Lies My Teacher Told Me

How have textbooks' portraits of John Brown changed through time? What do these shifts communicate about the relationship of time and ides?


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Here are some direct quotes that will help. They are in Chapter 6.

From 1890 to about 1970, John Brown was insane. Before 1890 he was perfectly sane, and after 1970 he regained his sanity. Since Brown himself did not change after his death, his sanity provides an inadvertent index of the level of white racism in our society.” Pg 172

“We must recognize that the insanity with which historians have charged John Brown was never psychological. It was ideological. Brown’s actions made no sense to textbook writers between 1890 and about 1970. To make no sense is to be crazy.” pg 174

“Our textbooks also handicap Brown by not letting him speak for himself. Even his jailer let Brown put pen to paper! American History includes three important sentences; American Adventures gives us almost two. The American Pageant reprints three sentences from a letter Brown wrote his brother. The other nine books do not provide even a phrase. Brown’s words, which moved a nation, therefore do not move students today." Pg 178