Reflecting on the interaction of national and settler US history: John Mack Faragher, ‘”And the lonely voice of youth cries ‘What is truth?'”: Western History and the National Narrative’, Western Historical Quarterly, 2016

26Oct16

Exxcerpt: A couple of years ago, I got a call from my oldest grandson, Jeremy. He was beginning middle school and taking his first class devoted to American history. For their initial homework assignment the teacher asked the students to speak with an older relative about their view of the American past and report on what he or she said. When Jeremy mentioned that two of his grandfathers were history professors (a complete coincidence, by the way), the teacher asked him to interview both of us. “Here’s the question, grandpa,” Jeremy said. “What does the United States of America mean to you as a historian?”

“Wow,” I stammered, “that’s big. Can you give me a little more direction?” I was stalling. “I can tell you what Grandpa Lou said,” Jeremy offered. “That would help,” I replied, grateful for a few moments to gather my wits. “He thought about it for a while,” Jeremy said, “then told me that while America meant a lot of things to him, most important was the proclamation of human rights in the Declaration of Independence and the personal liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the other amendments to the Constitution.” Grandpa Lou had taken the high road. “He’s absolutely right about that,” I said. “Those are the guarantees of our enviable rights and freedoms.” Now it was my turn. “Since Lou emphasized the positive,” I offered, somewhat tentatively, “I’m going with the dark side. America is also about taking the land from hundreds of Indian nations and enslaving millions of Africans.”



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