Today the Republican Party decided to mark Abraham Lincoln’s birthday with the following tweet.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Lincoln ever uttered or wrote these words. Amazingly, the manager of this twitter account has yet to take the tweet down or issue a correction. It is certainly not the most egregious example of fake history to come down the pike, but it does point to how easy it is to fall for it.
More than likely the quote was pulled without question from a website. One or two critical questions about the quote’s source would have been sufficient to avoid this little embarrassment.
But as long as this tweet is still up we can be guaranteed that it will continue to be passed on by people who extend their trust without a critical eye. That includes the president, who during the campaign admitted, “All I know is what’s on the Internet.”
The manager of the GOP’s twitter account and our president could just as easily shared the following: “And in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take.”
Help make America great again. Consult with your school librarian and devote just a little time to showing your students how to search and assess information from the Web.
I could not be more pleased with the reception to my latest piece at Smithsonian on spotting fake news and its implications for how we teach history. It has been shared over 50,000 times on Facebook and other social media platforms and it led to an interview with The Washington Post for a related story. With all the attention on spotting fake news and problematic websites it is important to remember that we are only addressing half of the problem. Continue reading
I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception to my article on fake history and its implications for how we teach history, which was published yesterday at Smithsonian. My hope is that the article not only gets history teachers talking, but leads to action. As I suggested in the piece, there is a great deal on the line. Continue reading
I am happy to share with you my first piece to appear at Smithsonian.com on the influence of fake news stories on the 2016 presidential election and its implications for how we teach history. Like many of you I am troubled, though not surprised, by the inability of seemingly smart people to spot fake news or distinguish between reputable and problematic websites. Continue reading
Currently working on completing a detailed TOC as part of my book proposal on the Myth of the Black Confederate Soldier. I think I just found the perfect title for chapter 7, which explores the spread of this myth on the Internet.
It is concerning enough to watch people mistake slaves for soldiers, but this is downright horrifying considering the kinds of decisions made by presidents.
Earlier today I received an email from a reader who wondered if I had any regret about sharing a blog post whose author intended not to be read. It’s a reasonable question and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to thinking twice before posting. But here’s the deal. If the post in question reminded us of anything it’s that the delete button is a myth. You can make information published to the Internet more difficult to find, but, with few exceptions, it cannot be permanently erased. All of us who interact on the Internet through various social media platforms must understand this before leaving a comment, posting an image and before blogging. Continue reading
Descendants of Silas Chandler Reading About Their Famous Ancestor
You didn’t really think that I would allow the publication of a column on Silas Chandler in The New York Times to pass without comment, did ya? Thanks to Ronald Coddington for bringing the story of Silas (r) and Andrew (l) to the Disunion blog. [Ron and I shared a stage last year at the Virginia Festival of the Book to discuss our research.] As many of you know it is the story of Silas and Andrew that launched me down the road of taking the myth of the black Confederate soldier seriously. My relationship with Myra Chandler Sampson and our subsequent essay published in Civil War Times about her famous ancestor reinforced for me on so many levels why it is important that we correct these stories of loyal and obedient slaves that continue serve the interests of a select few. Continue reading
Update: I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that the class in question is being taught by Steve Kantrowitz. Professor Kantrowitz is the author of More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889, which was my pick as the best history book of 2012. The book is of particular interest to me given that it focuses on the black community here in Boston.
For the past few days a group of students from the University of Wisconsin has been scouring my posts on black Confederates. I think it’s safe to say that collectively they have read every post on the subject. I don’t know much at all about why they have been assigned my blog or what they are getting out of it beyond a few tweets from one of the students. If I am not mistaken one of the students left a comment on an old post.
As an educator this makes my day.
Hey guys. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything related to the relevant history, the public debate, and the role of the Internet in spreading this myth. I am more than happy to talk with your class via Skype if interested. As a historian, blogger, and educator I would love to know what you are getting out of this exercise. Good luck.