: Praeger, 1974), 192-93. 5. Quoted in Calvin Martin, ed.. The American Indian and the Problem of History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 102. 6. Axtell, "Europeans, Indians, and the Age of Discovery," 621 -32. 7. Sol Tax, foreword to Virgil Vogel, ed.. This Country Was Ours (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), xxii. 8. The exceptions are Discovering American History, with just 2 pages out of 831, or 0.2 percent, and The American Pageant, with 4 out of 1,077, or 0.4 percent. 9. 1 will use the terms tribe and nation interchangeably, because some Native American leaders argue that nation is a European construct, implying ">orc emphasis on the state than they eel applies to most Indian societies. As ^plained in the previous chapter, I also Native American and Indian Jnonymously The textbooks 1 surveyed walk this lingusitic minefield, terestingly, those that use Native Am, are not necessarily more ^P-to-date in their interpretations. 1 call Native individuals by their Native ^"les, after introducing them by their J. *t|ve names and the names more ^''I'liar to non-Native readers. ^ '0- Although refusing to give up the ^''a' "knows all" textbook tone, one

other book. The United States—A History of the Republic by James Davidson and Mark Lytle, does tell of controversy and uncertainty in archaeology. 11. John N . Wilford, "New Mexico Cave Yields Clues to Early Man," New York Times, May 5, 1991, describes research by Richard MacNeish suggesting 35,000 B.P there. David Stannard, American Holocaust (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 10, suggests 32,000 to 70,000 B.P Sharon Begley offers a useful popular summary in "The First Americans," in Newsweeks special issue When Worlds Collide (hWlwrntet 1991), 15-20. 12. According to Robert F. Spencer, Jesse D. Jennings et al.. The Native Americans (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), 8, most archaeologists believe in the small gene-pool theory 13. Since people arrived in Australia long before 12,000 B.P and could not have walked there, we cannot be sure that Indians did not get here by boat. Archaeology reveals no boats from this era, but then they would not have been built from stone or have lasted in wood. 14. Diaz quoted in Sources in American //Mtory (Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986). Population from Robert E Spencer and Jesse D. Jennings, The Native Americans, 480. 15. Quoted in Rupert Costo and Jeanette Henry, Textbooks and the American Indian (San Francisco: Indian Historian Press, 1970). 16. In The Cunning of History (New York: Harper, 1987), 91, a rumination on the Nazi holocaust, Richard L. Rubenstein emphasizes that "the Holocaust bears witness to the advance of civilization." 17. Christmas is an example of syncretism in European culture, combining elements from Jewish religion, like the idea of a Messiah, and Northern European "pagan" observances, like the winter solstice and the emphasis on plants that are green in winter (holly, ivy, evergreen tree, mistletoe). Corn culture among the Iroquois and other NOTES

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Eastern nations is an example of syncretism in American culture, combining corn from Mexico and Peru with ideas already present in the Northeast. 18. Pertti Pelto, The Snowmobile Revolution (Menio Park, Calif: Cummings, 1973). 19. Fred Anderson, review of The Skulking Way of War, Journal ofAmerican History 79, no. 3 (December 1992): 1134. 20. That's why it's often hard to identify physical types on reservations today. "Mohawk" is cultural, not physical. 21. Robert Utley, The Indian Frontier of the American West (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), 12. 22. J. Leitch Wright, Jr., The Only Land They Knew (New York: Free Press, 1981), 230. More powerful centralized governments were also forced upon indigenous people by European powers so they would have conflict partners with whom to deal. 23. Gary Nash, Red White, and Black (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974), 257; James Axtell, The European and the Indian (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 257. 24. On Ireland, see Allen Barton, Communities in Disaster (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1970), 11-12. The large-scale nations in Mexico and Peru, like nations in Europe, waged large-scale war. In some areas within the present United States, notably the Northwest, tribal warfare was sometimes brutal before European influence. 25. Wright, The Only Land They Knew, 138; Patricia Galloway, "Choctaw Factionalism and Civil War, 17461750,'" Journal of Mississippi History 44, no. 4 (November 1982): 289-327; Joseph L. Peyser, "The Chickasaw Wars of 1736 and 1740," Journal ofMississippi History AA, no. 1 (January 1982): 1-25. 26. Five of twelve books mention that survivors of the Pequot War or King Philip's War were sold into slavery, but they treat this as an isolated incident and do not mention the Indian slave trade.

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27. Wright, The Only Land They Knew, 33, 130. 28. Peter N . Carroll and David Noble, The Free and the Unfree (New York: Penguin, 1988), 57. 29. Almon W. Lauber, Indian Slavery in Colonial Times within the Present Limits of the United States (Williamstown, Mass.: Corner House, 1970 [1913]), 110. 30. Lauber, Indian Slavery in Colonial Times, 106. Nash, Red, White, and Black, 113, 119, offers somewhat different figures: 5,300 whites, presumably including indentures; 2,900 blacks; and 1,400 Indians. 31. Rogers, yo«r///story (Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1983 [1940]), 78. See also Frederick W. Hodge, ed.. Handbook of the Indians (Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, vol. 30, part 2) (Washington, D . C : Government Printing Office, 1906[?]), 216. 32. On California, see Albert Hurtado, Indian Survival on the California Frontier (Nevi Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 75. On the Southwest, see Jack Forbes, The Indian in Americas Past (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 94-95. 33. Wright, The Only Land They Knew. 81-83. 34. Henry Dobyns, Their Number Become Thinned (Knoxville; Universiry of Tennessee Press, 1983), 332. He also points out that the plagues, by killing experts and reducing numbers gencralh". thus decreasing the division of labor, played a role in de-skilling Natives. See also Gary Nash, Red, White, and Black, 97; Jennings, Invasion, 41, 87; Anthony E C. Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1970), 24-25; Neal Salisbury, Manitou and Providence (New York: Oxford, 1982), 56-57. 35. Utley, Indian Frontier, 21. Wasichu in Lakota is also translated as "fat grabber," one who is greedy [Wend>' Rose, "For Some, It's a Time of Mourning," The New World (Smithsonian Quincentenary Publication), no. 1 (spring 1990): 4]. The Cherokee word for white man

similarly Translates as "people greedily 44. Franklin quoted in Jose Barreiro, grasping for land," according to Ray ed., Indian Roots of American Democracy Fadden in a private communication, (Ithaca, N.Y.; Cornell University November 25, 1993. American Indian Program, 1988), 43; 36. D. W. Meinig, "A Geographical Vogel, ed.. This Country Was Ours, 257Transect of the Atlantic World, ca. 59. Not all Indian societies were I 1750," in Eugene Genovese and Leonard equalitarian: the Natchez in Mississippi ; Hochberg, eds.. Geographic Perspectives in and the Aztecs in Mexico showed a rigid }History (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), hierarchy. 197; Patricia Nelson Limerick, "The 45. Cadwallader Golden quoted in Case of the Premature Departure: The Vogel, ed.. This Country Was Ours, 259. Trans-Mississippi West and American 46. Alvin Josephy, Jt., The Indian History Textbooks," Journal ofAmerican Heritage of America (New York: Alfred A. History 78, no. 4 (March 1992): 1381. Knopf 1973), 35; William Brandon, The textbook view can be contrasred New Worlds for Old (Athens: Ohio with that shown in the feature movie University Press, 1986), 3-26; Michel Koyannisqatsi, which is filmed from a de Montaigne, "On Cannibals," in Hopi viewpoint and portrays western Thomas and Carol Christensen, eds.. canyons serenely but is disquieted by the The Discovery of America and Other canyons of New York City. Myths (San Ftancisco: Chronicle Books, 37. Ronald Sanders, Lost Tribes and 1992), 110-15. Promised Lands: The Origins ofAmerican 47. Quoted in Bruce Johansen and Racism (Boston: Little, Brown, 1978), Roberto Maestas, Wasichu: The '373-74. Continuing Indian Wars (New York: 38. Helen H . Tanner, "The Glaize in Monthly Review Press, 1979), 35. 1792: A Composite Indian 48. Jack Weatherford, Indian Givers Community," Ethnohistory lb, no. 1 (New York: Fawcett, 1988), ch. 8; '(winter 1978): 15-39. Johansen, Forgotten Founders: Jose 39. Hurtado, Indian Survival on the Barreiro, ed., Indian Roots ofAmerican California Frontier, 47-49. Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell University 40. Nash, Red White, and BUck. 60. American Indian Program, 1988), 2941. Quoted in Peter Farb, Man's Rise 31. See also Bruce A. Burton, "Squanto's to Civilization (New York: Dutton, Legacy: The Origin of the Town 1978), 313. Meeting," Northeast Indian Quarterly 6, 42. Benjamin Franklin, quoted in no. 4 (winter 1989): 4-9; Donald A. Bruce Johansen, Forgotten Founders: How Grinde, Jr., "Iroquoian Political Concept the American Indian Helped Shape and the Genesis of American Democracy (Harvard, Mass.: Harvard Government," Northeast Indian Common Press, 1982), 92-93. Farb, Quarterly 6, no. 4 (winter 1989): 10-21; Man's Rise to Civilization, 313; Frederick and Robert W. Venables, "The Founding Turner, Beyond Geography (New York: Fathers," Northeast Indian Quarterly (>, Viking, 1980), 244; Nash, Red White, no. 4 (winter 1989): .30-55. While rhis and Black. 317-18; and James Axtell, was partly flattery, in this and other "The White Indians" in The Invasion documents of that time. Congress "Within (New York: Oxford University repeatedly used symbols and ideas from Press, 1985), 302-27, agree that many the Iroquois League. Not only Franklin but also Thomas Jefferson and Thomas : more whites became Indian than vice Paine knew and respected Indian Versa. political philosophy and organization. 43. Turner, Beyond Geography 241; Nevertheless, Elizabeth Tooker denies Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Settling With this influence in "The U.S. Constitution The Indians (London: J. M . Dent, and the Iroquois League," Ethnohistory 1980), 156. See also Axtell, "The White 35, no. 4 (fall 1988): 305-336. But see Indians," and The European and the "Commentary" on Tooker in Indian, 160-76.

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f Ethnohistory?)!, no. 3 (summer 1990). In The Disuniting of America (New York: Norton, 1992), 127, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., makes the Eurocentric claim that Europe was "also the source—the unique source—of those liberating ideas of individual liberty . . .," but he offers no evidence, only assertion, for this claim and apparendy does not know of Europe's astonishment not only at Native American liberty but also at religious freedom in China and Turkey. Marco Polo reported that of all the fabulous things he saw during his twenty-seven-year trip to "Cathay," none amazed him more than its religious freedom: Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists worshipped freely and participated in civil society without handicap. When Spain expelled its Jews in 1492, Turkey took them in and allowed them to worship. 49. John Mohawk, "The Indian Way Is a Thinking Tradition," in Barreiro, ed., Indian Roots of American Democracy, 16. 50. James Axtell, "The Indian in American History, The Colonial Period," The Impact of Indian History on the Teaching of United States History (Chicago: Newberry Library, 1984), 2 0 23; Barreiro, ed., Indian Roots of American Democracy, 40-41; Bernard Sheehan, "The Ideology of the Revolution and the American Indian," in Francis Jennings, ed.. The American Indian and the American Revolution (Chicago: Newberry Library, 1983), 1223; and Stewart Holbrook, Dreamers of the American Dream (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1957), 137-45, regarding New York State. 51. Weatherford, Indian Givers, chapter 6. 52. Wright, The Only Land They Knew, 264. 53. Weatherford, Indian Givers; Evan Jones, "Indian Food: A Rich Harvest," Saturday Review, November 25, 1978. Origins other than the Choctaw okeh have been claimed for OK, including a nickname for Marrin Van Buren and "oil korrect." 54. Alfred Crosby, "Demographics and Ecology" (paper presented at NOTES

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Smithsonian Inst. Seminar, Washington, D . C : September 1990), 4. Andean Indians practiced the only agriculture known to produce more topsoil than it depleted. We have yet to unlock all the secrets of Mexican and Guatemalan agriculture, which seem to have combined floating gardens, canals, and fisheries. 55. Vogel, ed., This Country Was Ours, 268. 56. Ibid., 266-67. 57. Faith Davis Ruffins colloquium at the National Museum of American History (Washington, D . C : April 25, 1991), regarding patent medicine images. See also the treatment of American Indian Medicine by Virgil J. Vogel (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990). Bruce Johansen, Forgotten Founders, 117; Warren Lowes, Indian Giver (Penticton, British Columbia: Theytus Books, 1986), 51; William B. Newell, "Contributions of the American Indian to Modern Civilization," Akwesasne Notes (late spring 1987): 1415; Lewis Hanke, The Spanish Struck for justice in the Conquest ofAmerica (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949), 90, regarding political and ideological influences. 58. Costo and Henry, Textbooks and the American Indian, 22. 59. Vine Deloria, an Indian writer, does this in God Is Red (Golden, Col.: North American Press, 1992 [1973]). 60. In Calvin Martin, ed., The American Indian and the Problem of History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 21. 61. Quoted in Lee Clark Mitchell, Witnesses to a Vanishing America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 260. See also Richard Drinnon, Facing West (Minneapolis: University ot Minnesota Press, 1980), 539. 62. James Merrell, The Indians New W&r/^ (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 193-95. 63. Drinnon, Facing West, xvii-xix. In his well-known novel Rabbit Boss (New York: Vintage, 1989 [1973]), which tells of the Washo Indians of California in the nineteenth and eady twentieth centuries, Thomas Sanchez

supplies a vivid portrayal of what happens to a people denied equal rights before the law. 64. David Horowitz, The First frontier (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), 14; Stephen Aron, "Lessons in Conquest (Princeton: Princeton University, 1993, typescript), 15; Wiley Sword, President Washington's Indian War (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 191-97. An exception is Land of Promise, which offers a subheading, "150 Years of Warfare," preceding a competent treatment of Indian wars in general and King Philip's War in particular. 65. Jennings, Invasion. 146. Only one textbook I know, A History of the United States by Daniel Boorstin and Brooks Kelley (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1989), still indulges in this rhetoric: "In America, the Indians had never heard of the polite tradirion of war-by-the-rules. The Indians conducted a primitive form of total war, and the Colonists' only good protection was a primitive form of total defense." I excluded this book from my sample of twelve, partly because passages like this make it too easy a target. 66. Patricia N . Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest (New Yotk: Norton, 1987), 18-19. 67. From the inside jacket of Missouri! (New Yotk: Bantam, 1984). 68. Joe Feagin, Racial and Ethnic Relations (Englewood ClifiFs: N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984), 181. John D. Unruh, The Plains Indians (Urbana: Universiry of Illinois Press, 1979). 69. Quoted in Kupperman, Settling With The Indians, 185. See also Jennings, Invasion. 220. irty Work (Secaucus, N.J.: Lyle Stuart, 1978), 270-71. Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's alleged assassin, may only ^oincidentally have tried to go to Cuba. We do not know; distrust of the official warren Commission explanation fuels speculation to this day. Many Americans ^°und Oliver Stone's film y f / f persuasive, •^en though the conspiracy it concocts |eems to include Vice President Johnson, ^e Pentagon brass, the CIA, the 'litary-industrial complex, the Mafia, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. ([^'^^ "oks bear some responsibility for IHiblic gullibility, because they do a

27. Salinger, "Gaps in the Cuban Missile Crisis Story," New York Times, i February 5, 1989. See also Lapham, America's Century, Series Transcript, 51; Ameringer, U.S. Foreign Intelligence, 285-95; Jeffreys-Jones, The CIA and American Democracy, 131-40. 28. Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, The Experts Speak (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 145; Ameringer, U.S. ' Foreign Intelligence, 261-64. 29. Kissinger quoted in Thomas G. Paterson, J. G. Clifford, and K. J. Hagen, American Foreign Policy: A History Since 1900 (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1983), 589. 30. My thanks to David Shiman for some of the ideas and wording of these paragraphs on Chile, parts of which originally appeared as "U.S. in the Third World: Challenging the Textbook Myth," by David Shiman and James W. Loewen, chapter 11 of T. M . Thomas et al., eds.. Global Images of Peace: Transforming the War System (Kottayam, India: Prakasam Publications, 1985), NOTES

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reprinted in this country as Global Images of Peace and Education (Ann Arbor: Praki