The New York Times Covers the “Clash of the Historians” at SHEARRoundup
tags: historiography, Andrew Jackson, SHEAR, revisionism, controversy
John Fea (Ph.D, Stony Brook University, 1999) is Distinguished Professor of American History at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, where he has taught since 2002.
Jennifer Schuessler has written a fair report on what happened last weekend during (and following) the Society for Historians of the Early Republic (SHEAR) ZOOM panel titled “Andrew Jackson in the Age of Trump.”
Schuessler quotes from the second blog post I wrote about the session and its aftermath. (I did not speak with her). I also invite you to read my initial response to the panel here. I am returning to the topic now because my message boxes are starting to fill again.
Anyone who has followed the SHEAR controversy will be familiar with much of Schuessler’s piece, but she has also done some additional reporting, including an interview with Dan Feller.
After reading Schuessler’s piece, re-reading Feller’s paper (including a close reading of the footnotes), and listening to the Q&A for the third time, I honestly don’t see why what happened at this session merited the removal of the SHEAR president and such a backlash.
- I did not see Feller trying to defend Jackson, as some have accused him of doing. It seemed like he was trying to understand him, which is what historians are supposed to do. As Feller writes, “The point in the paper is not that Andrew Jackson is a good guy or a bad guy….”
- For example, Jackson was indeed a white supremacist. But isn’t it possible that Jackson understood the status of Lyncoya differently than he did his Black slaves? Is it wrong for a historian to suggest this kind of complexity? If such nuance existed in Jackson’s mind, then shouldn’t the historian call attention to it? Or are such arguments now out of bounds?
- If Feller doesn’t believe that Jackson’s Indian Removal was “genocide,” should such a view result in a public condemnation by the SHEAR Advisory Council, the SHEAR Nominating Committee, or the SHEAR Program Committee? Isn’t this a matter of interpretation?
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