James Loewen: The man willing to utter inconvenient truths

Historians in the News

A dangerous man visited Pueblo a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, he came in contact with only a few local citizens - a handful of teachers, students and curious observers.

To say the man is a radical bent on espousing his unpopular ideas, would be an understatement. Some would call him a historical heretic or revisionist who questions and challenges many of this nation's most revered truisms.

For example, he doesn't believe Columbus discovered America. According to him, Columbus was a come-lately who had no idea he had discovered a new continent. He also theorizes that people from Africa, China and Iceland, to name only a few, beat Columbus in reaching the American Continent.

This recent visitor to our town told a roomful of people that racism and slavery were the true cause of the Civil War and the notion of states' rights was cooked up years later to make secession of the Southern States more justifiable. He claims that racism against African Americans peaked long after the Civil War and Reconstruction. Between 1890 and 1940, a period he called "the nadir of American race relations," the KKK flourished and lynching and floggings were common. Whole towns, known as sundown towns, declared themselves to be for "whites" only and blacks were not allowed after dark.

I refer to James W. Loewen, a retired professor and author of the bestselling "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your History Book Got Wrong." Loewen, who holds a doctorate in sociology from Harvard University, was invited here as part of the Voices of America lecture series sponsored by Colorado State University-Pueblo and School District 70 and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Loewen spoke to about 150 people at the Occhiato Ballroom of the university student center on May 12. Earlier in the day, he provided lectures or workshops to area history teachers.

Loewen taught race relations for 20 years at the University of Vermont and previously taught at predominantly black Tougaloo College in Mississippi. During his career as a professor, he found that many of his students had seriously flawed views of American history. He spent two years at the Smithsonian surveying 12 leading high school textbooks of American history...

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