Saturday, June 19, 2021

Our Massive Ignorance About American History

 American history, as taught in our schools, has always been distorted to make America look good. In the schools, America's ugly side is generally ignored. For example, it has taken 100 years for the horrible destruction of the black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma to emerge with any prominence. 

The American Revolution--the War of Independence announced by the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence--is generally thought of as a morally pure victory over British oppression. This is what Americans celebrate with fireworks every July 4th. The truth is quite different. I have tried to spread a truer version of this history and partially succeeded with my letter published in the Washington Post on July 8, 2018: "Ignoring an important part of the American Revolution."

Two days ago, my letter making the same point was published in the Boston Globe. This is the text of the letter:

 Few grasp how slavery united the colonies, sparked the American Revolution

Renée Graham is correct about the power of keeping people ignorant about slavery (“How white supremacy weaponizes ignorance,” Opinion, June 16). One of the most important books about the effect of slavery on America is “Slave Nation: How Slavery United the Colonies and Sparked the American Revolution,” by Alfred, Ruth, and Steven Blumrosen. This book documents that the Southern colonies joined the Northern colonies to engage in the War of Independence because the Southern colonies feared that Britain would abolish slavery in the colonies.

The cause of this fear was the decision in a British court case, Somerset v. Stewart, decided in 1772, four years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The British public interpreted that decision to mean that slavery was abolished in England. 

It is unlikely that the War of Independence would have been won without the support of the Southern colonies. Southerners’ fear of the impact of the Somerset decision was justified, because Britain abolished slavery in its colonies in 1833, more than 30 years before the end of the American Civil War.

Many educated friends and colleagues of mine knew nothing about this. This exemplifies the ignorance that white supremacy has created among us.

John L. Hodge

Jamaica Plain

No comments:

Post a Comment