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Tennessee group wants history altered

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Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 12:48 am

The president of the Gainesville Tea Party said she "would probably disagree" with the Tennessee Tea Party's push to remove slavery from textbook references that make the Founding Fathers look bad.

"If they're asking for an accurate rendition of what happened, then yes, I'll support what they have to do, but I do not support a whitewash," said Laurie Newsom, president of the Gainesville Tea Party.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Tennessee Tea Party wants to remove material from textbooks so "no portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers."

Steven Noll, a UF American history professor, said he believes calling for the removal of slavery from textbooks is disparaging, dismissing and disrespectful.

"That's not history, it's just lies," Noll said. "It's just making the past what we want it to be as opposed to what it was."

He said the tea party needs to spend some time reading the Constitution and other primary source documents in which the Founding Fathers condone slavery.

When Thomas Jefferson said all men were created equal, he didn't necessarily mean it literally, Noll said.

However, Noll said he believes the fact that the Founding Fathers were slaveholders humanizes them, which is much more realistic than their portrayal as heroes, an approach students are taught to take from an early age.

Sean Adams, a UF historian specializing in African-American studies, said slavery was a pivotal part of the American lifestyle, as was the nation's ability to learn how to deal with African-Americans becoming a part of society in the years that followed emancipation.

This includes the Jim Crow laws that spanned from 1876 to 1965.

Newsom, though, doesn't see it as that big of a deal.

"You had the Jim Crow laws, but that was like a gnat on a boar's butt," she said. "We've got so many bigger fish to fry in this country."

Welcome to the discussion.