Teaching Southern and Black History Under Trump

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tags: Black History, Trump

Thumbnail Image -  Wes Jenkins

Adam Domby is an assistant professor of history at the College of Charleston, where he teaches the Civil War and Reconstruction. Last February, Domby was teaching a military-history class that examined the Philippine-American war. Donald Trump had recently claimed that, at the end of the nineteenth century, U.S. General John Pershing had used bullets dipped in pig blood to execute Muslims in the Philippines. The whole story was absurd, Domby explained to his students. General Pershing ordered his men to be understanding of other religions—his success depended, in part, on notcommitting war crimes. As the Presidential campaign progressed, Domby came to realize that, were Trump to win, he would be tasked with guarding history, especially Southern and race-related history, from the leader of the free world.

The faculty and student body at the College of Charleston are predominantly white and conservative; its president, Glenn McConnell, is a Civil War reënactor who has defended the rebel flag and whose family operated a Confederate-memorabilia shop. Domby said that his students have become more emboldened in pushing back against widely accepted historical realities. “I’ve always gotten the most disagreement when I teach the Civil War,” he said. “Especially at a school in a red state: you get pushback on the memory of the war, its links to white supremacy.” It’s not just the history department, either. A recent Charleston Post and Courier story described a white, liberal philosophy professor at the school who is under fire “for political bias, for being unfair to Trump in discussions about lies and propaganda, for being racist against white people.”

This week, when Donald Trump gave a speech meant to honor Black History Month, he spent much of it addressing a false report regarding the removal of a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., from the Oval Office. When he mentioned important African-Americans in history, it was often with a sense of vagueness and confusion. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job, that is being recognized more and more, I notice,” Trump said, referring to Douglass, who died in 1895, in the present tense.

Read entire article at The New Yorker

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