Tuesday, January 30, 2007

History ain't what it used to be

In my methodology class this morning, as part of a discussion on changing historiographical schools of thought, I showed my students a textbook by Lawton B. Evans, originally titled The Student’s History of Georgia: From the Earliest Discoveries and Settlements. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Evans’s work, first published in 1884, was the first real Georgia history textbook. With its later editions, it “came to be regarded as the standard school text on Georgia history for many years.”

True to its subtitle, the book has little on Georgia’s Native Americans prior to the coming of the Europeans--to be precise, about half a paragraph. “As late as two hundred years ago the state was almost unbroken forest, and the people who inhabited it were savages, who built no cities, had no written language, knew nothing of their own past history, and who led a wandering life in the solitude of the great forests which covered this land.” An illustration accompanying those few words shows a woman cooking fish and several others performing various tasks outside of a tipi. The caption: “Home life of the savages.”

Except for “no written language” and the fish, none of this is accurate.

“Savages”? The word was used a little more freely a century ago, and if Evans meant “living in a state of nature,” its use might be excused. But I strongly suspect he meant the more modern sense of “uncivilized,” which is quite wrong.

“Unbroken forest”? When Hernando DeSoto traveled through what is now Northwest Georgia in 1540, he reported that, for miles at a time, his expedition was never out of sight of cultivated fields or villages.

“Built no cities”? “A wandering life”? The Indians that DeSoto encountered had settled down centuries earlier, in large permanent settlements that rivaled, in terms of population, many Europeans cities.

“Knew nothing of their own past history”? There is an element of truth here. With the arrival of the Europeans, Native Americans began to die quickly and in large numbers. Anthropologists and historians have estimated that, within a year, some areas suffered a 50 percent population decline, due mainly to the disease that the Europeans unwittingly carried with them and against which the Indians had no natural resistance. Within a few generations, the population of Southeastern Indians overall declined by 80-90 percent (some put the figure as high as 95 percent). With that tremendous and rapid decline, no doubt some history was lost.

But at the same time that Evans was writing his history of Georgia, an anthropologist named James Mooney, working for the federal government’s Bureau of American Ethnology, was compiling a record of Cherokee myths, handed down through the centuries, about everything from the creation of the earth to the origin of fire, disease, evergreens, and the lowly crawfish--enough to fill over 300 book pages. When my students read some of these myths for class, they conclude that these “savages” weren’t quite as uncivilized a people as Evans suggests.

Oh, and about that picture: Plains Indians, out West, lived in tipis; Southeastern Indians did not.

Evans’s view of Georgia history emphasizes politics, which means it’s dominated by wealthy white men. As far as I can tell, only two women are mentioned by name in the text: Mary Musgrove, who helped James Oglethorpe deal with the natives, and Revolutionary War hero Nancy Hart. Of the 155 captioned portraits in the book, one is of a woman: “Mrs. Governor Early.” (She’s not mentioned in the text.)

Evans’s book contains six sentences on slave life. Here are four of them: “Being well treated, they were free from care, and were, therefore, happy, and devoted to their masters. After the day’s labor they had their simple sports, such as dancing, playing the banjo, and ’possum hunting. They were fond of singing, even at their work. And at night, around the fire in ‘the quarters,’ they would sing their melodies in rich, musical voices.”

Actually this book is similar to others of the time. They reflect the thinking of society a century ago, and of course they also helped shape it: remember, this was the textbook that taught a generation of Georgia schoolchildren about their state.

After looking at the book, my students decided that history ain’t what it used to be. And that’s a good thing.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Today in History: "The Raven" first published

On January 29, 1845, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" was first published in the New York Evening Mirror:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
Only this and nothing more."

"The Raven" has been big in American popular culture, including a number of parodies (of varying quality). My favorite re-doing: "Near a Raven," a version that remains faithful to the original while being a mnemonic device for the number pi (3.14159...) to an amazing 740 places.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, University of Georgia

On January 27, 1785, the Georgia legislature approved a charter for the University of Georgia. The preamble said: “When the minds of the people in general are viciously disposed and unprincipled and their conduct disorderly, a free government will be attended with greater confusions and evils more horrid than the wild uncultivated state of nature. It can only be happy where the public principles and opinions are properly directed and their manners regulated.” (You can view the charter here.)

No other state had chartered a public university before this. (Other institutions of higher learning existed--Harvard, for example, had been around since 1636, almost a century and a half earlier--but they were private, not public, schools.) So the University of Georgia, chartered 222 years ago today, is the oldest state university, right?

Well, the University of Georgia didn’t accept its first student until 1801, sixteen years after it was chartered. Can it be a university without students? Does a professor talking in a classroom make a sound if there is no student there to hear her?

On the other hand, the University of North Carolina was not chartered until 1789--but it accepted its first student in 1795, six years before Georgia.

So which is the oldest state university: Georgia, which was chartered in 1785 but did not open until 1801; or North Carolina, which was not chartered until 1789 but opened in 1795?

This is a difficult question. My opinion is that you can’t have a university without students. The University of Georgia was just words on a sheet of paper until 1801, six years after the University of North Carolina was up and running.

The fact that I have two degrees from the University of North Carolina has nothing to do with my perspective on the matter. Instead, I base my opinion on a Georgia precedent. When was Georgia itself founded? On June 20, 1732, when the charter was signed? Or on February 12, 1733, when James Oglethorpe landed with his first colonists at Yamacraw Bluff? The Georgia General Assembly passed a law in 1909 that said February 12 should be observed as “Georgia Day,” marking the state’s founding. This means that, according to the state government, Georgia didn’t exist until there were colonists here. Using the same logic, universities don’t really exist until there are students on the campus.

So today we wish a Happy Founders' Day (as they call it in Athens) to the University of Georgia --the nation’s second oldest state university.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Jane's back!

Hard to believe it's been less than two weeks since Jane Hamsher posted a heart-rending message at firedoglake : "In mid-December I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time. It's a bit more serious this time and treatment is going to have to be more extensive.... On Thursday I go in for surgery at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica."

We waited, read the frequent (but not frequent enough) updates, and waited some more. And today-- she's back! And ready to resume her share of the coverage of the Libby trial: "They tell me there's no reason I can't be in Washington DC on Monday morning, February 5, sitting at the Prettyman courthouse getting ready to watch Dick Cheney sweat, just like I promised."

Welcome back, Jane!

added later: Ed Darrell reminds us that Molly Ivins, though "still not dead," is not doing so well.

Monday, January 22, 2007

John Wesley, evolutionist?

Jeremy Bruno recently posted Tangled Bank #71, the popular science blog carnival, at The Voltage Gate. Since many of the postings have a historical theme, especially to the 18th century, Bruno titled this edition of the carnival "Welcome to 1771!"

"As an idea, evolution was all but nonexistent in the 18th century," Bruno wrote, introducing a handful of relevant postings. Reading that sentence reminded me of an article I came across a few days ago in The Methodist Review (May 1924): "Why the Methodist Church Is So Little Disturbed by the Fundamentalist Controversy," by Philip L. Frick.

"A very interesting and suggestive phenomenon it is that, while some of the denominations of America are being shaken to their very foundation by the Fundamentalist controvery, the Methodist Church has so generally escaped," Frick wrote. He attributed this in part to the beliefs of John Wesley, generally considered the founder of Methodism: "Were John Wesley alive to-day, he would be considered a 'Modernist' regarding Evolution and the Bible.... Wesley believed that creation moves from the simple to the complex. He observed that there is a 'prodigious number of continued links between the perfect man and the ape.'"

Frick offers several Wesley quotations to prove this, the best being:

By what degrees does nature raise herself up to man? How shall she rectify the head that is inclined toward the earth? How change these paws into flexible arms? What method did she use to transform those crooked feet into supple and skillful muscle? The ape is this rough sketch of man; this rude sketch, an imperfect representation which nevertheless bears a resemblance to him and is the last creature that serves to display the admirable progression of the works of God.

Fascinating! But a little thought and investigation show us that this isn't quite what it seems.

First, Wesley didn't exactly write that passage. The quotation is from a book put together by Wesley titled A Survey of the Wisdom of God in the Creation: A Compendium of Natural Philosophy. As the subtitle suggests, this multi-volume work, first published in 1763, was largely a collection of the writings of others. (The book went through many later editions, growing in size each time. One of the later editions is available here.) As it happens, this quotation is from Charles Bonnet's Contemplation of Nature.

Wesley didn't write it, but his inclusion of it in the Compendium suggests an acceptance of evolution. But a second point: Even so, the quotation does not prove that Wesley was a "Darwinist." Darwin was a century later (Origins of Species was first published in 1859). In Wesley's day, many people were evolutionists, and he had no problem finding popular works that he could use for his Compendium. In addition to Bonnet's, there were, among others, Oliver Goldsmith's History of the Earth, and Animated Nature and Louis Dutens's Enquiry into the Origins of the Discoveries Attributed to the Moderns. Incidentally, Dutens's work, like Bonnet's, was originally published in French. Frick suggested that Wesley himself translated such works; maybe he did, but he didn't have to, as published English translations were generally available within a year or two of the original publication.

And Jean-Baptiste Lamarck would appear just a few years later.

It's not obvious that Wesley and other 18th-century figures who accepted evolution would have been comfortable with Charles Darwin, who not only introduced a mechanism (natural selection) for evolution but also made God superfluous to the process.

Philip Frick was right: The Methodist church was less affected by the Fundamentalist controversy of the early 20th century than were some other Protestant denominations. But Frick's discussion of Wesley as a "modernist" perhaps misses the mark a bit.

They were giants in those days

David Kaiser, who writes at History Unfolding, presents the best tribute I've seen to Art Buchwald in "Death of a Giant." America has always needed people like Buchwald--and occasionally, as Kaiser shows, we've had them.

Thanks to Cliopatria's Ralph Luker for the reference.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

James Cobb on jaywalking professors

Over at Cobbloviate, James Cobb offers his own take (as is his wont; he seems to have his own take, always instructive and amusing, on many things) on the arrest a couple weeks ago of Professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. The respected historian from Tufts University was charged with jaywalking while attending the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Atlanta.

Cobb suggests that the professor should eschew future AHA conferences in favor of the friendlier meetings of the Southern Historical Association:
As a former president of this group who was elevated to that office a few years after being threatened with arrest at an SHA meeting, I can assure him that [had] his Atlanta experience occurred at one of our gatherings, he would have little reason for complaint, for he would have immediately become the object of much congratulation and backslapping and achieved what amounted to instant cachet with his new colleagues. It would further enhance his stature as a naturalized southerner, of course, if instead of complaining about his confinement with the “most deprived and depraved dregs of the American underclass,” he explained that he got along famously with his cellmates and may have even discovered a couple of long lost third cousins twice-removed while on the inside.

my people!

from Scrutiny Hooligans, a Tar Heel blogger

Today in history: Sherman heads to Georgia

On January 21, 1844, Lt. William T. Sherman, then stationed at Charleston, S.C., received orders to report to Marietta, Ga.
For the next six weeks, Sherman helped take depositions in Georgia and Alabama with respect to personal loses of horses and equipment by militia members from the two states that had fought in the Second Seminole War in Florida. During this assignment, the young 23-year-old officer had a chance to familiarize himself with the area of northwest Georgia that he would visit again 20 years later under vastly different circumstances.
"This Day in Georgia History" is a wonderful service from the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Georgia readers (and others), check it out!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Today in History: Georgia Secedes

On January 19, 1861, delegates to a statewide convention in Milledgeville, Georgia, by a vote of 208-89, approved an ordinance "that the Union now subsisting between the State of Georgia and other States, under the name of the United States of America, Is Hereby Dissolved."

White Georgians at the time were pretty evenly split on the question of secession; in the popular vote for delegates to the convention, the immediate secessionists won by the thin margin of 44,152 to 41,632. (discussion here).

Five years later, Alexander H. Stephens, a member of the convention (and then vice-president of the Confederate States of America), talked about support for secession in the state:
In some of the mountain counties the Union sentiment was generally prevalent. The cities, towns, and villages were generally for secession. The anti-secession sentiment was more general in the rural districts and in the mountain portions of the State. Yet the people of some of the upper counties were very active and decided secessionists. There was nothing like a sectional division of the State at all. For instance, the delegation from Floyd county, situated in the upper portion of the State, was an able one, and strong for secession; while the county of Jefferson, down in the interior of the cotton belt, sent one of the most prominent delegations for the Union. I could designate particular counties in that way throughout the State, showing there was nothing like a sectional or geographical division of the State on the question.
In the Civil War, of course, secession lost big time.

Carnival time!

Two new carnivals!

Southern Fried Carnival is brand spanking new, making its first appearance over at Cass Knits.

And Georgia on My Mind has the second edition of the Georgia Carnival; just two weeks old, it's still quite new.

Good reading on Georgia and southern topics!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hobbits in Kentucky

Today at Cliopatria, Ralph Luker mentions an essay by the late Guy Davenport on an interesting connection between J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbits and the people of central Kentucky. "Possible" connection, I should say, but still very cool. Be sure to follow the links in Ralph's piece.

From Davenport's essay:
I began plying questions as soon as I knew that I was talking to a man who had been at Oxford as a classmate of Ronald Tolkien's. He was a history teacher, Allen Barnett. He had never read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Indeed, he was astonished and pleased to know that his friend of so many years ago had made a name for himself as a writer.

"Imagine that! You know, he used to have the most extraordinary interest in the people here in Kentucky. He could never get enough of my tales of Kentucky folk. He used to make me repeat family names like Barefoot and Boffin and Baggins and good country names like that."

And out the window I could see tobacco barns. The charming anachronism of the hobbits' pipes suddenly made sense in a new way. As a Kentuckian, that excerpt that Holbo quoted interested me enough to go looking for more....

Practically all the names of Tolkien's hobbits are listed in my Lexington phone book, and those that aren't can be found over in Shelbyville. Like as not, they grow and cure pipe-weed for a living. Talk with them, and their turns of phrase are pure hobbit: "I hear tell," "right agin," "so Mr. Frodo is his first and second cousin, once removed either way," "this very month as is." These are English locutions, of course, but ones that are heard oftener now in Kentucky than in England.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

John Edwardses

Yes, "Edwardses" is the plural of "Edwards."

I thought I'd post something on John Edwards's speech at Riverside Church this afternoon (especially since I wrote a couple days ago about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech there in 1967), but I haven't been able to find a full transcript yet.

So I had a great idea: Why not dash off a quick piece about the various John Edwardses in history?

There's the Democratic presidential candidate, of course, and there was Jonathan Edwards, the preacher whose sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (1741) epitomized certain aspects of the Great Awakening.... sorry, I started to sound like a teacher there, didn't I?

There was Jonathan Edwards, a singer whose anti-Establishment song "Sunshine" was a hit back when I was a kid. The song was about some man (THE MAN, I guess) who was trying to run his life. "He can't even run his own, I'll be damned if he'll run mine." Since I was a kid, the "damn" was the neatest part of the song; I was too young to be firmly anti-Establishment at the time.

And of course there's John Edward (no "s"), who talks to dead people in Crossing Over.

A fun little blog posting, I thought, but I wanted to be sure to be complete. According to Wikipedia (do NOT tell my students you heard me say that):

John Edwards may refer to:


  • John Edwards (born 1953), U.S. Senator from North Carolina, candidate for U.S. Vice President in 2004, candidate for U.S. President in 2008
  • John Edwards (Kentucky) (1748–1837), U.S. Senator from Kentucky from 1792 to 1795
  • John Edwards (Pennsylvania), Congressman from Pennsylvania from 1837 to 1842
  • John C. Edwards, former Governor of Missouri
  • John P. Edwards, executive director of the State Bar of Texas since 2005
  • Lewis John Edwards (1904–1959), Labour Member of Parliament and junior Minister


  • John Edwards (basketball) (born 1981), NBA basketball player
  • Johnny Edwards (baseball player) (born 1938)
  • John Edwards (cricketer) (1860–1911)


  • John Edwards (Technology Writer)
  • John Edwards (American Civil War sailor) (born 1831), Medal of Honor recipient
  • John Edwards (sailor) (1795–1893), sailor at the Battle of Trafalgar
  • John H. Edwards, British medical geneticist
  • John Edwards (musician), a musician of the band the Status Quo
  • John Edwards (businessman), one quarter of the infamous Phoenix Four, who were involved in the MG Rover buyout
  • John Edwards (academic), Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy 1638-1648

See also:

  • Jonathan Edwards (disambiguation)
  • John Edward (born 1969), psychic medium television show host
  • John Edward, European Parliament representative in Scotland

[and when you disambiguate Jonathan Edwards:]

Jonathan Edwards is the name of a number of people:

  • Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), an American theologian.
  • Jonathan Edwards (the younger) (1745–1801), also a theologian
  • Jonathan Edwards (athlete) (born 1966), British triple jumper
  • Jonathan Edwards (journalism), radio reporter
  • Jonathan Edwards (music) (born 1946), American musician
  • Jonathan Edwards (rugby player), Welsh rugby player
  • Jonathan Edwards (comics artist), Welsh comics artist and illustrator

Jonathan Edwards may also refer to:

  • Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University residential college


So never mind. My fun little blog posting bites the dust. It looks like every Tom, Dick, and Harry has been named John Edwards.

The 46th History Carnival

Investigations of a Dog has just posted the 46th History Carnival, with pieces on the history of tea, Tim Abbott's grandmother (a figure in the 1934 World Disarmament Conference), and darned near everything else. Gerald Ford avoiding World War III over a tree in Korea! The origins of both human speech and drive-through banking! Coal shortages in Los Angeles! All this and more. Check it out.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Saving Tammy's Soul

Yesterday a student reminded me of an essay I wrote a few years ago. With all that's been in the news (and on Another History Blog) lately, perhaps folks won't mind if I share the essay with a larger audience. It's a personal statement that touches on what I think are some pretty big issues.

I titled it "Saving Tammy's Soul."
I went to Woodlief Elementary School when I was in sixth grade. Woodlief was a little farming community in piedmont North Carolina. My father was the Methodist preacher there. The people of Woodlief were conservative folks, in their politics, in their social outlook, and in their religion.

We had Bible study once a week at school. The teacher was Miss Brazil, a retired missionary. Miss Brazil conducted the class like she would Sunday School. It wasn’t “The Bible as Literature” or “Christianity in a Comparative Perspective”; the class was unapologetically evangelical, proselytizing, beginning and ending with prayer, full of the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross and the promise of God’s grace.

The son of a minister who had always preached in rural North Carolina churches, I saw nothing wrong with the class. And I liked Miss Brazil, a sweet and gentle soul.

Bible study was not required. Students could (with their parents’ permission, I suppose) leave the classroom and spend the hour in the library. In my class, all the students stayed, except one. Tammy was a pretty girl, smart and pleasant. I could never figure out why she left the classroom when Miss Brazil came in.

Tammy always wore nice clothes. I didn’t know her parents. Perhaps they were professionals, maybe doctors or lawyers. I assumed they weren’t church-goers.

I wasn’t sweet on Tammy or anything like that, but I sure did hate knowing that she was going to Hell.

That was 1968. We moved away that summer, when my father was appointed to a church up in the mountains of North Carolina. I haven’t seen Tammy since, but I think of her from time to time.

I thought of her this morning, during my Georgia History class at Kennesaw State. The students and I were discussing Cherokee creation myths--how the earth was formed, the origins of suffering and disease, where the corn came from, that sort of thing.

According to Cherokee myth, the earth is an island floating in a huge sea. Hills and valleys were formed when the Great Buzzard, flying low over the earth when the ground was still soft, became tired and let his wings strike the ground. The first people were a sister and brother, who were alone until he struck her with a fish and told her to multiply. Animals developed diseases, which they aimed especially at hunters who failed to ask for pardon from the spirits of the deer they killed. Plants, more sympathetic to man, provided remedies for the diseases. And so on.

"What’s the purpose of myths?” I asked.

One student said, “To explain the inexplicable.” (She really said that. I have some sharp students.) We talked about Greek and Roman myths and how they helped people understand their place in the universe and how the world functioned--explaining the inexplicable.

Someone brought up the creation story from Genesis--Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the serpent and the apple, why women now suffer in childbirth--and pointed out the similarities and differences between that and the Cherokee version of creation.

And that’s when I thought of Tammy.

The “liberal” in “liberal arts education” means “broad”--both a broad education (in the arts and humanities, rather than a narrowly focused vocational or professional education) and one that results in a more broad-minded perspective.

A liberal arts education teaches us that the people we study were the product of their time and place. In a very real and significant sense, and in ways they probably never realized, their culture dictated who they were and what they believed.

Once students understand that, I hope they take the next step and realize that the same thing applies to us: we too are the product of our time and place.

That’s a big step, and not always an easy one. The idea that we are tied to our culture just as much as were the people we study--well, it can be unsettling.

But it’s an important idea, one I wish I could go back thirty-five years and teach that boy at Woodlief Elementary School, the one who was worried about Tammy’s soul.
See, it wasn't Tammy's soul that needed saving ....

I'm a library catalog card!

Everybody else is doing it....

and you can too.

Pretty perceptive comments, I think.

Paszkiewicz on Jefferson on Jesus

Back in November 2006, David A. Paszkiewicz, a high school history teacher in Kearny, New Jersey, was caught on tape telling students, according to one account, "that the Christian Bible is the word of God, and that dinosaurs were aboard Noah's ark. If you do not accept Jesus, he flatly proclaimed to his class, 'you belong in hell.' Referring to a Muslim student who had been mentioned by name, he lamented what he saw as her inevitable fate should she not convert. In an attempt to promote biblical creationism, he also dismissed evolution and the Big Bang as non-scientific, arguing by contrast that the Bible is supported by what he calls confirmed biblical prophecies" (from The Lippard Blog).

The story was widely reported and discussed, but Paszkiewicz was, for the most part, quiet. This past week, however, he wrote a letter (also available here) to his local newspaper defending his actions in the classroom. In part of the letter, Paszkiewicz argues, through the use of quotations, that the Founding Fathers were Christian and sought to make this a Christian nation.

Example: Thomas Jefferson said, "I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus." Paszkiewicz cites as the source of this quotation "Letter to Benjamin Rush April 21, 1803."

This caught my eye, because I know Jefferson's 4/21/03 letter to Rush, and this isn't it.

Here's what Jefferson wrote: "To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other."

(You can read the actual letter, in Jefferson's own handwriting, here; scroll down just a bit to "Jefferson's Opinion of Jesus" and click on the accompanying image.)

These two sentences get exactly at Jefferson's thinking on Christianity and Jesus: Jesus was a great teacher, and his words provide a good ethical guide; Jesus never claimed to be anything but human; and organized Christianity, by ascribing divinity to Jesus, has corrupted what Jesus was all about. It's simple and straightforward. But if you pull out just a few of those words--"I am a Christian"--you can easily get a very different impression of Jefferson.

But I believe Paszkiewicz was actually quoting a different letter, one written later in which Jefferson discussed the cut-and-paste job he had done on the New Testament, tossing out all the supernatural miracles that he couldn't accept and saving Jesus' ethical teachings. "It is a document," Jefferson said, "in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus." Again, by pulling out a few words and ignoring the context, the quotation can be used to show something Jefferson never intended.

I wonder if Paszkiewicz is aware of all this. Classroom proselytizing is bad enough; I hope he's not also teaching his students that it's all right to take someone's words out of context to prove a point.

Thanks to PZ at Pharyngula for the inspiration.


Alison, at Alison Blogs Here (where else?), has an interesting take the Paszkiewicz affair.

A posting by People for the American Way suggests that
Paszkiewicz got his quotations from David Barton, who is well-known for misquoting, pulling words out of context, etc. I suspected as much--Paszkiewicz's letter had Barton written all over it--but I didn't take time to track it down.


Ed Brayton, at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, has the most thorough analysis. Thanks to Jim Lippard for the tip (in comments).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Saving the Soul of America

This weekend, we pause to remember and honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

We remember his determination to make Americans understand the injustice of racial discrimination. We remember the marches he led--and we remember the police dogs, the fire hoses, the beatings.

We remember his “I Have Dream” speech, one of the great treasures of American oratory: “I have a dream that one day, on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

But probably not one American in a hundred will remember another speech he made, exactly one year before he was assassinated. And that’s a shame, because the other speech shows that we have even more reason to honor King.

On its face, the speech he delivered at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, was simply an eloquent plea against the war in Vietnam. King had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his work in the civil rights movement; now he expanded his work for peace by speaking out against the Vietnam War.

King explained that part of his opposition to the war rose from his growing concern with poverty in America. There had been a time in the early 1960s, he said, when poverty programs offered “a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white.” But King saw that hope dwindle as “Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube."

He opposed the war also because of the racial contradictions he saw: “We have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. We watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit."

He oposed the war because of connections he saw between the militancy of the Black Power movement and American actions in Southeast Asia. He could not condemn violence in the ghettos, he said, “without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government."

But most important, he opposed the war because of the motto he and others had chosen for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957: “To save the soul of America.” For King, America’s soul was endangered not just by racism, but by poverty, greed, and the quest for international dominance and military glory. “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values,” he said. “We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

A year or so later, other Americans would begin to catch up with King’s anti-war sentiments. But in the spring of 1967, most didn’t welcome his outspoken opposition (King was one of the first prominent Americans to speak out). Life magazine labeled the speech a “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” But it was “time to break silence,” King said; he could be still no more on this matter.

With the Riverside Church speech, the civil rights leader moved beyond concerns of racial injustice. But the speech is more than just an outcry against the war. When King spoke of “the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism,” he got at the very core of the American character; when he said we need to shift from a “thing-oriented” to a “person-oriented society,” he offered a broad critique of what American society had become in the middle third of the twentieth century.

For King, saving the soul of America meant not just freeing African Americans from the bondage of segregation; it also meant freeing the nation from the bondage of avarice, poverty, and what he called “the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long."

King’s death silenced a voice that had been so effective in the area of civil rights, and then for a brief moment promised to address even larger problems as he sought “to save the soul of America."

Note: This piece first appeared as a column in the Cartersville Daily Tribune News and other newspapers in January 2002.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Pledge of Allegiance--to the Georgia flag

Ed Darrell took time off yesterday from his celebration of Millard Fillmore's birthday to note that "Texas has a law that specifies how a soiled or tattered Texas flag should be retired." He gives the complete story, noting that the ceremony to retire such state flags ends with the recitation of the Texas Pledge. "So far as I know," Ed says, "Texas is the only state that has a pledge of allegiance for the state flag, separate from the national Pledge of Allegiance (if you know of others, please tell!)."

All right, Ed, since you asked-- The Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution in 1935 "that that the following be adopted as the pledge of allegiance to the State flag: 'I pledge allegiance to the Georgia flag and to the principles for which it stands: Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.'" ("Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation" is the state motto.)

A 1943 resolution added that the state pledge should "be rendered by standing with the right hand over the heart. "

In 1951, the pledge was incorporated into the state's Military Forces Reorganization Act (Section 47).

In 2005, members of the state's Senate and House of Representatives, noting that "the existence and words of the pledge of allegiance to the Georgia flag are not well known among Senators [and Representatives] or other Georgians," introduced resolutions that "urged" the General Assembly "to adopt a custom of reciting the pledge to the Georgia flag in unison at appropriate times, including but not limited to the first and last days of the General Assembly session." As far as I can tell, the resolutions were not approved--although no one can dispute that "the existence and words of the pledge of allegiance to the Georgia flag are not well known."

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Millard Fillmore's birthday!

Ed Darrell, over at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, reminds us that today is Millard Fillmore's 207th birthday. I'm ashamed to admit this, but with all the hassle of a new semester starting tomorrow, it had slipped my mind.

Ed offers a quotation "attributed to Fillmore": "May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not." But did Fillmore actually say it? As Ed points out, we don't know. He's searching, as is Elektratig, but nothing yet.

"Attributed to" quotations can be the bane of the historian's existence--or, we can see them as fun research opportunities. (Actually, they're both.)

New technology makes searching for words and phrases much easier than it would have been just a few years ago, as I pointed out a few days ago in a posting about the word "y'all." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first printed occurrence of "y'all" was in 1909, but through the use of a couple of new online databases, I was able, in just a few minutes, to find the word half a century earlier, in the April 1858 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger.

We can use this same searching capability to look for quotations in the printed record. For example, one of the most famous "attributed to" Lincoln quotations is: "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." Did Lincoln say that? It certainly sounds like Lincoln, but there are no contemporary accounts that put those words in Lincoln's mouth. In fact, the saying was not even attributed to Lincoln until 1901, in a book titled Abe Lincoln's Yarns and Stories.

At least, that what's everybody said. And then Dr. Y'all here decided to have a go at it, using those same databases, and guess what? Yep, there it was, in the New York Times, August 26, 1887, in an account of a conference of Prohibition supporters meeting in Syracuse. Fred Wheeler, one of the conference organizers, made a speech in which "he quoted most aptly Lincoln's remark that 'you can fool all the people some of the time....'" There it is, fourteen years before it should be there: a direct connection between Lincoln and the quotation.

If anyone is interested, you can read more on this in the Autumn 2005 newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association.

All this sounds pretty cool, but it's not nearly as big a deal as it might sound; all I did was type a few words into a search form. And I'll point out that these databases can't do everything. They allow you to search only a relatively limited number of sources, which means that there might be even earlier occurrences of "y'all" or the saying about fooling all the people. They aren't forgiving with syntax; searches generally return hits only for exact matches, so any variation in spelling or word choice can leave you with "false negatives." (A search for "fool the people" will not return an occurrence of "fool all the people.") The databases don't necessarily tell us if Lincoln ever said it; that question is still up in the air. And they're often not available unless you're asssociated with a college that has purchased a subscription.

Of course, all this doesn't help Ed in his search for the alleged Fillmore quotation.

Ed, I really wanted to give you, as a Fillmore birthday present, the source of the quotation. But I can't.

A quick search for the quotation (in several variations) in American Periodical Series, a ProQuest database that covers some 1,200 popular magazines and journals that began publishing between 1749 and 1900, shows nothing.

The New York Times: Nothing until Sept. 21, 1962, when Brooks Atkinson, in a "Critic at Large" column, attributed the quotation to Fillmore without further citation.

In Making of America, a free (yay!) database which "currently contains approximately 9,500 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints," is a book titled Speeches in the Second and Third Sessions of the Thirty-seventh Congress, by Benjamin F. Thomas (1863). On page 185, Thomas says: "If the spirit of party cannot be subdued or chastened in the presence of our imminent peril, God save the country; for he only can." That's not the Fillmore quotation, but it's the closest I could find.

Happy Fillmore Birthday, Ed; I wish I could have done better.

Friday, January 5, 2007

the Carnival of Georgia Bloggers

Classes start today, but my first isn't until Monday. I should be ready by then.

Meanwhile, the first edition of the Carnival of Georgia Bloggers is up. Good stuff, including a nice piece on cemeteries. Check it out! Thanks to Elementaryhistoryteacher for her good work getting this together.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

It's a doggy dog world

Profgrrrrl, over at Playing School, Irreverently, recently wrote on "taking it all with a grain assault," about students who hear a word or phrase but get it wrong when they try to reproduce it on the page: "grain of salt" becomes "grain assault," "dog eat dog" morphs into "doggy dog," and so on. Her readers added other examples in comments: putting women on "petal stools" (pedestals), someone looking for an "escape goat" (a scapegoat), for all "intensive purposes" (intents and purposes), and more.

I've seen "deep-seeded" for "deep-seated," I think more than once. That one almost makes sense, at least more than that escape goat.

If you like this sort of thing, check out The Eggcorn Database (for "acorn," of course), which includes: giving up the goat (ghost), chickens coming home to roast (roost), French (fringe) benefits, and 566 others. (And you can submit new ones.)

Sometimes the problem isn't mis-hearing a word, it's relying too much on spell check. I'm sure that was the problem when a student wrote a paper for me a year or so ago about the American colonists fighting against Tierney.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Historians Are the Best Teachers

But you knew that, didn't you?

I'll admit that I'm surprised at the margin, though. Historians finished on top, 79%. English professors were a very distant second, 11%.

Exact numbers here, from eSolutions Data, "The Global Leader in Statistics and Data Research." Gaze at the chart at the top of the page for a moment before you read the fine print.

Thanks to Dr. History for the link--and the numbers.

"175-Ton Sculpture Collapses At Kennesaw State"

A couple days ago, I mentioned the "crash" (as a colleague called it) of Spaceship Earth.

WSBTV.com has photos. Click on "slideshow" under the picture.

a waste of time

I've received this e-mail message several times in the last couple of days.

Hoenstly are no enfocred tests, classes, books, or interviews !

Get a_Bachelor,s Masters., MBA, and Doctorate (PhD) diploma.

Trun up the benefits and high regard_that come swith a.diploma !

Nobody si turned down

Anonymiyt secure

Ring Anytime +1 (270) 818-7244 24/7

I'm upset to learn that I wasted several years of my life in graduate school to achieve those "benefits and high regard."

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Ronald Numbers at Salon

Salon.com has a good interview with Ronald Numbers, historian at the University of Wisconsin and author of the newly reissued The Creationists.

Raised in a fundamentalist home, being "never exposed to anything other than what we now call 'young earth creationism,'" Numbers still counts among his family and friends a number of people who believe in a literal reading of the first chapters of Genesis. In his work as a historian, Numbers is less interested in proving them wrong than in understanding them. This is something that, in the current evolution-creation debate, many of us neglect.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

A pretty good day today--which, according to superstition, means the rest of the year will be good. (I hope.) I went for a walk in the woods this morning, then messed in the office for an hour or so before an early dinner (and a little TV football) with some friends.

The hike was along the new Pine Mountain Trail. In the past, I've usually gone to Red Top Mountain or the Etowah River. Pine Mountain is a bit more strenuous than Vineyard Mountain, which starts at Allatoona Dam, and not quite as scenic, but I like it. All are about 10 minutes from home, hence convenient.

Campus was quiet today, something that will begin to change tomorrow as the university reopens after the holiday. Classes start the end of the week. The big news on campus: Spaceship Earth has crashed! Spaceship Earth was a large (15 feet tall) globe made of Brazilian blue quartz--actually pretty striking, once the thing was polished. The stone had nice colors. Bronze pieces were added to indicate land masses, and then on top was a lifesize bronze figure of a man, environmentalist David Brower. (Some folks said it looked like Ronald Reagan, but then none of us knows what Brower looked like.) You can see the statue here; the web cam feature apparently no longer works, and that's the new social science building in the background.

Anyway, a few nights ago, Spaceship Earth collapsed. I've heard that the culprit was water seeping into the joints and then freezing when we had a cold snap recently. The piece is in a couple hundred pieces now. The bronze figure is on the ground, face up, a huge block of stone on his chest, his arm still outstretched as if calling for help. Sad.

Dinner was nice. We had pork roast with black-eyed peas, collards, and cornbread, and that green bean casserole with the fried onions on top. Mighty good.

It wasn't a perfect day, but all in all, a good one.

This blog, less than a month old, has had 968 visitors. I'm pleased with that. To those readers, and to everyone else, Another History Blog wishes you a happy new year. May 2007 be good for all of us!