Slavery and Public History

Slavery has been a questionable history when it is brought up in the public spectrum do to its uncomfortable and conflicting history. When I say conflicting it’s due to the individual you are talking to. If a you talk to most white southerners, as I have, while livening in the south, you get conflicting answers to the race question. John Vlach states “when discussing the history of racial slavery in the United States can be traced, suggests James W. Loewen, to the inadequate textbooks that they are compelled to read while in High School.”[1] I agree that the true reason we still have racial inequalities in the nation is due to the inaccurate history. In order to find a common ground of tolerance education is needed through the eyes of the oppressed in order for some kind of change to happen. All I see happening from the past during the civil rights movement to today is young white and black youths have a common misconception of the past that is conflicting the future. “When students are fitted with intellectual blinders, they are likely to become citizen’s incapable of understanding why we remain a divided nation.”[2]

The constant struggle to try adapt to the struggle race causes issues. As a white male, I cannot begin to assume or perceive how that life was even as a descendant of Irish immigrants. In order to become a more unified country we as all people need to find common ground and respect the pasts of oppressed nationalities. The constant adaptation of racial segregating laws or ideals will be the down fall of our union.

[1] James Oliver Horton, and Lois E. Horton, eds. Slavery and public history: The tough stuff of American memory. New Press, The, 2006.Pg. 57.


[2] James Oliver Horton, and Lois E. Horton, eds. Slavery and public history: The tough stuff of American memory. New Press, The, 2006.Pg. 57.

4 thoughts on “Slavery and Public History”

  1. I agree with your statement on the lack of education of historical events. This in my mind is a leading cause of misconceptions and conflict today. How do you feel like historians, specifically public historians can help solve this?

    1. Better awareness, open dialogue, and education can change a good majority of peoples perceptions on topics. As they do in therapy for people of trauma, getting their perception through their life and viewpoints can better change others perceptions who may have not been through the same situation. perspectives are different with everybody and the more, as we, as the public can listen and change that the better chance for change.

  2. I also agree with the education issue but pose a further problem. What about those in charge of our collective education and what happens when they are in on the plan to keep us blind. For example, the Arkansas Act 90 (which fought to gather equal time for creation science, a term that they pretty much made up on the spot, having equal time in classrooms). I bring this up not due to success (as it was basically denied) but more on the basis that in many ways those that choose the education we pass on can and are sometimes a portion of the problem themselves and that in places such as this, as a public historian, I feel that you have to “play ball” with that, especially if it is the majority opinion, whether or not you believe it. (once again coming back to funding and the greatness of the capitalist system’s involvement in our history.)

    1. Eric, I agree that in order to push forward, especially in some public history fields, one must “play ball,” but when you have had enough time in an institution you can push things in and go against some education issues. Its just a matter of picking the right time and right battle.

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