Lincoln Review: Courtney M. Baxter

In this five-part series, Lakefront Historian contributors respond to the critically acclaimed blockbuster Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Memory and Reimagining in Lincoln

As I walked into the movie theater to see Steven Spielberg’s newest movie Lincoln, I was struck by the audience in the packed theater. An audience of silver-haired White people filled nearly every seat. It came as a shock to me considering my location in a Chicagoland suburb where the residents are mostly Black and Latino Americans.  Eventually, along with my family and me, a few Black people trickled in (also of an older crowd).  It was a stark sight to see and I considered the topic of Lincoln and the memory of the man. Who was Abraham Lincoln to this audience?  I cannot presume to fully know.

Continue reading “Lincoln Review: Courtney M. Baxter”

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Lincoln Review: Cambray Sampson

In this five-part series, Lakefront Historian contributors respond to the critically acclaimed blockbuster Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Lincoln

I found out about the movie Lincoln surprisingly recently.  I honestly had not heard that this movie was being made until about two months ago, but once I found out about it I wanted to go see it.  I love watching movies based on historical events, though I will admit that I haven’t seen as many of these movies as I would like.  My first attempt to see the movie ended when I arrived at the theatre to find that it was sold out for four straight shows.  That in itself sold me on the popularity of the movie even before seeing any box office figures.  I had resigned myself to waiting several weeks to see Lincoln when I received a text message from theatre friend gushing about the technical aspects of the movie and encouraging me to go and see it – I went the next day.

Continue reading “Lincoln Review: Cambray Sampson”

Jesus Visits The Americas? [Roundtable]

For the 9th Annual Loyola History Graduate Student Conference, the LUC Public History Committee will host a roundtable on “Revisionist Public History.” This is a post that introduces a case study on the topic. The Committee welcomes participation both online and at the conference. If you have an example of “Revisionist” Public History, please feel free to mention it as a comment on the blog, or contact the blog editors to request the opportunity to author a guest post. For more information on the Conference and the Roundtable–to be held November 3 at Loyola’s downtown Water Tower Campus–click here.

This post comes from Dr. Sarah Doherty, a recent graduate of Loyola’s Public History/US History joint PhD program. 

Image

 

This past summer I spent a week in Salt Lake City as an AP World History grader.  I had ample opportunity to visit local cultural institutions, but I was most interested in taking a look around Temple Square which is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS).  The ten acre Temple Square compound was filled with pairs of helpful young women tour guides from around the world on their mission year.  They cheerfully provided visitors with information about Temple Square, history of Mormons in Utah and if you stood still for too long read you scripture from copies of the Book of Mormon they all carried.

In the North Visitors Center, guests to Temple Square are greeted with a history of the universe as told by the LDS.  On my first visit I was accompanied by a group of other world history teachers who all had running commentary below their breaths about the “history” that was presented.  I went back alone to revisit one exhibit that particularly piqued my interest.  As seen in the above photo, a hippie looking Jesus spent some time hanging out with indigenous peoples of the New World.  The exhibit label was titled “Jesus Christ Visited Ancient America.”  I am not well-versed in biblical history or archaeology, but I am quite certain that the vast majority of scholars in these fields would agree with me that the widely accepted Christian cannon and historical record does not support Jesus traveling to the Americas.  I stepped back from the exhibit as a tour group with a bunch of young children approached.  The young female tour guide asked the children if they knew what Jesus did in the New World.  The children, in their excited voices, all chimed in that Jesus taught the Aztec and Maya how to read and write.  The tour guide affirmed their answer and all the parents of the children nodded in agreement.  As a teacher of Native American history I found the entire lesson and historical interpretation of the exhibit troubling.

In thinking about revisionist history, how do we evaluate historical interpretations that do no support the established historical record?  Do we simply dismiss the Mormons, one of the fastest growing modern religions, as crazy folk on society’s fringes?  Or, must we give serious consideration to world and biblical history as presented by the LDS?

Selling the Value of History [Roundtable]

For the 9th Annual Loyola History Graduate Student Conference, the LUC Public History Committee will host a roundtable on “Revisionist Public History.” This is a post that introduces a case study on the topic. The Committee welcomes participation both online and at the conference. If you have an example of “Revisionist” Public History, please feel free to mention it as a comment on the blog, or contact the blog editors to request the opportunity to author a guest post. For more information on the Conference and the Roundtable–to be held November 3 at Loyola’s downtown Water Tower Campus–click here.

Is history just for Trivial Pursuit?

Most historians are well aware of history’s value. Professors clarify its value the first day of every 100-level history course.  Most value statements generally boil down to “knowing history will make you a better person.” For most people, knowing history does not translate directly into a job or profit, however even a passing knowledge improves their quality of life. History gives a better understanding of the cultures, cities, states, nations as well as the world we live in. It allows us to better understand other people and makes us better citizens. History also makes for better humor. While this is all relative, at scale I believe that the more people that pursue learning about the past, the better off humanity will be in the present and the future.

Continue reading “Selling the Value of History [Roundtable]”

Revising the “Fort Dearborn Massacre” [Roundtable]

For the 9th Annual Loyola History Graduate Student Conference, the LUC Public History Committee will host a roundtable on “Revisionist Public History.” This is a post that introduces a case study on the topic. The Committee welcomes participation both online and at the conference. If you have an example of “Revisionist” Public History, please feel free to mention it as a comment on the blog, or contact the blog editors to request the opportunity to author a guest post. For more information on the Conference and the Roundtable–to be held November 3 at Loyola’s downtown Water Tower Campus–click here

The Battle of Fort Dearborn Park (WBEZ/John Schmidt)

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 has received depressingly little notice even here in the Great Lakes region, home to several important sites of that conflict. An exception to this general apathy relates to a space on Chicago’s Near South Side where, on August 15, 1812, a band of Pottawatomie overwhelmed about 100 evacuees from the US Army’s nearby Fort Dearborn. The confrontation was a rout: 28 American soldiers were killed and 28 were captured. Civilian losses–a complicating matter in the ongoing memory of the event–amounted to 14 killed and 15 captured, including 3 women and 12 children.

The Anglo-American perspective of the event prevailed as the dominant interpretation of the violence, most notably in the seemingly undisputed appellation “The Fort Dearborn Massacre.” However, as many American Indians have sardonically noted over the years about white-Indian conflicts, ‘When the whites win, it’s a “battle,” when the Indians win, it’s a “massacre.”‘ Continue reading “Revising the “Fort Dearborn Massacre” [Roundtable]”

Call for Participants: Roundtable on Revisionist Public History

George Washington and slaves at Mount Vernon

The Public History Committee of the Loyola University Chicago History Graduate Student Association presents:

A Roundtable on Revisionist Public History

Saturday, November 3, 2012

In Conjunction with Afternoon Sessions of the 9th Annual Loyola University Graduate Student History Conference, 2:45pm-4:30pm

LUC Water Tower Campus

You are invited to participate in a roundtable designed to foster discussion of recent efforts to revise interpretations at historic sites.  This roundtable features Dr. Amy Tyson of DePaul University, graduate student conference participants, and public history professionals from the Chicago area.

 

How to participate: 

Follow this blog to view a detailed introduction to the roundtable, consider pre-circulated case statements, and offer your comments and contributions.

Attend the roundtable prepared to discuss your experiences with revisionist public history, either as a patron or a staff member of institutions that have undertaken efforts to align their interpretations with historical revisions.

Attend the roundtable, and be willing to informally engage participants and fellow audience members about the topic.

Simply attend the roundtable and listen.

What is “revisionist public history?”  Continue reading “Call for Participants: Roundtable on Revisionist Public History”

“Slave for a Day” and the Tensions in Historiography (Part II: Peter Kotowski)

“[It] is often forgotten that the concept of social death is a distillation from Patterson’s breathtaking survey – a theoretical abstraction that is meant not to describe the lived experiences of the enslaved so much as to reduce them to a least common denominator that could reveal the essence of slavery in an ideal-type slave, short of meaningful heritage.  As a concept, it is what Frederick Cooper has called an ‘agentless abstraction’ that provides a neat cultural logic but ultimately does little to illuminate the social and political experiences of enslavement and the struggles that produce historic transformations.”

Vincent Brown, “Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery”

I must preface this piece by admitting that I have no formal training in public history.  As such, I cannot offer the same type of illuminating critique that my colleague, Will Ippen, has provided in the companion piece to mine.  What I can do, however, is frame the debate over the Hampton National Historic Site’s “Slave for a Day” event within the context of the extant historiography on North American slavery.

In his excellent essay on the legacy of Orlando Patterson’s Slavery and Social Death, historian Vincent Brown articulates a tension between scholarship emphasizing the dehumanizing aspects of antebellum slavery and the overwhelming power of the institution and those works that focus on the collective agency of the enslaved population and the ways in which they resisted enslavement.  In my opinion, the outcry over the “Slave for a Day” event reflects a tendency among many  to adopt the interpretation of slavery stressing the power of the institution to oppress enslaved people.

Continue reading ““Slave for a Day” and the Tensions in Historiography (Part II: Peter Kotowski)”

“Slave for a Day”: Perspectives on Interpreting Slavery (Part I: William Ippen)

There has been no paucity of reactions to Hampton National Historic Site’s “Slave for a Day” event, which took place this past Sunday under the new name “Walk a Mile, a Minute in the Footsteps of the Enslaved on the Hampton Plantation.” While the event and its underlying theme enjoyed a significant degree of support, outrage at the event, as well as its title and promotional literature, prompted the National Park Service to change its title and omit exclamation points from the announcement. Criticism of the event–all of it coming before it was actually held–has taken two forms: a distasteful title and the interpretive method’s inability to truly convey the lived experience of the enslaved. The former criticism, which NPS staff promptly addressed, is both superficial and moot at this point. The latter critique, however, calls into question the interpretive program’s very validity and is severely misplaced. Continue reading ““Slave for a Day”: Perspectives on Interpreting Slavery (Part I: William Ippen)”