it’s time for a history report.

I’m doing a history report.

This isn’t some project for homeschool. Truth be told, I should be grading papers instead of sitting here typing this but I’ve never been all that good at the “I should be ____” tasks of life. This history report is for me and, I hope, will overflow onto my children and the people and situations we encounter in the future.

I am coming to terms lately with a pretty sad reality – I know very little about history. And I know even less about American History as it relates to slavery, the civil war, the civil rights movement, and the confederacy / union. This is a problem, not just because I am a citizen in the country where these things happened and continue to affect life here. It’s also a problem because Jeremy and I are raising our sons in a town where “civil war sympathies for the confederacy were prevalent” and one of our sons is black.

To be honest, I didn’t know those sympathies existed until after we had bought and moved into our house here. If you take the highway twenty minutes from where we used to live in midtown, you end up here. I didn’t really expect the racial/historical culture to be any different out here. In light of those unchallenged expectations, it took several months of seeing “strange things” around town before I began to do my homework. There are things about living here that we love. But my eyes are slowly opening to the history of this town and how that history lives on in some of the actions of its residents and leaders. According to the “intriguing history” tab on the website for our historic little area of town, I find little tidbits of info like these nuggets:

In the 1860 Presidential Election, no votes in Clay County went to Abraham Lincoln.”

“In September 1861, in the Battle of Liberty Union troops unsuccessfully attempted to stop Confederate sympathizers led by Atchison from crossing the Missouri River to reinforce Confederate position in the Battle of Lexington I. There were 126 casualties. The Union army used William Jewell College as a hospital and buried their dead on campus.”

“Southern sentiment remained in the city long after the Civil War—city hall reportedly refused to fly the United States Flag until the start of World War I.”

My ignorance can only carry my family and myself so far before I am just sick of it. My father-in-law recently told me he thought I was one of the most intelligent young women he knew, that I could have done anything with this brain of mine, that I am putting it to great use learning about zion’s medical conditions and advocating for him with his neurologists and neurosurgeons. I’m choosing, against my better judgement and lack of discipline, to believe him. If I can learn about the brain, the functions of its lobes, brain injury, surgeries, seizures, and medications, then I can learn history. I refuse to sit around in my apathy any longer.

So my history report begins. It begins because I’ve seen in this charming town I can only categorize as hateful, insane, or plain old-fashioned ignorance. I am a smart cookie, but not when it comes to this stuff. So this is going to be clunky and I may look like a jackass at times. I’m googling things like “what was the civil war about?” And “why do people still fly confederate flags?”  I’m putting books on hold at the library and asking my dear friend, during a conversation a couple nights ago, “what is systemic racism?” Yeah. It’s that bad. I am considering sharing the things I learn here on this blog because I believe naiveté cannot be the answer and I am tired of sitting here alone in my ignorance. I’d rather be informed and uncomfortable than naive and numb.

I welcome your input. If you have thoughts or experience studying any of this, book recommendations, articles to read, podcasts to listen to, please send them my way. I welcome it all, and I hope that this winters hibernation allows me time to dig in and learn history.

show hide 2 comments

lindsay It’s so cool that you’re doing this!

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s _A Team of Rivals_is a great book to start with in order to understand the ideological tug-of-war between the races, classes, and powers in the 1800s.

_This Republic of Suffering_by Drew Gilpin Faust is more narrow, but still captures the deep emotional attachment most Americans have to our racial and cultural divisions.

You might also want to check out “The Thomas Jefferson Hour” on NPR. Though not always directly concerned with race, the content is always insightful and contextual to both Jefferson’s American and the modern one we now find ourselves in.

Best of luck!November 19, 2016 – 2:14 pm

kim I assume you already listen to codeswitch from npr? v. related to all of this and SO good. all about race. one of my favs.November 3, 2016 – 9:36 pm

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