Readings for April 29: Conservatives do public history

As requested, this week’s readings represent history written for the public, from a conservative perspective.  As usual, I broadened the definition of “public history” to include how amateur historians and members of the public “do history.”

A note about my method for finding these pieces: I intentionally kept my searches for readings party-neutral; I did not search for “Republicans,” “Tea Party,” or terms like “extremist” or “right-wing.”  I simply searched for variations on “conservative history,” and these articles and blog posts were in the top several pages of results—or they were linked to in one of the top results.  (Exception: Beck’s black history discussion, which I used in my last History 502 section.)  Although the subject may seem over-represented in the list below, I did not look for pieces on black civil rights or African Americans, but many were in the search results, demonstrating, I think, the significance of this topic to the current conservative movement in the United States.

All of the people represented here fall into at least one of these categories:

  • self-described conservative,
  • writing for a  conservative website,
  • liberals or moderates writing about conservative history.

The authors are diverse in their opinions, from a fiscal conservative who is socially left of center to deeply socially conservative (self-described) Christians. Their life experiences and occupations also vary; represented in this list are veterans, professors, teachers, fellows in conservative initiatives, and average bloggers.

This is a long list, and I encourage you to read as many items on it as possible.  That said, I know your time is not unlimited, and so that we have some common articles to discuss, I have starred required readings.  Following the list, you’ll find some questions for discussion.   Please add one of your own discussion questions to the comments section of this post.


The History of Conservatism

* Carlson, “Learning from the History of Conservatism”


Republicans, Democrats, and the Constitution/Founders

Scott, “WANTED: Democrat Leaders Who Forthrightly Support the Constitution”

“DO We Have the Right to Disobey Islamic Law?” 

Taylor, “Gun Control – Not According to George Washington”

Barton, “American History: Bachmann v. Stephanopoulos” 

Taylor, “Thanksgiving and Our American Heritage”



*Postel, “Lincoln’s Conservative Vision”

“Teddy Roosevelt Revisited”


Conservatives, Civil Rights, and African Americans

* Pete, “The Historical and Social Barriers to Expanding the Conservative Vote among African Americans”

Minor, “A Focus on Freedom for Black History Month”

* Voegeli, “Civil Rights and the Conservative Movement”

Morel, “The Soul of W.E.B. DuBois”

* Anderson, “Blacks Were More Than Slaves”

Swimp, “What, to Black Americans, is the 4th of July?”

* Beck, “America’s Black Founding Fathers,” Part I and Part III

* Williamson, “The Party of Civil Rights” and its follow-up, “Yes, the Party of Civil Rights”

* Jackson, “King’s Real Legacy”

* Garris, “Martin Luther King’s Conservative Legacy”

Spalding, “Martin Luther King’s Conservative Principles”


Recent History

Erickson, “From Melting Pot to Pressure Cooker”

Longstreet, “Who Murdered America? What Comes Next?”


Public History/Public Memory

* Almasi, “Chavez Monument Proclaimed by Obama Over Project 21 Member’s Warnings”


History Education: Educational Resources, Posts by Teachers, Posts about Education

“Reflections from High School World History Students”

“The last Samurai is. . . Me?”

“How State Standards are Indoctrinating Our Youth with Marxist Views on the Great Depression”

“McCarthyism Lecture Notes from a Liberal Teacher” 

“Bill of Rights in the News: Gun Rights in the 21st Century”

* Potter, “Why Teach the History of Modern Conservatism? Because It’s Fun” 

* Klugewicz, “Hungry Souls and Brave Hearts: Heroism, History, and Myth” 


Hitt, “A Conservative History of the United States”

Barton, “Guns, Kids, and Critics”

Would, “‘Conservative’ Historians Refuted”

* Hensatri, “Conservative History”

* Strickland, “Anthony Bradley’s Black Tribalist Attack on Doug Wilson”

Hawkins, “Conservative Bloggers Select the 25 Worst Figures in American History”



(for class–blog about whatever you wish in regards to these posts)

1. As noted in the introduction, there is a good deal of diversity among these authors’ views and life experiences.  Despite this diversity, do you see some common themes, beliefs, or language/rhetoric?  For example, are there words that appear frequently?  Do the authors seem to define them similarly to each other, or are the definitions slippery?

2. What might explain the frequency of posts about civil rights and African Americans?

3. At least as represented in these posts, what do conservatives value in the teaching of U.S. history?  What, for these writers, is the purpose of teaching U.S. history in K-16?

4. Are there patterns in how the authors use sources?  What do you think about how individual authors use and cite sources?

5. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, chances are you agreed with some of the writers’ points or at least found them compelling.  Which ones appealed to you as a historian, and why?

6. As represented by these authors, do conservatives “do history” differently from progressive writers? If so, what are the differences?  If not, how might you explain the similarities?

7. Aside from African-American history, there isn’t much history of people of color represented in these posts, nor is there much women’s history.  Imagine you were hired to address this history by creating a museum exhibit or series of blog posts for a conservative audience (perhaps for the bloggers whose work we read today).  Your goal is to interest them in the history and make them want to learn more.  What concepts would you highlight to spark their curiosity and desire to learn? What kind of language would you use? If it’s a museum exhibit, what kinds of artifacts might you include? (Would your approach be different than if you were writing for a progressive audience?  Why or why not?)

 Remember: please add one of your own discussion questions to the comment section of this post.

9 thoughts on “Readings for April 29: Conservatives do public history”

  1. Hensatri wrote, “While some of the western super powers do have strong conservative elements to their citizenry, this is almost universally offset by a liberal legal code that protects minority groups and endorses progress (since, obviously, all progress in liberty must start with a minority group).”

    Is his statement that “all progress in liberty must start with a minority group” true? How do we contend with current issues of liberal politicians enacting legislation for groups of people who they view as disenfranchised? Is he making a claim that the people in positions to enact change are the minority or is he referring to those that progress effects? Could it be argued that authoritative powers only claim that “progress in liberty starts with minority groups” as justification for their actions?

    And doesn’t this statement lead us to assume that disenfranchised groups are always minorities? If so, who sets the definition of minority? A minority in what capacity?

  2. Dose the categorizing of Americans as conservative and liberal serve a purpose? Is anyone really one or the other? Do liberals want to live in a worker’s paradise were their individualism is lost and all pay is equal and the government tells them how to live each moment of their lives? I can’t think of a professor who doesn’t want recognition for their work. I am a gun enthusiast who treasures his Second Amendment rights but I never want to hear about a Sandy Hook or Aurora theater shooting ever again! Are the differences between liberals and conservatives so vast that the political hallmarks of problem solving, negotiation and common respect things of the past?

  3. Why is there such a disparity between liberal-minded and conservative-minded teachers when it comes to teaching history? Shouldn’t teaching history be about providing students with both sides of the story and primary documents so they can think critically for themselves? According to many of the historical education articles, liberal indoctrination is occurring not only because of educational standards and educational policies, but also because of liberal teachers pushing their “diversity” agendas. Why is this? What is so bad – or wrong – with traditional historical education?

  4. Thinking back to the 1950s. What qualities or mentalities from that era would benefit Americans today? What were the problems in that era that we have since resolved? Are we better off now or was life better for Americans in the 1950s?

  5. Does the Republican Party of today resemble the Party of Lincoln? If you saw the movie “Lincoln”, are there are any similarities to the Republican Party of today?

  6. What kind of history is created when it is written *at* an opposing ideal or group? What quality of history is created with ‘Gotcha’ type of research and writing? Is it possible to use a competitive relationship to create good history (despite the sources above) or does opposition always create poor history? Historians write to prove others wrong all the time, does discussing current political issues make all the difference with this weeks reading?

  7. Why do these “conservative” authors argue ad nauseam what political camp historical figures would fall into today? What is the point of this anachronistic approach?

  8. Is it possible for public historians to cover an inherently political event, the Civil Rights movement for example, without infusing one political viewpoint or another into the narrative? Can a historian ever be truly dispassionate about a topic while still presenting “good history”?

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