Episode #50 This Week in History Twitter - June 25, 2019
Today seems like a good day to bring up something that I hope will grow into a bigger conversation…the idea of “revisionist” history. This is not the first time I have written about such a thing, but lately folks are tossing this accusation around a lot and it’s getting on my tip. So let’s revisit. A good entry point to the topic would be the attack on historians by pundit/Andrew Jackson supporters over the whole $20 bill whoop-dee-do. In case you haven’t been keeping up, efforts to put 19th-century abolitionist and activist Harriet Tubman on the bill were stymied by the Trump administration. This pissed some people off, because well…Jackson was something of a sociopath. This really got my attention when historian Jason Herbert responded to right-wing pundit Michael Knowles’s comments suggesting that those in favor of replacing Jackson on the $20 were engaging in a “revisionist” smear campaign. From where I sit, Herbert was the clear winner in this exchange, because he did what historians do: he provided evidence.
Imagine that! EVIDENCE!!!! It almost seems like historians reconstruct the past by analyzing evidence and that we come to new conclusions all the time based on this analysis! Incredible. But for whatever reason, pundits and trolls and politicians don’t seem to get it. When faced with history that runs counter to their political agenda, they are likely to dismiss it as revisionist. Just this morning, historian Kevin Levin pointed out the foolishness of this exercise. The truth is, historians seldom agree on everything, but we do strive for objectivity and intellectual honesty.
Have a listen and please feel free to add your comments below
And for reference…
Michael Knowles’s tweet supporting Andrew Jackson
Jason Herbert’s thread in response
Kevin Levin’s thread about calling out historian haters
My response…it’s fine to challenge a historian when the evidence doesn’t sit right