The Internet Never Forgets

You may remember a few months ago a story that I covered concerning two North Carolina high school students, who were photographed waving Confederate flags while on a class trip to Gettysburg. I offered my thoughts in a series of posts that included why my own students were cautioned about purchasing flags in the gift shop during a tour that I led this past March. And I even invited the father of one of the two North Carolina students to share his perspective.

From the beginning my concerns came down to the need on the part of all parties involved, especially educators, to think carefully about how they utilize Confederate flags in the classroom and in public. The photograph of the two girls that was innocently uploaded to social media caused a great deal of misunderstanding and mistrust in their own community, which I suspect the local school board is still dealing with. Continue reading “The Internet Never Forgets”

Embracing Pop History on BackStory With the History Guys

Two weeks ago I recorded an interview with Ed Ayers for a segment of BackStory With the History Guys. It’s one of my favorite podcast shows and I was honored to be a guest. Our conversation took as its starting point a recent post that featured a list of the top selling history books from 2014. I offered a few observations about what this list tells us about consumers of history.

Much of our conversation did not make it into the final edited show. Ayers expressed some concern that no academics appeared on the list. I have to say that I’ve grown weary of this concern. As far as I can tell the only people who worry about it are academics. There are different ways to try to understand the past and the approach embraced by academics, including an emphasis on analytical rigor and theory, is a relatively recent approach. People have been thinking about and writing about history for thousands of years. The academy does not get to define what is and what is not history.

The overall point that I tried to make in response is that academic historians have never been in a better position to compete for the attention of consumers of history. Sure, they may not reach the kinds of numbers that appear on the list, but there is plenty of opportunity to build an audience and build interest even in the most academic of historical subjects. There are a number of professional historians who are doing just that.

Get to work.

Some Thoughts About Civil War Historians and Social Media

In response to my last post a reader inquired into a point I made in passing:

Also, can you clarify what you mean by your statement that “we need to think about the ways in which social media is shaping the organization of relatively small conferences like the SCWH”?

Let me respond by taking a step back. Continue reading “Some Thoughts About Civil War Historians and Social Media”

“Every 3.6 Minutes”

I’ve always struggled with the way I teach the history of slavery to high school students. Pushing my students toward what I hope is a meaningful overview of slavery’s evolution and eventual demise inevitably overshadows change over time, regional differences, and even runs the risk of minimizing the horror of slavery itself. This last category is especially difficult to convey. Continue reading ““Every 3.6 Minutes””