Historical Inaccuracies Are Barriers To Racial Justice

   By James W. Loewen

James Baldwin wrote, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” We can teach it that way!

More than any other topic, history is about us. Our nation is more stratified than any other industrialized country. The average White household has twelve times the wealth of Black or Native households. Nationally, schools are as segregated now as in the 1970s. Our public schools are where students should think about how we got this way.

Textbooks rarely use the past to illuminate the present. Worse, they mystify important topics in our past.

Instead, textbooks rarely use the past to illuminate the present. Worse, they mystify important topics in our past, including the Civil War and Reconstruction, making it harder to think about race relations. Consequently, history courses that should help build community often instead widen gaps by race and class. When asked their favorite subject, students across the U.S. usually rank history last. Students of color typically view history with a special dislike.

This series, Correct(ed), tackles problems in history that we often teach wrong. Hopefully, educators, parents, and communities will find them fascinating and useful, because we all need to be historically literate, so we can help students (and ourselves) make sense of the present.

I hope you will join me on this journey.

James W. Loewen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont, is the author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader.” Each article in this series will come with a short annotated bibliography, often to items Loewen wrote, for educators seeking additional information. For more information and resources see: James W. Loewen’s official web page.


Essential Reading

Loewen, James W. “Introduction,” Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 1-9.
Discusses why relying on textbooks won’t do.

Articles in This Series: