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When I was a fourth grade student in suburban Birmingham, Alabama in the 1970s, the history curriculum was devoted to a study of our state. Our teacher, Mrs. Lawson, supplemented our textbook with personal recollections of the Civil War gleaned from her own grandmother, who had been a girl in the 1860s. Mrs.
Thomas Jefferson has had a rough few years. Since DNA established beyond a reasonable doubt that he fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings, Jefferson has been pushed into the shadows and forced to watch as his political rivals John Adams and Alexander Hamilton enjoy the limelight.
Paradigm shifts in historiography seem to come all at once rather than being spaced evenly along the disciplinary trajectory. The last such shift in writing about slavery and race (including civil rights) in the United States came between the late 1950s and the mid-1970s.
Reconstruction, we are told, has moved on.
Just after eight o’clock in the evening on 17 June 2015, 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, carrying a semiautomatic handgun. He sat with 12 parishioners and their pastor, South Carolina state senator Rev. Clementa Pinkney, for about an hour, as they prayed and read from the Bible.
After reading American Will, the Forgotten Choices that Changed our Republic, by former Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal, I am confused as to why the man chose to write a piece of history. Governor Jindal is a capable politician and has written a book that contains, in places, very astute political content.
Michael Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, frequent presidential candidate, and former Fox News host, opens the election year reissue of his 2014 manifesto God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy with the arresting anecdote of 2012’s ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day’.
Ron Paul’s The Revolution is adamant on one point: to solve the problems in modern America, Americans need to return to Constitutional values. ‘In times like these, we need a return to fundamentals’ (p. 168). The specific fundamentals to which Paul refers are as often the values of Austrian School economists as they are the Founding Fathers.
‘“Chris’mas, we allus had plenny good sumpin’ t’eat, an’ we all got tegether an’ had lots er fun,”’ stated Rias Body, an ex-slave from Alabama, to a Federal Writers’ Project interviewer.
It was hardly to be expected that the sesquicentennial might come and go without the Civil War’s most preeminent historian offering his thoughts on the subject, and James McPherson has not let us down. Not that The War that Forged a Nation is in any direct sense a comment on or reaction to the sesquicentennial; it is neither.