A nice Hank Sims interview of local historian Ray Raphael regarding his new book Founding Myths: The Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past. 5 questions though? All the other interviewees get like 12 or 15 questions. Figures that SoHum would get the short end as usual!
The book is another shot in the trench war debate between the notion of “peoples history” and “great man theory history.” We learn for instance that Paul Revere’s famous ride is fiction, that Jefferson was not regarded as the demi-god of American liberty really until Lincoln built him up, and that Patrick Henry never said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” (well, I haven’t actually read the book yet, but these items are mentioned in Amazon reviews). And apparently, Independence Day should really be celebrated on July 2 instead.
These are just aspects of the larger theme however, which was summarized by the author in an earlier article:
Although textbooks in recent years have certainly become more inclusive, giving the nod to multiculturalism is not synonymous with getting the story right. We’ve come a long way, baby—but we have a long way to go.
Since our stories need protagonists, we marshal forth heroes and heroines to represent the people of the times. Although selected for their uncommon features, these few are made to signify the whole. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson—we speak of these illustrious individuals as the Revolutionaries, and we use them to stand for all the other Revolutionaries, even as we proclaim they are special, not like the others. These people are then called “leaders;” all others become mere followers. A handful of celebrated personalities make things happen, the rest only tag along; a few write the scripts, the rest just deliver their lines. This turns history on its head. In reality, so-called leaders emerge from the people—they gain influence by expressing views that others espouse. In the telling of history, however, the genesis of leadership is easily forgotten.
The way we learn about the birth of our nation is a case in point. If we teach our students that a few special people forged American freedom, we misrepresent, and even contradict, the spirit of the American Revolution. Our country owes its existence to the political activities of groups of dedicated patriots who acted in concert. Throughout the rebellious colonies, citizens organized themselves into an array of local committees, congresses, and militia units that unseated British authority and assumed the reins of government.
So far I have not found any reviews by conservative scholars. Still looking.
Photo lifted from the NCJ story.