tv Lectures in History Colonial Myths and Monuments CSPAN January 28, 2021 8:01pm-9:05pm EST
next on lectures in history, university of delaware professor teaches a class about how colonial history is remembered through historic sites and monuments, and sometimes contested. she argues peoples assumptions about colonial america are influenced by material and popular culture, including paintings depicting early american history in the u.s.
capital and statues of columbus and pocahontas. this video was provided by the university of delaware. >> welcome. this is history 3:18, the history of colonial america. at the beginning of this course, i asked each of you to tell me what you think of when you think of colonial american history. i'm sure many of you don't even remember what you put. i will give you a synopsis today. many of you focused on what historians have called the american revolutionary area, rather than the colonial era at large, people like george washington, thomas jefferson, alexander hamilton, issues like taxation without representation, other founders and historical highlights. a few of you also mentioned places like historic jamestown, plymouth plantation and colonial williamsburg. a few people mentioned the history of slavery. it was notably because of
either the 16 19 project or black lives matter protests. there were a few omissions. no one mentioned individual women, i think, or any individual indigenous people by name. no one mentioned anything west of the appalachian mountains, much less the mississippi, rockies, or west coast. technically speaking, discourse rums from before contact -- 1763. the end of the seven years'war, french and indian war, in what is now the territory called the united states of america. this covers hundreds of years, millions of lives, half of which were women, coming together of people from africa, mostly enslaved, and not of their own volition. multiple countries and empires in europe, england is only one among, them not even the first to establish an early settlement.
and as well indigenous people intermingling with africans on what is now -- but what was then indian territory, including hawaii and alaska. in this course, we don't cover the revolutionary era. i do that on purpose because it tends to suck all the air out of the room. i love the american revolution. i teach classes specifically on that, but it tends to overshadow the rest of the colonial era if it's included. yet, most of you, like most americans, when asked to think on what colonial american history means to you, you thought about a few white men in the 13 colonies of the atlantic coast who signed the declaration of independence and fought the revolution. this makes complete sense. i think unless we take advanced history courses or do a lot of outside reading, we have a pretty narrow conception of what colonial america is. we had a very memorable example
with one of our classmates showing a halloween costume that was pretty laughable, but typical of how americans picture the colonial past. there are a lot of silences about the colonial past and how we remember. it i hope this course changes that. spoiler alert, one of the things we will do is i am going to ask you to answer the same question so we can compare and contrast with where we began in colonial american history and where we are now, near the end of the course. i think the relatively narrow conception most americans have what colonial american history even is is one of the reasons why we spent the first few weeks to finding with the course means. in other words, we talked about what does colonial mean. what does american mean, what is history? we will return to those discussions next week. a lot of these are pretty controversial, notably the word american. america encompasses north america, south america, people in latin america. they take issue with the u.s.
citizens referring to ourselves as americans. we co-opted that phrase. what does history mean? who is in charge of fashioning? it whose interpretation of the past two we focus on? in the meantime, today's lecture will be a chance to connect a lot of the dots, everything from the salem witch trials, 1619, to gender and religion. we use the reading of the book silence in the past, power in the production of history, which we are finishing up, to think about the history of colonial america and how the history is created and communicated and memorialized, not just inside academic circles and books, but out in the broader public. two ways in which the concepts of colonial american history were popularized in these ways are the subjects of today's lecture. that will be myths and monuments. i will start sharing my screen. . i began the course by
introducing you to one of the most critical concepts that i hope students walk away from my course with. that's that history is not the same as the past. history is not just a recitation of facts, dates, it's set or that happened in the past, but peoples interpretation of those dates and facts. sometimes, people believe in a history that's not based on facts at all, hence the mid part of the lecture. when it comes to the history of colonial america, i think how we define the terms about which we are speaking is critically important. for example, whose pastor re-discussing? when does a begin? where is situated? they sound like basic questions, but they are not. what encompasses colonial american history and how we define it is change overtime and how we choose to interpret the past matters to the american president, because it
does include answers to the questions of what and who do we celebrate, who and what do we silence, and who and what places do we count as important in the past. midst and monuments do a lot of work, in a variety of ways, outside college courses. this is one of the reasons why in addition to studying primary sources, i asked you to look into historical interpretations of the colonial american past. everything from the names on streets signs to disney films to halloween costumes to historic sites like colonial williamsburg, pictured here, and monuments to people, which we discussed and will continue to discuss today, and i think she puts it nicely in silence in the past. i quote here. history has many hearts and academics are not the sole teachers, history teachers, in the land. in other words, people get their history from a wide
variety of places. history is produced outside of universities as well as within. them in the history of understanding colonial american history, it necessitates that we consider history and historiography, beyond the academy. people get a bigger dose of colonial american history when they go to colonial williamsburg or plymouth plantation than they do in their choices of their history courses. history, especially popularly consumed history, often takes a material form. one reason we need to study objects, artifacts, and places, as well as art, i would think of them loosely put together as what's scholars call to your culture. it's a great way to understand production, and i think it's a reason why he spends a great deal of time in the book talking about history that's not just in books, history
that's found in statues, for example. and debates around monuments, of which we have seen a lot, debates about monuments and public art, whether they should stick, what should be directed in the first place. the court's debates about history, which itself is a form -- i want to talk about the stories we don't tell. these stories of silence are just as important as the stories we tell. it's like staring at statues. when it comes to colonial america, historiography chips not just how the past was interpreted but -- . whose past is, it when does it begin, it's all complicated. but the celebrations of it
rarely are. i think the quote here is a really great one. the myth making process does not operate in the way celebrations are created. it's part and possible of the process of histories production. in other words, we make choices with monuments, with celebrations like columbus day, just like we make choices of what to put in the history books. these commemorations and celebrations are usually pretty sanitized in the sense that they are simplistic. monuments tend to offer a very simplistic narrative and easily understood, black and white. we know from our discussions in class that history is hardly ever a matter of black and white. it's various shades of gray. it's complicated, because the answer to a lot of questions repose about the colonial past, but think about monuments, how many are there that are to the
memory of both sides of a complicated past. so how we choose to interpret the american colonial past matters to the president. but we celebrate and what we silence, we can see in the places and spaces around us. just to take one of the things we wrestled with in the early weeks of the class, when do we begin colonial america is critically important, and such a seemingly simple question. it's so hard to answer. yet, the answer predetermine's to a large extent how we view colonial america. we talk about whether we should begin the concept of colonial america before contact, between european and indigenous peoples, whether concepts like history to describe indigenous histories before european arrivals actually do a diss service to the indigenous
passed, the idea that we should look at the historical artifact and structures left behind by the cultures you see in the middle here as just as valid as written histories that european peoples tend to leave behind. history as prehistoric and a lot of cases. what happens after contact is history. if we start in 1776 thinking about america, then that defines america as a nation state of the united states of america, when in fact, there's hundreds that come before that in which it was no means predetermine the united states of america would ever be a thing that came to be. similarly, we discussed a lot about dates that are important, and how we talk about colonial american history, and what we should do with that. 1492, the idea that columbus
discovering, often used, we will discuss how the war does a disservice, because it's about contact and conquest and not about discovering something that of course was well known to the many people who lived there before. 1492 is a beginning point. or we can begin with 1607, the first permanent english settlement at jamestown. of course, this ignores the fact that the englishman out the first european powers to establish a settlement in what's now the united states of america. those were the spanish and st. augustine, florida. or was it 1619, jamestown, the arrival of africans who became the first enslaved africans in an english permanent settlement or the establishment of the house, or is it 16 20 with the pilgrims arrival in plymouth? those are all various options. in part, one of the reasons i spent so much time discussing
issues like when does colonial america begin, when does america begin, is that i think it helps us to determine what we discuss, who we celebrate, and who we raise monuments too, among other things. getting to why these choices are important, i think they are really important because as trouillot says, celebrations straddle two sides. they pose a silence on the events they ignore and they fill that silence with narratives of power about who they celebrate. one reason i had you read trouillot in the first place was so we can discuss the man in monuments to begin with, a man who never stepped foot on what's now the united states of america. this begins the survey of the past. we are talking about christopher columbus, we got a lot of attention this summer, and has for a while, due to the holiday celebrating, him columbus, day which has gotten a great deal of pushback for
columbus and his reputation. there is columbus the man and columbus the mid-. a lot of the monuments celebrate columbus the mid. we can talk about columbus the man, as we do in this course, and i think one of the reasons columbus the mid-got a lot of pushback is because more and more people have become aware of why exactly he deserves analysis and critique from his enslavement of indigenous people from his very first point of contact in the americas to the raping, disfiguring, and killing being done at his command in the pursuit of profits, specifically gold in the caribbean. yet, he celebrated and we discuss this as the kickstart of the events that led to the establishment of european colonies in north and south america and the caribbean, without, which the united states would not exist and it's present iteration.
one of the things that's a common response to critiques of the actions of people like columbus whose actions we now condemn is horrible in many ways, is that he was a man of his time. we've discussed this as well and the fact that there were always people who stood against atrocities like columbus participated in, notably indigenous people themselves at the time. they did not approve of what he was doing, but also other europeans. we discussed this before, with a former enslaver who participated in the 1513 invasion of cuba. they came to have a change of heart as a priest stand as someone who believed the treatment of indigenous people was wrong. then
it's an interesting point of contention. some historians have made the 1619 project, which tells the first arrival of enslaved africans in florida and in texas a century before. and yet, despite the fact that critics besieged his fellow spaniards to treat indigenous people better, to not enslave them, and to treat them better than columbus had done, yet, despite pushback in his own time and sense, we have so many reminders of columbus, not just and statues like these that you see in philadelphia, that have not been defaced in part because men's jet around it and protected this summer so it wouldn't be the faced, just showing you the strong emotions people have for as well as
against columbus. the statue in san francisco has been splashed with red paint, which is often something protesters use to deface monuments. on the right, a statue i will spend a little more time talking about, the statue of columbus in a part called vergne park in richmond. it was toppled this summer and put into a pond sandal lake. let's talk a bit about the statue of this monument of columbus in richmond. i think it gets at how columbus is just a starting point of how we view colonial history, especially scattered throughout the landscape. i mentioned the statue of columbus that was put in the pond in richmond. bird park, not like a songbird
but like this man william byrd the second. byrd park named after a family in virginia who grew quite wealthy, owned a lot of property, and william byrd the second, is one who helped to found the city of richmond in the 17 thirties and owned a lot of the property on which the city was built. so byrd park is named for him as a founder of the town of richmond. when the columbus statue was toppled this summer and put in the water in byrd park, a lot of the focus was on columbus and what columbus tells us about colonial american history. that one talks about byrd, for whom the park is named. it's important to bear in mind how the monumental lies asian of the past is just as found in
the names of parks and streets as it is and things like a monument, like a statue. in some ways, these are more important because they are just as hard to topple. people are very attached to the names of things. if you think about christopher columbus, we are going to go about tearing down everything related to the man -- the name of the district of comes out of the name. what do we do about william byrd the second? when you start to learn more about him, you have to question whether his name should grace that of a park in which people gather to enjoy themselves. william, as i mentioned, was also very area date. he had a fabulous library. he wrote a number of books, including his secret diaries, which he wrote in code, which have been cracked by historians.
in his secret diaries, he records his serial philandering. he was married twice, but he continued have multiple sexual affairs with enslaved women, all of which he details in his diaries. he also had some terrible habits of interaction with enslaved people who he claimed as property. for example, one enslaved man had a habit of wetting the bed at night. as punishment, once william made him drink his own year and after he wet the bed. not at all and attractive figure, quite the contrary. it represents the worst of virginia colonial aristocracy. yet, his name is what this park in richmond, virginia is named for. when we think about monuments like that of columbus and byrd park that are toppled, we need to think about the wider
connections, the name of byrd park itself, also important. what do we do with that? where do we draw the line with our questioning of these myths and monuments? of course, at a certain point, things are so entangled that it's hard to separate them. columbus, for example, washington, d.c., the district of columbia. he is celebrated in the capital rotunda, which you see at the top left. the capitol rotunda has eight epic paintings within a, these enormous paintings that you can go and see. four of them commemorate the revolutionary era and they celebrate the revolution and founding period. the other four are from the 19th century. they are described by the u.s. capital historians as for scenes of early exploration in the united states. these are interesting word
choices. these depict things like this painting, which is the landing of columbus, completed and installed in 1847, commissioned by congress in 1836. they also include the expedition of the mississippi, and the baptism of pocahontas, which you will see in a moment. in other words, they depict scenes that arguably could be called not early exploration, but scenes of dispossession, scenes of contact and conquest and dispossession of indigenous people from their lands, or in the case of pocahontas, dispossessing her from her own culture in interesting ways, interesting ways that have been critiqued by scholars of indigenous history. these images are in the u.s. capital rotunda, meaning what's being celebrated in the u.s. capital was being monumental eyes through the public art.
it's not just the founding period, but also what happened in the 19th century that gets wrapped up in indian removal. they are really arguing that columbus and other early explorers and people from european empiresm conquer %!8-ydñthe land and its indigenous peoples are something to be celebrated in american culture. these don't just stay in the capital, these paintings. these paintings also end up on the backs of 19th century currency, this, for example, this painting of the landing of columbus was used not just on a bank note issued in the 18 seventies but also on to stamps in the 19th century.
similarly, if we look at one of the other of those four paintings from the 19th century in the u.s. capital rotunda, we see the baptism of pocahontas by john gatsby chapman. this was completed in 1840, and like the columbus, it also appeared on the reverse of money issued in the 18 sixties and 18 seventies. it shows a ceremony in which pocahontas, the daughter of pow had an, is baptized and given the name rebecca in the anglican church of jamestown, which we have talked about. this ceremony took place in 1613 and 1614 in jamestown. james town was celebrated as the first permanent english settlement on the north american continent. this is something the u.s. capital is celebrating. it is not the first permanent
european settlement. pocahontas is often touted as being the earliest native convert to christiana tee and one of the permanent english colonies. this is seen as a success story, the idea that europeans are going to come over and convert indigenous people to christiana it is something at the heart of many imperial endeavors, english, spanish, french, as three notable ones we've discussed in the course. the idea that pocahontas should be celebrated for renouncing her cultural heritage, right? for becoming english, in many important ways, becoming christian eyes, is what's being celebrated in this painting. it is a form of cultural dispossession, i would argue, that's being celebrated. as we know, the real pocahontas versus the stylized one in the
capitol rotunda are even worse, the disney princess, with which we are familiar, that you see on the top left, had a much more complicated history. she was probably more of what historians call a go between, they skilled interlocutor between english people, responsible for making connections, cultural connections, as well as important connections through her marriage to the english settler john rawl that cemented ties in important ways and in this critical early jamestown settlement. yet, the capitol rotunda painting celebrates her christian conversion. you see the actual pocahontas looks quite different from the romanticized version in either the rotund or disney, it's the only surviving known portrait of her. it shows are not looking disney at all, looking like a european
an english woman wearing lots of expensive finery including lace and feathers, like we do stand in as her exotic indian origins, the velvet was embossed, embroidered. it was super expensive, lace around her neck, as well as something we discussed will most likely made of beaver pelt. it is a very lucrative, trade beavers -- . one of the things that's interesting to point out about pocahontas and her persistent presents as a myth and a monument in our understanding, our collective understanding of the american colonial past, is
that she's one of the very few women who even know or celebrate her name as an individual. as i mentioned, it's totally understandable why. we mentioned the first week of class, and i think it's not accidental that there is a connection between the number of monuments erected to women from any time period and how often women populate our common historical understandings, less than 10% of those figures in the hall, which are also in the u.s. capital. less than 10% of those are women and about 10% of all the outdoor monuments in america are women. women have never been 10% of the population. there is a big gap between
historical reality and what we are choosing to memorialize about the past in america. one of the women who does have a number of monuments in america is a woman who became like a lot of these figures very popularly celebrated long after her death. in this case, she was popularized in the 19th century and particular. around the same time in the 18 sixties and 18 seventies is when her monument started to pop up. images of the baptism of pocahontas and the landing of columbus appeared on the back of u.s. currency. all of these things are entangled and working together to push the same cultural narrative. the person pictured here in two of the monuments has a number of monuments erected to her, most of which in the 19th century. she is also the woman who is
the earliest publicly funded monument of a woman in the united states. that's her monument in new hampshire, a close-up of which you see on the left. i think this is an interesting choice that tells us a lot about what americans were choosing to commemorate and celebrate about their colonial passed in the 19th century, because hannah dustin is a colonial massachusetts protestant woman and mother was taken captive by indians from quebec during the king williams war and 16 97. king williams war was one of a series of wars we discussed in this class. they are wars between indigenous people and they pivoted around competing claims that french and english imperial interests had four north american territory and of course clashing interest among native peoples as well that
intersected with all these. as we discussed, people are taken captive in these indian wars. hannah dustin was one of these. she was taken captive along with her newborn daughter. along the march to new hampshire, the indigenous people who captured her, killed her daughter who is only six days old by smashing her head against a tree, as hannah dustin recalls. it while captive in new hampshire, hannah dustin in a grizzly fashion returns the favor. she is taken captive not just with her infant daughter, but also with the woman who is helping to nurse or through her pregnancy. when they arrived in this island in new hampshire where they were stopping with the people who had taken her captive, hannah along with the other woman with her and samuel,
who was a teenage boy who had captured separately, the three of them decide to rise up in the night and free themselves. that's understandable. but they do next is slightly less understandable. they decided to rise up and kill and scalp native americans, including two men, two women, and six children, and returned with the scalps as bounty. in fact, they not only returned with the scalps as proof of what they had done, but petitioned the massachusetts authorities, the legislature, to pay them for the scalps which they did. not only is this moment celebrated at the time, the scalps of these indian men and women are rewarded with money by the massachusetts government, hannah is celebrated enough
that she does have these statues erected of her, and this was defaced this summer, a reminder that women are complicit in these complicated pasts as well as men. the last thing i want to touch upon is the final look at how we turn bits of the landscape into monuments to colonial past. here you see plymouth, rock which is something that was familiar to most if not all of you before the course. a number of you mentioned the pilgrims, mentioned plymouth specifically, mention puritans and new england when you think about colonial america. i think this is something worth diving into a little bit. you will start to see anna merging theme here in terms of monuments to the colonial past. plymouth rock was not identified ortega as such or seen as important actually into the mid 18th century.
it's not like in 16 20 when the pilgrims landed in plymouth. they took out a chisel and carved the year into the rock. this was done later. it wasn't until the mid 18th century that a descendant of those pilgrims pointed to the rock as important because it was in danger of being obscured by some new construction. this is one of the moments where much after the fact, people decide to commemorate and celebrate this element of the past. one of the reasons plymouth rock is important in our national conception of who we were as a colonial people is because i think it speaks to something we like to celebrate about the past. the past is full of terrible, dreadful, often depressing things that happened, but it's also a place where people as human beings strive to make their world better, make themselves better, and leave
beautiful things behind. i think one of the reasons people like discussing the pilgrims is, although there is the flip side, which we all just discussed at thanksgiving, the attempts to dispossess indigenous people through land, armed conflict, and killing of indigenous people, spreading of disease, etc, but the pilgrims also speak to something that many people like to celebrate about america, which is as a place to seek freedom from religious persecution. that's very important to conceptions americans half of!j of not just american culture, but ué[■■also american law. there is a reason that freedom to practice religion is first among the rights listed in the bill of rights to the u.s. constitution. in some ways, plymouth rock is a way to celebrate the idea that these people who were beleaguered and persecuted for their protestant religious faith in europe were able to
come and carve out a new place for themselves in this new england. of course, we have also discussed the importance of the mayflower pact, the tiny seat of people agreeing to come together to communally govern themselves, all of which does leave a lot out of the story as well. that is an oversimplification. there is an element to plymouth rock that i think appeals to people for that reason. it's interesting to think about why we celebrate this particular part of american history, why we focus so much on it, why we focus so much of our collective attention when we think about the colonial passed on these 13 seaboard colonies, in particular, new england and virginia getting outsized attention. why is this? of course, so much of colonial american history is unfolding.
obviously, most precisely with the vast array of indigenous people who are living and occupying this territory in the time period, but also the diverse array of european colonizers and settlers who are also there. we discussed how the french are up and down the mississippi river. the spanish air and water not texas, florida. you have all these groups of people, indigenous people as well as enslaved africans, coming together in these spaces. why do we spend so much time on this tiny part? i showed you this part of the territory there on the right as compared to the continental united states. why do we spend so much attention on these colonies? i think it's important. this is one reason why we use
alan taylor's american colonies as a textbook in this course. taylor is rightly, correctly, and with a lot of explanatory power, trying to situate american history in a continental rather than just east coast parameter. i think it's important that even if we are talking about the history of religious freedom, of peoples desire to pursue the freedom to practice religion as they wish, that much like the history of colonial america is not just an east coast one but a continental one. we should also remember the history of people in america struggling to practice their religious freedom. to put this in context, i am going to take us back and stay with the puritans by going back to the u.s. capital. we will talk about the man on
the right who is one of the few colonial figures celebrated with us that you in the u.s. capital, a pueblo indian man. he is shown holding some knotted ropes there, and those are in trickle to the story i will tell you about why he is celebrated to this day. to put it in context, in 16 30, john wind throw, pooch portrait we see on the left, came to massachusetts in the first week of what's been called the great migration. this was the wave of puritan settlement in the 1620 flip. under john, puritans have a large mass migration to new england to spread out throughout the land. and winthrop is also famous in
1634 coming to massachusetts and talking about the settlement in america being a city up on the hill for the world to marvel at, which is a rhetoric of a city on a hill is a sort of bit of american mythology that has persisted, often referenced by u.s. president, ronald reagan referenced it for example, well into the present day. yet, we learned about john winthrop and the puritans in 16 30. we don't learn as much about the man who was born around 1630, who is po'pay. we spend a lot more time and massachusetts than we spend in the american southwest. po'pay, like winthrop andy puritans, wanted to practice his religion, wanted to practice freedom, was not allowed to practice the way he wanted to buy the authorities who were in power, just like the pilgrims.
the authorities in power are the spanish catholics in this case, who in 1675 arrest him along with almost 50 other pueblo indians were practicing their traditional pueblo religion. they were charged with witchcraft by the spanish, which shows you how the spanish viewed indigenous spiritual practices in the 17th century. a few of them were hanged, but the rest, including po'pay, were brought to santa fe in what's now new mexico and whipped publicly. so what you have here is a man who by all accounts is transformed by this experience, public punishment, persecution for spiritual beliefs, and conspires to start the pueblo revolt, which becomes the most successful indian revolt in american history.
each day a knot was untied and by the time the rope was passed around without a nod, it was meant to get the chain started. it didn't quite happen that way because someone was apprehended. despite the false start, that was the most successfully need revolt in history. po'pay and his indian allies managed to kick the spanish out of santa fe completely and occupied until 1692. an important reminder that the fight for religious freedom is not just among european settlers. there is an indigenous story here as well. to get back to plymouth rock, i will leave with this idea, which is why do we study plymouth rock in our conception of colonial american more than we study something like newspaper rock, an example of which there are many rocks with these petrol glimpse on them and current day, arizona, new mexico. this is one in arizona called
newspaper rock. petro glitz that have been made for years in this place, pueblo indians as ways to leave traces of their family or plant symbols, offers spiritual interpretations and keep the calendar, they would use petroglyph. plymouth rock could be seen as all of these things, a way to leave the mark of the puritan, the puritan migration, spiritual meanings. this is a place where the pilgrims are memorialized for their settlement to pursue freedom from religious persecution in europe. what i'm saying is these rocks that are created by indigenous people on one hand and europeans on the other, perform very similar tasks in terms of being monuments upon the land.
so why is it that we tend to focus almost exclusively on things like plymouth rock and the related stories. why don't we include both? what i would like to suggest as i and here is i think that america, which has been dubbed vast early america by the director of the institute of early american history and culture, vast early america is so much more interesting than the original colonies of america. it encompasses those 13 colonies, certainly, but there is a lot more we can -- i am looking forward to questions and comments that we
have. since everyone has their video off and i can't really see your faces to call on you, why don't you just chime in if you have a question? and if people step over one another, we will just manage that. comments or questions? >> this is sara. i like your point about why we don't focus on certain things, because i know that plymouth rock is the big thing. look at the rock that we got. i think it's interesting that we don't focus on other of events. i don't even know about the native american who did all those wonderful acts. i didn't even realize he was there. people need to open up their eyes a little bit and expand a bit more on what's true and what's not and maybe do their own research.
>> nicely said. i love what you said about doing your own research and that's the reason why how do you do in addition to those historical interpretation analyses, i have you do the primary source interpretations. since history is not the same as the past, your interpretation of history can legitimately be completely different than mine. but you need to make up your own mind about that. you need to look at the research and you need to look at the sources, at the primary sources. one of the things that's interesting about monuments is they are not primary sources in the sense that they are a construction of the past. we can talk about them as primary sources like i did today, but they are really someone's interpretation of the past, which is one reason why they get so contested so often. right? any other questions? >> i found myself quite
horrified a couple weeks ago visiting colonial williamsburg. they had someone out portraying landon carter, who of course was of the same sort of caliber and in the same a league group as william bernard, who in my opinion did some equally deplorable things to his enslaved population. i was quite surprised to see an interpreter portraying him at a living history site, because -- i don'ticc>]■ know. i would be interested to hear yourryj"÷ didn't quite know what to say. >> that's another excellent point to make, thank you. the thing is, if you don't know, to sara's point, if you haven't
done a deep dive into the histories, how would you know? there is the simple story, which is wealthy virginia gentleman who in the case of william byrd collected lots of books and wrote a very informative history, although showing the racist bias ease of the time. it's a natural history focused valuable source. but if you start getting into byrd in his personal life, things get messy and complicated. but as you point out, that's not something that the land in carter colonial williamsburg is not the landing carter who -- i think it's a tough decision, and it's come out most clearly
with -- some of it we don't talk about as much in this course because it doesn't really get important in the american story until after this course, but thomas jefferson is the perfect example. what do we do with thomas jefferson? the man who penned these during words of the declaration of independence will equality, well keeping people enslaved and in bondage, having a controversial then and controversial now relationship with his dead wife's half sister, who he also enslaved. the fact that you have landing carter, thomas jefferson, these men in some cases are the most horrifying thing about them is they are not unusual in a sense. this is, in some ways, a very american story. i think that is something to be wrestled with. i think there is a land and
carter story that you could tell in colonial williamsburg, but i hope they are also making an effort to give you the flip side of that. i think that's the conundrum with places like byrd park. you just go and if you learn anything about it, you can do your own research on this and check it out on the internet. it's mentioned that it's named after william byrd, one of the founders of richmond. he owned a lot of property on which it was established, the city. nothing is mentioned about his really horrible mistreatment of enslaved people. nothing is mentioned about his salaciousness. nothing is mentioned about his property dispossessed from indigenous people in the first place. there's so many complicated layers to this. one of the things that monuments, whether they take
the form of names of parks or statues, like i said at the beginning, by their nature, they tend to symbolize things much more than the past deserves to be. at least in the case of plymouth rock, there is the other story, the inspiring story about religious freedom that we love to think about for good reason. it's critically important in the american historical experience and narrative. but why not also, i think we have an obligation to also tell the other sides of those stories, that monuments don't often allow us the bandwidth to dive into in terms of the complexity. and i'm just glad i'm not in charge of running historical interpretation at a colonial site. i think it would be rife with a lot of tough decisions. does anyone else have any comments or questions they would like to offer? >> i would just make a comment.
we perpetrate myths and school, especially starting at the elementary school, so where do we start to correct history? >> i think one of the problems, if you are an elementary school teacher for example and you are teaching columbus in kindergarten, how do you tell kindergartners the real story of columbus? it would horrify them. it causes people to do stuff like splash red paint on statues, which is not appropriate for five and six-year-old. but we do about that? these are complicated questions in terms of how you approach them. but to start, in elementary schools, for example, why not make more of an effort to tell stories of po'pay alongside
stories of puritans. you don't necessarily have to dive straight into the brutal ugliness of colonial rule in its most brutal ways to tell a straightforward story. personally, i think that's one way. i would be interested, and maybe we can take it up next week, to discuss how you all would do this, how and whether this course has changed how you would choose to talk about the history of thanksgiving with your family, for example. i think those are important questions, and how and why we choose to include history is vitally important, regardless of the level of education that we are talking. i think a lot of americans that emerged from our system of education, due to a variety of factors, dealing with curriculum standards, teaching,
tests, to the accident of where you go to college, what classes you take, that we end up, that's why so many of us still think about history as it is presented through these historic learn to rotations, through sites, monuments, museums. and those places are doing some of the most cutting edge historical interpretation out there. colonial williamsburg, for example, in addition to landon carter, who was a dubious choice, also his groundbreaking work on the history of enslavement in colonial america. i think personally, would i would say, include as much history as possible. have newspaper rock alongside plymouth rock. maybe have a statue talking to columbus just as they were in a dialog in the 15th and 16th
century, in the case of the reaction to policies put in place by columbus in the congress of the caribbean. i also hope this has given you more food for thought in terms of trouillot's book and it's larger context. he is talking about haiti, but the moral of the stories can be applied to our discussion of the colonial american past. any final words before i and this q and a? >> this is the other sarah. i have a question on the floor paintings in the rotunda. i am just kind of wondering maybe how you think they should be handled. i am sure some people support removal while others prefer acknowledgment of the inaccuracy and the incorrect celebrations. i think it's really important to acknowledge. tourism is a really important
form of education. >> and john, for example, is a great painter. these paintings are renowned for their skill and artistry and beauty. to your point, a lot of both the confederate monument controversy, a lot of those statues are artistic trash, essentially. they are hollow. they are made out of sort of cheap, cheap metal statues turned up mostly in the beginning of the 20th century. it's different to talk about things from an artistic standpoint, something like silent sam at chapel hill being toppled, versus the burning of a vanderbilt painting. when you talk about artistry, i think it does matter. contemporary artists have taken to creating works of art that
directly speak to the protest against paintings, including the landing of columbus. they are black artists, overwhelmingly. and i think that their work, which has been housed in museums and galleries, really is a fabulous way to both allow the original work of art to stay, but also speak to its limitations and its problems and the violence it does to the histories of indigenous and black people particularly. the landing of columbus has been the subject of exactly that kind of artistic pushback, which i think is really helpful. sometimes people just don't know the histories of these complicated, complex historical artifacts, and people, and i think that the discussion and education is the first step to correcting that. say what you will about the 16
19 project, it has people discussing jamestown in the history of slavery in colonial america in ways that i think most of us would agree have not been as widely done in years, if ever. so i think that art of like that in the rotunda, if the counter interpretation is presented properly, that it could really be a powerful pedagogical to. >> but again, not an easy question to answer, right? so i think with that, unless anyone has any parting words, i'm going to end the session and say that i'm really looking forward to hearing next week with you all think about myths and monuments. and also, how your conception would colonial american history is has changed over the course of this class. i think that each of you has
shown really fantastic ways of wrestling with the complexities of the past. and i think that, considering how we choose to memorialize and celebrate colonial american history, which elements of it, whose history and why, i think that i hope we don't stop thinking about. thank you very much and i will see will next week.