|Along a dyke at Magnolia Plantation, S.C. One either side, the |
duck week filled swamps were once rice fields.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Attempting to Change History
A news report this morning talked about some people wanting to change the name of Faneuil Hall in Boston because the original builder, Peter Faneuil, was a slave trader in the 1700s. Faneuil Hall was built with money earned in that trade.
This announcement set off a stampede of thoughts in my brain. This, along with recent years’ attempts at taking down statues and changing other names that have been part of American history since the country’s beginning is not right in my book. History cannot and should not be changed!
I certainly don’t condone slavery or oppression of any kind, but I do have a problem with people trying to change history. Slavery is a terrible thing and still goes on in some parts of the world. As long as there are people who have the money and believe they are better than and want control of others, there will be some kind of slavery/oppression.
The only thing about history that should be changed is that more truth should come out. Most history books were written by those … I suppose you could say … more in control at the time. American heroes were made out to be heroes, and most of us grew up believing those men to be heroes. However, as time goes on, we are learning they were just men (mostly men), and as humans, they had their flaws, were not perfect, and often were not very nice.
Our founding fathers, because they owned slaves, are they bad men? They believed they were right and they helped build America on those beliefs. We can’t change that, and the changing of building and place names and destroying statues is not going to change that! What’ll be next? Changing the names of cities and states if they were named after slave holders?
What is the cost of making changes to be “politically correct?” It’s expensive to change names. Think about it: legal fees, signs, advertising, etc. What about the cost of destroying statues? Will that solve the issues of the past? Will that really make people feel better? Is that where money needs to be spent? If not, how can we better tell stories to learn by them?
Side note: When I was in school, I remember very little about discussion of slavery. It was all about the white-man heroes and slaves were needed on the plantations. Yes, there were some books and movies, but none of those showed the human reality.
It wasn’t until I was later in my years, and visited plantations in South Carolina, that I got a view of what slavery really meant and was like. Seeing the land, the tiny slave quarters that an entire family might live in, the land/fields/swamps, bugs, disease, etc. really affected me. The diverse difference between the plantation owners’ home compared to the slaves’ shacks and physically being on the properties and feeling the heat and hearing tour guides discuss the reality of life in the south brought it home to me. This was something more than just reading words in a book. And why isn’t this side taught in history books?
It’s a part of U.S. history! It’s an important part of history and should be told, not erased. Oppressing parts of history is one way of condoning and hiding what happened and that’s not right, either.
So, what can be done? One way could be in the teaching of history itself; rewrite the old history books that told a one-sided history and make it feel more real. Use the past, “this is what happened …” and then discuss why slavery was wrong and perhaps discuss what might have been done instead. (And it’s not just about slavery, but about Native Americans, too!) Change plaques on statues to give more truth to the actual history and the person. This was then, now we know … Stop the propaganda!
One of my favorite things in traveling is reading storyboards. Start adding more to the storyboards. Tell both sides of a hero’s story. He accomplished such and such, but he also … and admit what he did to accomplish some of his feats that might not really be so heroic. Offer more stories in some of the wonderful things slaves did for this country; what they brought here, their knowledge, songs, crafts, their perseverance, etc.
Personalize some of them. They were not just slaves! They were individual men, women, and children. Put names to them. So and so was a good woman, raised her family as best she could, took care of her mistress. She learned to and brought her expertise in … He was a hard-working man who brought his knowledge of crop growing to this country. They don’t have to be elaborate stories, just a simple acknowledgement of a person.
It’s history, and we should be learning from history, telling its truth, and not destroying it! Maybe, too, instead of trying to change the past, we should be taking the lessons and putting energy into making a better future for America. Use the past to make a better America!