American History: Reappraisal and Revision

November 5, 1969

Report Outline
Reappraisal of Negro Role in History
Mythology and Nationalism in History
Trends and Tools of Historiography

Reappraisal of Negro Role in History

How america views its past is a recurring theme in the endless stream of analyses of “what's wrong” in this country. It is often suggested that “history is catching up with us”—that the convergence of troubles at home and abroad is exposing myths of American history. “Star-spangled” textbooks, the mass media, and even American Presidents stand accused of having purveyed a false notion of national omnipotence and righteousness.

Historians, who are doing much of the accusing, are themselves on the firing line. War in Viet Nam and the Black Revolution in America have caused them to reappraise old verdicts and assumptions that touch upon current concerns—race, poverty and war. The Negro demands that history books be “integrated” with his achievements, not just his slavery; the New Left historian challenges orthodoxy about the Cold War and American aims abroad. The “consensus” school of American history, dominant in the years after World War II, has given way to that which portrays “conflict”—sectional, ideological, racial—as basic ingredients of the nation's past. “Conflict” historians maintain that any blurring of these issues distorts an understanding of the United States today.

Indications of Racial Bias in History Textbooks

Criticism of written history is by no means confined to academic circles. The most vocal complaints come from black Americans who believe that their past has been misrepresented or ignored. Early in the present century, a leading Negro historian and teacher, Edward A. Johnson, asserted that white authors “studiously left out the many creditable deeds of the Negro.” He said that “The general tone of most of the histories taught in our schools has been that of the general inferiority of the Negro, whether actually said in so many words or left to be implied.” As recently as 1965 another Negro historian and teacher, Dr. Charles H. Wesley, noted in a book with the revealing title Neglected History: Essays in Negro History that what Johnson reported was still common in American schools.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Racism and Hate
Aug. 13, 2021  Hate Crimes
Feb. 12, 2021  Slavery's Legacy
May 12, 2017  Anti-Semitism
Mar. 17, 2017  ‘Alt-Right’ Movement
Sep. 18, 2015  Far-Right Extremism
Nov. 22, 2013  Racial Profiling
May 08, 2009  Hate Groups
Jun. 01, 2007  Shock Jocks Updated
Jan. 07, 1994  Racial Tensions in Schools
Jan. 08, 1993  Hate Crimes
May 12, 1989  The Growing Danger of Hate Groups
Nov. 05, 1969  American History: Reappraisal and Revision
Mar. 31, 1965  Extremist Movements in Race and Politics
May 13, 1964  Racism in America
Dec. 03, 1958  Spread of Terrorism and Hatemongering
Jul. 10, 1946  Ku Klux Klan
Jan. 09, 1945  Race Equality
Dec. 19, 1933  Lynching and Kidnapping
Education Standards and Testing
Historic Preservation