James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

Introducing the Series:
Historical Inaccuracies Are Barriers to Racial Justice

Recognizing that inaccurate history often subtly promotes continuing white supremacy, the National Education Association (NEA) commissioned these articles and has posted some of them in slightly different form at its website. I thank Harry Lawson and others at NEA for the commission, for editorial suggestions, and for other assistance.

James Baldwin wrote, “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.”  We can teach it that way!

More than any other topic, history is about us. Our nation is more stratified than any other industrialized country. The average white household has twelve times the wealth of black or Native households. Nationally, schools are as segregated now as in the 1970s. Our public schools — private schools too — are where students should think about how we got this way.

Instead, textbooks rarely use the past to illuminate the present. Worse, they mystify important topics in our past, including the Civil War and Reconstruction, making it harder to think about race relations. Consequently history courses, that should help build community, often instead widen gaps by race and class. When asked their favorite subject, students across the U.S. usually rank history last. Students of color typically view history with a special dislike.

This series, Correct(ed), tackles problems in history and social studies that we often teach wrong. Hopefully, educators, parents, and communities will find them fascinating and useful, because we all need to be historically literate, so we can help students (and ourselves) make sense of the present.

I hope you will join me on this journey.

Each article will come with a tiny annotated bibliography, often to items I wrote, for educators seeking more information.

Essential Reading

  • Loewen, “Introduction,” Lies My Teacher Told Me (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 1-9. Discusses why relying on textbooks won’t do.