4/10/09

Lies Your History Teacher Told You

Howard Bagby, who wrires a blog ( In Purple I'm Stunning 2.0 ) that I read every day includes a question each day that he is getting, I assume, from a website somewhere. These are questions of the kind used on the TV show, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Yesterday's question was
"Grade 2/U.S. History.

Who was the first black person to play on a major league team?"

Of course, the answer to the question on the website, as I knew it would be, was Jackie Robinson. But anyone who ever watched the PBS documentary, Ken Burns' Baseball , learned that there were black players on major league teams in the 1880's before the (regrettable) public outcry forced the leagues to kick them out. The name of the actual first black player in the major leagues was one Moses Fleetwood Walker who played for the now defunct Toledo Blue Stockings, which was a major league team for one year.

This caused me to remember some of the othermyths that have been perpetrated over the years, to the point that we accept them as fact. Due largely to the influence of the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, we believe that Paul Revere rode to warn the colonists that "the British are coming!" The truth of the matter is that there were three riders that night, the other two reportedly were William Dawes and Samuel Prescott. And not only that, but it was Samuel Prescott who succeeded. Both Revere and Dawes were captured before they could complete that famous journey from Lexington to Concord.

We have been led to believe that the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, but it really didn't.

"And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons."

Note here that the designated States were the States that had rebelled and formed their own country, to wit, the Confederate States of America. The ending result of the Civil War notwithstanding, at that time the executive orders of the President had no jurisdiction and therefore had no impact.

For more breaking down of iconoclastic traditions, check out Richard Shenkman's excellent books on the myths of history:
Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of American History, Legends, Lies and Cherished Myths of World History and "I Love Paul Revere, Whether He Rode or Not".

2 comments:

Howard Bagby said...

I get the questions from the "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" daily calendar. I also keep track of whether or not I knew the answer. Currently I knew 70 questions and didn't know 15.

Winthrop J. Quiggy said...

I forgot they had one. Now I remmber seeing it on sale.