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"In Lies Across America," James W. Loewen continues his mission, begun in the award-winning "Lies My Teacher Told Me," of overturning the myths and misinformation that too often pass for American history. "Lies Across America" is a one-of-a-kind examination of sites all over the country where history is literally written on the landscape, including historical markers, monu "In Lies Across America," James W. Loewen continues his mission, begun in the award-winning "Lies My Teacher Told Me," of overturning the myths and misinformation that too often pass for American history. "Lies Across America" is a one-of-a-kind examination of sites all over the country where history is literally written on the landscape, including historical markers, monuments, historic houses, forts, and ships. With one hundred entries, drawn from every state, Loewen reveals that: The USS Intrepid, the "feel-good" war museum, celebrates its glorious service in World War II but nowhere mentions the three tours it served in Vietnam. The Jefferson Memorial misquotes from the Declaration of Independence and skews Thomas Jefferson's writings to present this conflicted slaveowner as an outright abolitionist. Abraham Lincoln had been dead for thirty years when his birthplace cabin was built! "Lies Across America" is a reality check for anyone who has ever sought to learn about America through our public sites and markers. Entertaining and enlightening, it is destined to change the way we see our country.


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"In Lies Across America," James W. Loewen continues his mission, begun in the award-winning "Lies My Teacher Told Me," of overturning the myths and misinformation that too often pass for American history. "Lies Across America" is a one-of-a-kind examination of sites all over the country where history is literally written on the landscape, including historical markers, monu "In Lies Across America," James W. Loewen continues his mission, begun in the award-winning "Lies My Teacher Told Me," of overturning the myths and misinformation that too often pass for American history. "Lies Across America" is a one-of-a-kind examination of sites all over the country where history is literally written on the landscape, including historical markers, monuments, historic houses, forts, and ships. With one hundred entries, drawn from every state, Loewen reveals that: The USS Intrepid, the "feel-good" war museum, celebrates its glorious service in World War II but nowhere mentions the three tours it served in Vietnam. The Jefferson Memorial misquotes from the Declaration of Independence and skews Thomas Jefferson's writings to present this conflicted slaveowner as an outright abolitionist. Abraham Lincoln had been dead for thirty years when his birthplace cabin was built! "Lies Across America" is a reality check for anyone who has ever sought to learn about America through our public sites and markers. Entertaining and enlightening, it is destined to change the way we see our country.

30 review for Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong

  1. 5 out of 5

    William

    This book can't possibly be for everybody...I, in fact, started out hating it... too repetitious, too dense, way too many footnotes and as an African American, too little of any new revelations...American history is racist so why should its markers and monuments be any different? But as I read I became fascinated with the history and minutiae that's slowly revealed. Much of it local and passed by unnoticed by me for years (A statue honoring a founder of the KKK in Judiciary Square in majority Bl This book can't possibly be for everybody...I, in fact, started out hating it... too repetitious, too dense, way too many footnotes and as an African American, too little of any new revelations...American history is racist so why should its markers and monuments be any different? But as I read I became fascinated with the history and minutiae that's slowly revealed. Much of it local and passed by unnoticed by me for years (A statue honoring a founder of the KKK in Judiciary Square in majority Black Wash D.C.! Slave holding cells in the basement of an Urban League owned property across the river in Alexandria Va..)but more than just incongruous monument placements, this is a book that details the systematic efforts of people with means and an agenda to rewrite history and the fascinating lengths some will go to to do just that. But the writer is an university professor and sometimes the book reads like a college textbook. So if your not inclined to suffer through heavily footnoted text at least put it on your reference shelf. Its organized by state and you'll easily regale guests with stories of the confederate soldier or KKK heroes statue in their own backyard!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Lies of omission would be a better title. I found this book to be a little disappointing. Perhaps it's my fault for misinterpreting the subject matter. I had assumed it dealt with information that was undeniably wrong or untrue. Presenting things inaccurate in fact rather than too concise or limited in scope. The majority of the entries are not so much out and out "lies" as they are lies of omission or representative of events the author feels are insufficiently recognized. An example of the latt Lies of omission would be a better title. I found this book to be a little disappointing. Perhaps it's my fault for misinterpreting the subject matter. I had assumed it dealt with information that was undeniably wrong or untrue. Presenting things inaccurate in fact rather than too concise or limited in scope. The majority of the entries are not so much out and out "lies" as they are lies of omission or representative of events the author feels are insufficiently recognized. An example of the latter would be the "lie" of a marker that mentions a place where a woman was lynched for the crime of killing a man. Although the woman is misrepresented as having been white when she was actually Spanish the author feels the bigger "lie" is that it bothers to mention the woman at all while many other lynchings (throughout the history of the country not as part of the same incident) involving men as victims are not commemorated at all. There are representations of factual inaccuracies but most entries are "lies" only to the extent that they don't tell a complete version of the story. Not so much lies as edited (sanitized) versions. Maybe I'm being too optimistic or charitable to the average American's intelligence but I believe many of them are fairly obvious in their limitations and don't necessarily require someone pointing out that they tell only one side of a story. Initially I found the writing to be dry and somewhat hard to connect with but as I got deeper into the book that became less of an issue. Either I became more accustomed to the author's style, or more engrossed in the subject matter. Or, quite possibly, I went in with some bias and resentment from the fact that I felt (and still do) the book had been misrepresented thus my first impression was simply wrong. As far as the overly politically correct attitude, apologist or anti-white overtones that others have referenced... one could definitely interpret it that way. It has more to do with the underlying theme of presenting a larger picture that represents the entire story in my opinion. Although there are points where it certainly felt to me as though the author was beating me over the head with his personal ideology (even though I agree with most of it). I also found the semantics over what constitutes "discovery", "wilderness" and "civilization" to be condescending, and overly simplistic. Some of the stronger -- and more interesting in my opinion -- passages in the book are actually related to the origins of the monuments themselves and the bias of those sponsoring them. Particularly the ones that relate to the various Confederate memorials throughout the country. Once I got around the 'beating a dead horse' aspect of repeating much of the same comments on racial injustices, prejudices, etc. that had been previously stated elsewhere in the book I found them to be highly informative as to the general attitudes of the people and times in which they were created. All in all it's not a bad book. Is it heavy handed? Oh, yes, very much so in some parts. Is it informative? Absolutely.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Lies Across America: What our Historic Sites Get Wrong is an excellent book by James Loewen. He starts first with the western half of the United States since most history textbooks start with the eastern side. All of the information about historical markers is broken up into small sections for easy reading. Loewen proceeds to give state-by-state accounts of historical markers and their errors or in some cases their silliness. Many of the markers honor people as heroes who were in fact overt raci Lies Across America: What our Historic Sites Get Wrong is an excellent book by James Loewen. He starts first with the western half of the United States since most history textbooks start with the eastern side. All of the information about historical markers is broken up into small sections for easy reading. Loewen proceeds to give state-by-state accounts of historical markers and their errors or in some cases their silliness. Many of the markers honor people as heroes who were in fact overt racists. Other markers are notorious for telling one side of the story. Most of the markers in the south dealing with the Confederacy are found to slant towards confederate sentiments or just to omit what really happened at historic confederate sites. We also find out that many markers dealing with Native Americans would refer to them as savages or other racist terms. In many instances I was appalled by the honoring of people like Jeffrey Amherst in Massachusetts who intentionally initiated the spread of smallpox among Native Americans to exterminate them from the landscape. Loewen also points out our country has never been able to come to terms with gay or lesbian leaders and honor them. You can take a tour of Willa Cather's original home in Nebraska but never once hear anything mentioned about her being a lesbian. Another instance of outright silliness is when Plantation homes talk endlessly about silverware while you tour them but fail to mention anything to do with who built the homes, did the work there, and were held in bondage to the owners. These are just some of the things that you'll find contained in this book. This book is very thought provoking and helps correct historical inaccuracy in the past. Historical inaccuracy prevents Americans from coming to terms with things that are important today such as: racism, homophobia, class inequality, and the glossing over of important events that could help us learn from them so as to prevent them from happening in the future. After all, George Santayna once admonished, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Do yourself a favor and read this book and let it help you start dialogue with others about our important and rich history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    So do you know someone who just doesn't understand the whole take down the statues thing? Yeah? Lend them this book. Loewen not only lists mistakes places make, but also skillfully sets out the reasons for change and how you, as a visitor, can uncover the true story. So do you know someone who just doesn't understand the whole take down the statues thing? Yeah? Lend them this book. Loewen not only lists mistakes places make, but also skillfully sets out the reasons for change and how you, as a visitor, can uncover the true story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charley

    This book actually deserves no stars or a minus star. James W. Loewen obviously has an extreme amount of guilt from being a "White, European-American Male" as his entire book speaks of nothing other than mistreatment and degradation of blacks, native Americans and women to the aggrandizing of WASP American males. The one monument he finds accurate and correct is actually wrong in its interpreting of the facts. The author was a professor at U of VT. He and his ilk are what is wrong with our colle This book actually deserves no stars or a minus star. James W. Loewen obviously has an extreme amount of guilt from being a "White, European-American Male" as his entire book speaks of nothing other than mistreatment and degradation of blacks, native Americans and women to the aggrandizing of WASP American males. The one monument he finds accurate and correct is actually wrong in its interpreting of the facts. The author was a professor at U of VT. He and his ilk are what is wrong with our colleges and universities today. While I agree that history should be taught correctly and to include all the facts, it remains that the very people he chooses to bring down in this book did a lot of good for this country. From his view it appears that no good came from anybody that wasn't in one of his selected minorities. I would not recommend this book to anyone. I love history but this book becomes boring very quickly.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Harry Klinkhamer

    I'm sorry, but Loewen's scathing attacks on history organizations for failing to preserve and interpret a more open and progressive past fails to take into account the restrictions placed on many organiations to do that. I worked for one of the organizations that was criticized in this book and take offense at his remarks that we failed to adequately preserve women's history in our state markers program. Markers are placed when a private source funds them, so if Mr. Loewen is that upset, he shou I'm sorry, but Loewen's scathing attacks on history organizations for failing to preserve and interpret a more open and progressive past fails to take into account the restrictions placed on many organiations to do that. I worked for one of the organizations that was criticized in this book and take offense at his remarks that we failed to adequately preserve women's history in our state markers program. Markers are placed when a private source funds them, so if Mr. Loewen is that upset, he should open up his checkbook and stop playing armchair critic.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    I'm a librarian with archival training who has known several people who worked in public history, including the head of the Indiana Historical Bureau (which produces every historic marker in that state) and actually understands public history as a professional field. And this book is proof that James W. Loewen, while an adequate, if revisionist, historian in the academy, is completely out of his element where something like this is concerned. When Loewen is writing about history itself, his rese I'm a librarian with archival training who has known several people who worked in public history, including the head of the Indiana Historical Bureau (which produces every historic marker in that state) and actually understands public history as a professional field. And this book is proof that James W. Loewen, while an adequate, if revisionist, historian in the academy, is completely out of his element where something like this is concerned. When Loewen is writing about history itself, his research is pretty good (albeit slanted), and some of the local stories he uncovers are fascinating in a way that encourages further discovery. He also makes a good case for why public history as a national exercise is flawed. However, this book also reeks of unprovoked elitism. Though Loewen acknowledges in one of his introductory essays that public history as a discipline is grounded in the history of a community, he then spends the entire rest of the book implying that every community that ignores any part of its own history is always wrong, and that his having a Ph.D in scholarly (not public) history from Harvard makes him better able to determine what a community should accept as its history than, well, the actual public: the people who live in that community, the leaders of that community, and the scores of public history professionals who maintain those sites. This in and of itself shows that Loewen has an inadequate understanding of what public history is and grossly lacks respect for the work that goes into maintaining these sites. Public history is as much about economic and political considerations for the community as it is about "telling the truth", and while this does get pretty stupid sometimes (e.g. anything having to do with the South and slavery), it's a reality that Loewen seems both unwilling and unable to acknowledge, except with the "my way or the highway" idealism of the indolent white educated Northeasterner. Instead, he goes so far as to actually suggest rewordings of historical markers that are neither appropriate nor professional and would simply create a new problem if they were ever suggested by a serious person in that community. This is entirely an exercise of scholarly tourism having nothing to do with actual public history, and the fact that Loewen cannot bring himself to write a book about such a "low" branch of the historical profession without looking down on it shows that he is quite simply the wrong person to have written this book. Loewen also can't seem to resist throwing in his own opinions on every. single. page, and his holier-than-thou attitude towards the unwashed masses comes through in other ways, many of them inappropriate, as when he passive-aggressively ends a chapter with an ignorant quote by a student at Franklin Pierce College by letting the quote hang in the air like a bad fart. This same chapter gives a good example of Loewen's intellectual insecurity undermining the accuracy of the work, as when he continually asserts that Pierce was "the worst President in American history". In reality, historians generally give that honor to Pierce's successor, James Buchanan; "AMONG the worst" would have been accurate, but "among the worst" is not what Loewen said, and this sort of lack of editorial discipline recurs throughout, to the detriment of Loewen's own thesis - his agenda in this chapter is not to expose bad history so much as it is to tear down Franklin Pierce College as an "inferior" intellectual institution because he can, and if that means bending the facts to make their namesake look bad, he's more than willing to do so. This sort of attitude recurs throughout the book and often interferes with the argument Loewen is trying to make. On that note, the entire premise of this book is also faulty. Loewen seems to be aiming to create false outrage towards the problem of historical markers with "bias" (e.g. "bias with which James W. Loewen does not agree"). The truth is that most historical markers in most states are written to be completely neutral on purpose specifically to avoid this sort of attention. Most historical markers also happen to commemorate locally famous things that are actually part of the local public's local history (hence the term "public history"), such as old houses - sites that are neither nationally prominent nor a good source for the manufactured outrage Loewen is trying to create. The premise of all historical markers being either shining gems of perfection or BAD history! BAD history, I say!!!1! when the truth is that most are simply noncontroversial mush is disingenuous, to say the least. At worst, this book sends the message that public funding for public history is bad, because when you leave the writing of historical markers up to the unwashed masses the markers will just be biased anyway. This attitude potentially puts plenty of people out of a job for the sake of Loewen's bourgeois idealism and intellectual arrogance. Archives and historical sites have enough funding problems as it is without this sort of egotistical crap thrown on top of it. With that said, Loewen deserves an extra star for having some good intentions, however poorly formed they might be, and for bring a lot of really neat and obscure local history to light in the course of writing this book. I just think this book could've been a lot more intellectually honest if he'd shut up with his own opinions for long enough to understand that expertise in public history has nothing to do with having a Ph.D from Harvard and everything to do with respecting the community you represent.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I think the timing of my reading of this book with the recent furor over monuments is a coincidence, but a happy one. If you have been watching the news and asking yourself what the big deal is about a bunch of Confederate monuments, read the introductory essays in this book. The biggest thing I learned was the two purposes of monuments. Loewen gives them Japanese names but lord knows I can't remember which was which. Basically, some monuments are erected for the people who were actually involved I think the timing of my reading of this book with the recent furor over monuments is a coincidence, but a happy one. If you have been watching the news and asking yourself what the big deal is about a bunch of Confederate monuments, read the introductory essays in this book. The biggest thing I learned was the two purposes of monuments. Loewen gives them Japanese names but lord knows I can't remember which was which. Basically, some monuments are erected for the people who were actually involved in the events being memorialized. Funeral monuments are the most common example. You build a headstone for your deceased loved one and then you go there and remember them. Once all of the people for whom that person was important are also dead, the memorial ceases to be of much importance, having fulfilled its purpose. The OTHER kind of memorial is erected as a way of asserting control over memory, usually for some political reason, and typically decades after the event being memorialized has passed. The most common example of this are all those Confederate monuments that began springing up not at the conclusion of the Civil War, but decades later as a way of fighting back against progress made toward rights for black Americans. The purpose of the monuments is not actually to remember brave men fighting for a noble cause, but to make the viewer believe that their cause was noble in the first place even if the actual participants in the Civil War didn't think that themselves.* It is much easier to defend "The Lose Cause" than "A Bunch of Treasonous Slaveholders."** Some reviewers have mentioned that it gets a little repetitive at times, which is a fair criticism, but one which I think would be even more fairly leveled at the United States itself. We made these mistakes not once, as aberrations of good judgment, but routinely and purposefully. Most of the entries in this book have to do with the fallout from the Civil War, but a good portion of them do not. There are several entries on Native Americans and the various lies and omissions perpetrated by European settlers. The stuff about the Spanish-American (BUT ACTUALLY THE PHILIPPINE) War was new to me. The entry on the Union League Club was a real whirlwind trip, too. In conclusion, Franklin Pierce was a dick. * You have, no doubt, already read about General Lee's own belief that Civil War memorials were a bad idea. ** This book also has a few choice words for people yell about "States' Rights" that I hadn't thought about before. The Confederacy were only interested in the Rights of States so long as those states were their own and the rights were to possess slaves. When OTHER states asserted their OWN rights to decide how to handle black people in their OWN borders, Southern states battled in Congress to deprive them of those rights.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    A fascinating book that managed to teach me as much about history as about sociology. I am a "collector" of historical markers and belong to a group of crazy people who do the same thing (one of whom passed this book along to me). So I found it educational and a good reminder to take into consideration the people who erected the monuments and markers, the people who fight the most flagrantly incorrect and insensitive markers being removed or corrected, and the people who bankroll museums and suc A fascinating book that managed to teach me as much about history as about sociology. I am a "collector" of historical markers and belong to a group of crazy people who do the same thing (one of whom passed this book along to me). So I found it educational and a good reminder to take into consideration the people who erected the monuments and markers, the people who fight the most flagrantly incorrect and insensitive markers being removed or corrected, and the people who bankroll museums and such, when viewing historical sites. For example, the various markers erected by the neo-Confederates in such hotbeds of Civil War activity as Helena, Montana speaks to the latent (and not-so-latent) racism that motivates so much of our historical narrative in this country. Living in the Washington DC region and traveling just to Virginia, I have been amazed and appalled at the glorification and celebration of the Confederacy (don't people realize they LOST the war and that they were traitors to the country that the conservatives celebrating them claim to love?!!!) I was glad, though, to have additional information about the history of this country and grounds to counter my "genteel" Southern "friends" when they argue "states rights" as the basis of the Civil War, since the Confederate cause was opposed to the rights of, say, Kansas, to ban slavery within its borders. In addition, the lack of representation of women and minorities (particularly Native Americans) is something I have noticed, but always hoped wasn't as bad as it seems when you are only looking at the random marker here or there. Sadly, it is actually worse. I finished the book a wiser woman, a more educated American, and an even greater skeptic of the texts of historical markers than I was before. And I will take more seriously my duty to publicly question the accuracy of history as it is presented to me, and will even consider working with people to bring more awareness of diversity to the forefront in historical markers. Heck, maybe I will even help put up one or two new ones that the author would not find as much fault with.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Morris

    This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in US History. In fact, I wish every high school student had this as required reading. My degree is in history, and it is a sad truth that misinformation is so ingrained that people will argue the facts even when presented with concrete evidence. Very important and highly recommended! This unbiased review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lori Cox

    Listened to this in the car but couldn't get past CD #3, even if I was stuck in traffic. Dull subject matter and Mr. Loewen's personal and liberal opinion comes through too often. Listened to this in the car but couldn't get past CD #3, even if I was stuck in traffic. Dull subject matter and Mr. Loewen's personal and liberal opinion comes through too often.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Published in 1999, Lies Across America contains 100 brief essays about the mistakes and misrepresentations that abound across the US on roadside history markers. First there are the blatant deceptions: Consider, for example, that The Native American tribe known today as the Delawares had that name foisted upon them by Europeans; its members referred to themselves as Lenape, which means "we are the people". In Kentucky, the log cabin said to be the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln was built 30 years Published in 1999, Lies Across America contains 100 brief essays about the mistakes and misrepresentations that abound across the US on roadside history markers. First there are the blatant deceptions: Consider, for example, that The Native American tribe known today as the Delawares had that name foisted upon them by Europeans; its members referred to themselves as Lenape, which means "we are the people". In Kentucky, the log cabin said to be the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln was built 30 years after his death. Then there are the glaring omissions: Among the hundreds of memorials located on Gettysburg Battlefield, not one of them, Union or Confederate, mentions slavery. More generically, there are incredibly few statues of prominent American women who actually lived, though there are some symbolic ones, most notably, Lady Liberty. There are also some amusing entries, such as the way in which the story of young George Washington and the cherry tree became accepted as gospel, or the spat about the whether Daniel Boone is buried in Missouri or Kentucky, or another about who was the first to administer general anaesthesia. Many if not most of our historical sites were established following the Colonial Revival movement, during the first half of the twentieth century. Since history is generally written by the powerful and victorious, it is not surprising that they would choose to commission monuments that tell only the positive sides of their stories. Nor is it surprising that the disenfranchised - for a long time, that means anyone who was not white, European, and male - are largely ignored. Lies Across America provides an important service in pointing out the need to revise the way our history is presented to us; if this is going to continue to happen by way of plaques and monuments, it's crucial that what they tell us is accurate and fair. Lies is interesting and fun to read, but if it does not spur its readers to explore history on a deeper level, it encourages only destruction and ridicule, rather than reform and education.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    When I was in high school, I needed books like this. I knew just enough to be dangerous and books like Lies My Teacher Told Me challenged some of my preconceived notions. Even if I didn't always agree, I learned something and it brought me down a peg. However. Now that I'm older and (I like to think) wiser, I have put aside teenage angst and entitlement. And maybe it is about time Mr. Loewen does too. I've tried getting into this book, and I do think it contains a lot of good points. But I think When I was in high school, I needed books like this. I knew just enough to be dangerous and books like Lies My Teacher Told Me challenged some of my preconceived notions. Even if I didn't always agree, I learned something and it brought me down a peg. However. Now that I'm older and (I like to think) wiser, I have put aside teenage angst and entitlement. And maybe it is about time Mr. Loewen does too. I've tried getting into this book, and I do think it contains a lot of good points. But I think the author expects too much. Yes, landmarks across America omit a lot. And yes, that is to the cost of minorities. And yes, it is always good to have more balance and to be told both sides of the story. But viewpoints change. Things we take for granted now were pretty alien concepts even a 100 years ago. It is kind of ridiculous to expect all of history to be portrayed according to our 21st century viewpoint. This book isn't so much an illumination of injustices as a rant that America hasn't been more progressive. Finally, Loewen's tone drove me away. He comes across caustic and insensitive to anything outside of "his" definition of landmarks, monuments, etc. Perhaps someday I will finish it and present a more solid response to his arguments. For now, I don't care to read on.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Awesome book. If you've ever wondered what America really looks like to other countries, this is the book for you. Loewen chose over 100 historic sites/museums/markers to dispel the myths of. Some are more surprising than others, but all of them are interesting. So much that I didn't know about our country. Not everything in the past is as rosy as our government would have us believe. And if we would only learn about these blemishes on our past, then we could learn from them and not repeat them. Awesome book. If you've ever wondered what America really looks like to other countries, this is the book for you. Loewen chose over 100 historic sites/museums/markers to dispel the myths of. Some are more surprising than others, but all of them are interesting. So much that I didn't know about our country. Not everything in the past is as rosy as our government would have us believe. And if we would only learn about these blemishes on our past, then we could learn from them and not repeat them. (Take the Philippines/American War for example. If this war was actually taught in school and on historic markers (instead of completely ignored as it is now), maybe we wouldn't have gotten into Vietnam...or Iraq.) Love this book and would recommend it to everyone. I really want to read Lies My Teacher Told Me now.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alan Pickersgill

    I live in Guelph, a mid-sized city in Southern Ontario. We like to think of our home as a green and growing place, full of people who are alert to environmental and social justice. We think we know our history. Guelph was founded in 1827 by a Scottish novelist and businessman named John Galt. As a director of the Canada Company, it was his job to open the countryside for immigrant settlers. There’s a bronze and granite bust of him outside our former city hall downtown. It’s the courthouse now. T I live in Guelph, a mid-sized city in Southern Ontario. We like to think of our home as a green and growing place, full of people who are alert to environmental and social justice. We think we know our history. Guelph was founded in 1827 by a Scottish novelist and businessman named John Galt. As a director of the Canada Company, it was his job to open the countryside for immigrant settlers. There’s a bronze and granite bust of him outside our former city hall downtown. It’s the courthouse now. There’s a school named after him. The Ontario Civic Holiday on the first Monday in August is called John Galt Day here in Guelph. You don’t mess with John Galt’s memory. He has only one rival in our municipal consciousness. John McCrae, the military doctor who wrote the famous poem In Flanders Fields was born here. He also has a school named after him, and a statue outside the civic museum. His birthplace is a National Historic Site. Any suggestion that his poem is not a great one, or that it is not a plea for peace, can get a person’s citizenship revoked. How accurate are our manufactured memories of these two men? It depends on who you ask. James Loewen has provided us with a guidebook that can help us find out. The American sociologist and historian has updated his 1999 book in which he examines monuments erected across his country to honour historic people and events. A dismally large number of them honour Confederate military and political leaders. A lot are racist. A very large number have plaques that do not accurately describe the events commemorated. Historical monuments are not covered by any truth in advertising laws. It’s a well-known adage that history is written by the winners. Loewen makes a further point that statues and other monuments determine how this history will be remembered. Most commemorate military victories and significant battles. This has consequences. One of these is that memorials tell us what is worth dying for, which turns out to be mostly the state. There are hundreds of thousands of historic markers scattered across the United States, including museums, statues, tombstones and roadside plaques. Loewen uses about a hundred of them to illustrate his points. Some are, in a bizarre way, amusing. A statue in Lexington, Kentucky, of Confederate General, John Morgan, for example, had him riding a stallion. In fact, he rode a mare into battle. The sculptor obviously thought no females of any kind belonged on a battlefield. Loewen suggests ten questions to ask at a historic site, and twenty monuments that should be removed as soon as possible. There are others that should follow. Photographs could be taken and placed in museums to illustrate the terrible history of race relations in America. As we saw in Charlottesville, Virginia, two years ago, America still has plenty of white supremacists who will fight to protect the memory of the Confederacy. They rioted, and killed a woman, to protest the removal of Confederate monuments. The American president, Donald Trump, said some of them were very fine people. I used to think the southern states lost the American civil war because it was all about the right to own slaves and slavery was abolished. Loewen makes the point that the Confederacy won the war. He says it was really about white supremacy, of which slavery was one manifestation. In the decades following the abolition of slavery, Jim Crow laws were enacted formalizing segregation and sundown laws were passed requiring black people to leave white neighbourhoods at dusk. Canada has had similar experiences with the removal of monuments. Edward Cornwallis is generally regarded as the founder of Halifax. In 1749 he issued a proclamation offering to pay for the scalps of Mi’kmaq people. In 2017, a rally calling for the removal of his statue from a park named after him was disrupted by a white supremacist group called the Proud Boys. The statue was finally removed in 2018. Another example is the Langevin Block of our Parliament Building in Ottawa. It was named after Hector-Louis Langevin, one of the architects of the residential school system that abused thousands of Indigenous children. His name was removed, but not replaced by anyone else. In an act of typical Liberal blandness, it is now known for what goes on inside. It is now called “the Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council.” They can’t be on the wrong side of history if they say nothing about it. Now, what about Guelph’s founding father? When the city was up and running, John Galt was fired by the Canada Company because of his poor management practices. When he returned to Scotland, he was sent to debtor’s prison for a few months. These are minor blemishes on his record. A plaque near the River Run performing arts centre says, among other things, “Galt was conscientious and hard working and showed considerable humanity in his dealings with the company’s pioneer settlers.” What it doesn’t say is how he and his company dealt with the pre-pioneer population. The plaque stands near the spot where Galt chopped down a tree to begin clearing land for Guelph. It wasn’t his to remove. It belonged to the Anishnaabek First Nation peoples and was ceded to the settlers through Treaty 29 in 1827, just before Galt swung his axe. Why doesn’t the plaque say anything about the people who were already here? History is a complicated business. It is always subject to review and re-evaluation. Loewen quotes the American philosopher George Santayana who said, “History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten.” Lies Across America lays out a useful guide for evaluating what needs to be done. The second edition is scheduled for release on 24 September 2019.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James Steele

    On his travels across the United States, Lowen documents inaccurate historical markers and sites. From west coast to east, he points out statues, markers, plaques, buildings, and even entire towns that ignore or misrepresent their own history. What he finds should surprise no one. Broadly, his criticisms fall into one of 3 categories. 1) America’s treatment of the Native Americans. 2) Confederate monuments that misrepresent the Civil War. 3) Monuments to racism that have no place in modern societ On his travels across the United States, Lowen documents inaccurate historical markers and sites. From west coast to east, he points out statues, markers, plaques, buildings, and even entire towns that ignore or misrepresent their own history. What he finds should surprise no one. Broadly, his criticisms fall into one of 3 categories. 1) America’s treatment of the Native Americans. 2) Confederate monuments that misrepresent the Civil War. 3) Monuments to racism that have no place in modern society or, just as often, monuments that try to convince people that racism doesn’t exist. Loewen makes it clear that America has deliberately forgotten what their ancestors did to the American Indian. Many historical sites record events without context to make it sound as if the Indians were the aggressor rather than defending their home against an invading force of European settlers. Other statues and plaques commemorate people who enslaved and slaughtered Indians, but one would not know that by viewing the monuments because they frame the events as Americans defending themselves from savages. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indians were in America first, they had a society, and Europeans attacked and drove them west. (Most tribes were not nomadic until the Europeans displaced them.) Monuments commemorate these acts as heroic, but doing so distorts history and leaves out the other side. The Civil War was about slavery. Multiple confederate state constitutions enshrine slavery in their founding documents, and Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, stated the reason for leaving the union was because blacks were inferior and deserved to be slaves. The “States’ Rights” interpretation of the war is a modern idea meant to distort history for the sake of White Supremacy. Confederate states in the mid-1800s were in fact frustrated by states’ rights; Northern states had passed laws allowing for runaway slaves who made it north to be free in the North, and slaveowning states wanted those laws overturned. They respected States’ rights, but only if those rights benefited slaveholders. While it’s true many Southerners at the time did not know the reason for the war and simply saw their home being invaded and reacted to it, the reason for the war could not have been clearer. Monuments all over the country portray rebels as noble soldiers fighting for a lost cause, but leaving blank the definition of what cause they fought for only encourages people to project a false reason for the war. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Republicans full of zeal went South to try to enforce the new equality measures and bring former slaves into American society (a period called Reconstruction). The South resisted. Racism was rampant and violent, and after 20-odd years of trying to force the South to treat blacks as equals, the Republicans gave up and left the Southern states alone. The result became institutionalized segregation, and to announce the supremacy of the white race and the victory over the politicians who tried to force whites to treat their former slaves as equals, people erected monuments to racist leaders who are famous for oppressing blacks. That’s what the monuments to the Confederacy mean, and that’s why they stand in the first place. Other historic sites misrepresent other parts of American history. Some present no history at all. War in general is always sanitized to make America’s actions appear just and good, even when America was the aggressor. They often don’t have to lie to achieve this, rather present an event with no context and call the soldiers brave and noble for dying to protect American freedom. Americans are smart enough now to know Vietnam and the Philippine War had nothing to do with American freedom, but everything to do with imperialism. It’s time America wakes up to its past and faces what kind of nation it has always been: a country of white supremacists who slaughtered the people who were already here and imported Africans as slave labor to generate the goods they then sold overseas. Historic sites are not designed to make people think about that, but to reinforce the myth of America as a righteous nation founded on Godly principles that has always welcomed people with open arms. All hope is not lost. Many people do realize the hypocrisy, offensiveness, and/or inaccuracy of the historic monuments in their towns. They are fighting for change, and so long as people remember the truth, the lies across America cannot stand forever.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Fagan

    Fascinating read. Very timely with all the issues with Confederate statues in the South. I had never really thought about the need to think critically when reading historic markers...you always think if they are up there, then they must be vetted by an expert somewhere. This book brings to light so many issues with that thought! There are markers out there for events that never took place! I can't wait to check out all my local historic markers and then do a bit of digging myself. He also has so Fascinating read. Very timely with all the issues with Confederate statues in the South. I had never really thought about the need to think critically when reading historic markers...you always think if they are up there, then they must be vetted by an expert somewhere. This book brings to light so many issues with that thought! There are markers out there for events that never took place! I can't wait to check out all my local historic markers and then do a bit of digging myself. He also has some good suggestions on how to deal with markers, statues and monuments that may be an issue...telling the other side of the story or the part left out. Or putting it into historical or cultural context. Really enjoyed this and the discussion that ensued from our book group.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I’ll bet the United Daughters of the Confederacy didn’t love this book. I will say that I didn’t love it either – though certainly not for the same reasons. As something of a follow up to his investigation into the dismal state of public school US History textbooks, Loewen sets his sights on the questionable state of monuments, markers, and historical plaques scattered throughout the US. It’s a valiant effort, and certainly makes for a clear thesis about how misinterpretations and misinformation I’ll bet the United Daughters of the Confederacy didn’t love this book. I will say that I didn’t love it either – though certainly not for the same reasons. As something of a follow up to his investigation into the dismal state of public school US History textbooks, Loewen sets his sights on the questionable state of monuments, markers, and historical plaques scattered throughout the US. It’s a valiant effort, and certainly makes for a clear thesis about how misinterpretations and misinformation dominates the landscape’s “official” history. Two primary – or oft repeated – false narratives emerge. First (and influencing Loewen’s West-to-East chapter counter-structure) there is the strong, Eurocentric (or WASP-centric) thinking dominates our selective story about how whites “settled” the US starting in Massachusetts and transitioned throughout the “wild” west over the ensuing centuries. This obviously ignores the millions of Native Americans already firmly settled – most were not nomadic – everywhere and even the Spaniards who had already plundered (and thus “settled”) the whole southern strip of what is now the US. Ironically the South doesn’t emerge in the official tale until after Reconstruction, when suddenly the Confederate States of America was no longer about maintaining slavery but now a valiant effort to maintain states rights and “Southern Culture” and – if the markers/memorials portray slavery at all – it wasn’t so bad as evidenced by “The Good Darky” statues and other stories about how satisfied southern blacks obviously were under such a sensible structure. Loewen unearths other erroneous examples (a few examples from the Spanish…um…that is…The Philippines-American War) and even explores some museums and exhibits to highlight how the omission of part of a story, or some cautious wording can turn a murderous tragedy into a celebration of the murderer. I found it all very interesting but, as there were so many individual examples, it came off a bit choppy compared to his Lies My Teacher Told Me. This read more like a guide book – which, I suppose, was an intentional reader option – but it somehow felt simultaneously less diverse yet also less focused than his previous book. The two narratives dominate and other examples of incredulity show up once or get much less attention. Whatever, I’ve never even visited a number of these states – and the individual examples are well selected – so Four Stars! But if you have time for only one Loewen book, I recommend his previous effort.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris Demer

    This was an excellent book and I found out about a lot of history I was vague about, or had never heard of. Among the interesting facts I recall: Many American places, rivers, mountains, lakes, etc were "discovered" by Europeans and named by them, even though Natives Americans had discovered them centuries or millenia ago and already had names for them. The racism and atrocities perpetrated against the Native Americans and African Americans was far more evil and pervasive than anything you will fin This was an excellent book and I found out about a lot of history I was vague about, or had never heard of. Among the interesting facts I recall: Many American places, rivers, mountains, lakes, etc were "discovered" by Europeans and named by them, even though Natives Americans had discovered them centuries or millenia ago and already had names for them. The racism and atrocities perpetrated against the Native Americans and African Americans was far more evil and pervasive than anything you will find in history books. Many famous white men even verbalized the desire to "wipe out the whole lot" and made efforts to do so. For that they were praised. (e.g Amherst- who tried to wipe out pesky Indians with smallpox infected blankets.) A town and college were named after him. The author points out that very few markers or monuments portray women or people of color, and those that do generally put those "minorities" in positions of subservience and/or minimize their contributions. Although it is assumed that the victors write the history, the story of the Civil War is mostly written by the losers! Markers all over the south and even at Gettysburg would indicate that the south was fighting for a valiant cause (variously states' rights, "our way of life", etc) with nary a mention of slavery. The monuments and markers give praise to the likes of southern generals (Forrest) who ordered the killing of all their Union prisoners of war. Much of this display of the aggrandized Confederacy was paid for and put up by the Daughters of the Confederacy- some quite recently. While many lovely antebellum mansions can be toured, most of the commentary revolves around the architecture, china and silverware. Never is there a mention of the slave labor that allowed for the building of these mansions or the acquisition of all the fine china and silver. When slavery is mentioned, and it is generally because someone asks about it, the reply always seems to indicate that the slaves were treated well and were quite happy. Of course slave rebellions, revolts and runaways gave lie to the "happy darky" stories. Members and leaders of the Ku Klux Klan are provided with positive testimonials, markers, and even carvings in the mountains of Georgia! I could go on and on- but you should read the book yourself. And we should try to gain a better understanding of the history that really was, not the history that a privileged few would like us to believe.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Skora

    When I first heard of Lies Across America, I initially had little interest. I try my best to distribute my reading among heavy-hitters and well-known books, and James W. Loewen's far lesser-known successor to Lies My Teacher Told Me simply felt more relevant as a cross-trip reading rather than an essential piece of understanding American public historiography. However, now, in the midst of the George Floyd protests, and the subsequent tearing-down of statues across America and around the world, When I first heard of Lies Across America, I initially had little interest. I try my best to distribute my reading among heavy-hitters and well-known books, and James W. Loewen's far lesser-known successor to Lies My Teacher Told Me simply felt more relevant as a cross-trip reading rather than an essential piece of understanding American public historiography. However, now, in the midst of the George Floyd protests, and the subsequent tearing-down of statues across America and around the world, I since changed my mind, and I am now delighted that to have read this book. Probably the best part about Lies Across America is how Loewen splits up his book into three parts. If you are short on reading, you could read the forty-eight pages that make up the first and third sections of the book. While the first thirty-six pages deal with general problems and distortions of public markers, monuments, memorials, statues, and museums across the American landscape (introduced with exciting chapter titles such as "In What Ways Were We Warped?," "Some Functions of Public History," "The Sociology of Historical Sites," "Historical Sites Are ALways a Tale of Two Eras," and "Hierartic Scale in Historical Monuments"), the last twelve are the following three appendices: "Selecting the Sites," "Ten Questions to Ask at a Historic Site," and "Twenty Candidates for 'Toppling.'" The massive middle section is a West-to-East case study that examines the flaws in ninety-one American historic sites, varying from the renaming of Denali to Mt. McKinley in Alaska; the nonexistent Almo Massacre in Idaho; the missing foot of Juan de Oñate in Alcade, New Mexico; Confederate statues in Union territory, Stone Mountain in Georgia, the Teddy Roosevelt statue at the New York City Museum of Natural History, and the jejune "history wars" of small-town claims to fame. Therefore, even if one is short on time, Lies Across America provides a very enjoyable and concise reading. Loewen deeply aided my understanding of the role of public history. Unlike a classroom setting, statues do not really provoke conversation. They literally set figures in stone, rarely, if ever, promoting a view of moral ambiguity or historic complexity. Too often, they exalt their depictions, and similar to what Loewen noted in Lies My Teacher Told Me about America, almost never criticize the state, or mainstream culture. For example, Scottsboro, Alabama had plaques honoring war veterans, Andrew Jackson, and the town namesake, Robert T. Scott., yet absolutely nothing about the infamous 1930s Scottsboro case, when nine black teenagers were falsely accused and incriminated for raping two white women in 1931. The remarkably unfair case caused international outrage and became known as one of the most blatant examples of racial injustice. However, at the time of the book's publication in 1999, there was no public memorial or even a marker dedicated to the Scottsboro Boys. Thankfully, there is now a Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center established in 2010, but this is merely one of the several historic grievances depicted in Lies Across America. One of the most shocking facts I learned, was that Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate perpetrator of the Fort Pillow Massacre and Ku Klux Klan founder, had more statues in Tennessee than any other person in any other state, including Abraham Lincoln in Illinois and Thomas Jefferson in Virginia. Confederate statues abound across the American South, not because they reflect an accurate portrait of history, but becuase they command respect and authority amongst the South's inhabitants, or as Loewen puts it, choosing who "to honor from our history." In many cases, the United Daughters of the Confederacy fully erased the Unionist legacies of towns such as Todd County, Kentucky. The journalist Tony Horwitz, in particular, pointed out that when he asked Todd county residents for evidence of their town's supposed Confederate allegiance, they point to a 351-foot tall obelisk dedicated to Jefferson Davis. The United Daughters of the Confederacy even dedicated a Confederate Memorial Fountain in 1916 as "A loving tribute to our Confederate Soldiers" - when Montana never had a single Confederate soldier! Traditionalists say that removing statues is tantamount to "erasing history." But how, exactly, does a statue teach history? Education and books serve that purpose, but given that 83% of Americans never course in US history after high school, public memorial may be one of them open depictions of history for most Americans. But education is not the only or even primary purpose in many cases: the "civic religion" of Americana, symbolic veneration and philanthropic praise all play a role in shaping the American public. Loewen also demarcates the "two eras" statues depict. The first is the "manifest narrative", or the event/figure the site depicts. The second, and far more intriguing one, in my opinion, is "the story of erection/presentation." Stories of erection and presentation "serve political exigencies of time of their erection" by solidifying elite control over public memory and glossing over the ugly facts of history through "heritage." Is it then any wonder that Freedom's Memorial or the NYC Teddy Roosevelt state place whites dominant over other races? Given that so many of the removed statues of John C. Calhoun, Christopher Columbus, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Robert Bedford Forrest, and Stonewall Jackson among others were mentioned or even highlighted by Lies Across America makes Loewen's word appear as prophecy. But this is not the case: several of these public commemorations were denounced for decades by activists and certain demographics, it only appears that through the ongoing racial catharsis has mainstream white America decided to listen. This movement has even exploded in my home town of Buffalo, where a statue of Christopher Columbus was recently taken down. Since reading Lies Across America, I have decided to examine markers and museums in Erie County and the parts of history they overlook. One key comparison is the Buffalo naval yard where the U.S.S. Little Rock, the U.S.S Sullivans, and the USS Croaker are stationed. In his book, Loewen describes how the U.S.S. Intrepid, stationed in New York Harbor, fails to discuss the morality of attacking civilians in Vietnam. Given that the naval yard boats also fail to examine the wars they fought, instead relying on personal anecdotes. I personally hope to research the history of problematic historic markers in America. Thankfully, several of the most outrageous "lies across America" have recently been removed. Following the 2017 Unite the Right Rally, Helena city council removed its Confederate fountain; the American Museum of Natural History in New York removed the Native American man and the Black man siding Teddy Roosevelt on horseback, and statues of Juan de Oñate and Orville Hubbard have been removed. Lies Across America challenges us to face our history honestly. Instead of venerating war, slaveholding, imperialism, or genocide, historic markers must display the naked truth in all of its ambiguity and overlooked narratives. As James Baldwin once said in "A Talk to Teachers": "American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it." It is about time for us to finally and daringly depict American history as Baldwin describes it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Disappointed in revised edition. I was looking forward to reading the updated edition of the book, without the controversy over various racist monuments in recent but was disappointed that he removed passages on several "positive" story monuments: The Lincoln Memorial and the 54th Mass in Boston. The article critiquing the Jefferson Memorial is better in context of what is right about the Lincoln Memorial. And the article about the Shaw memorial explained so eloquently what a good monument can d Disappointed in revised edition. I was looking forward to reading the updated edition of the book, without the controversy over various racist monuments in recent but was disappointed that he removed passages on several "positive" story monuments: The Lincoln Memorial and the 54th Mass in Boston. The article critiquing the Jefferson Memorial is better in context of what is right about the Lincoln Memorial. And the article about the Shaw memorial explained so eloquently what a good monument can do. I will recommend the original edition over the revised for this reason.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Bingham

    This book is about public monuments and the stories they tell. Many public monuments, historic sights, roadside plaques, etc. tell an inaccurate or biased story. The author has gone through a number of these and described what the monument got wrong.For example, in Scottsboro Alabama, the most important event ever to have happened there was the trial of the Scottsboro Boys in 1931-39. The town has several historic plaques in its central square, but nothing about that case.This is very much a pro This book is about public monuments and the stories they tell. Many public monuments, historic sights, roadside plaques, etc. tell an inaccurate or biased story. The author has gone through a number of these and described what the monument got wrong.For example, in Scottsboro Alabama, the most important event ever to have happened there was the trial of the Scottsboro Boys in 1931-39. The town has several historic plaques in its central square, but nothing about that case.This is very much a problem in the south where the confederate cause is routinely portrayed as glorious or noble. There are very few monuments to slavery in the south, or ones that depict accurately what slavery was like. An example of this type of myopia is the Helen Keller birthplace in Tuscumbia, Alabama. There is a confederate flag flying in front, even though she was an early supporter of the NAACP. Another example is Stone Mountain Georgia. The giant figures of Lee, Jackson and Davis carved into the mountain were put there by the KKK in honor of white supremacy. No mention of this is made in the visitors guide.The author has his own personal biases, and is not shy about sharing them. This is a book that makes one open ones eyes and look at the world with a fresh view. I recently went to the monument at Fort Fisher. The monument was put there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a neo-confederate group, active in the early 20th century. The plaque there memorializes the confederate soldiers killed in 'The War Between the States', but not the federal troops killed there to preserve the Union.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    This book sort of bored me. I didn't like it as much as his other book, Lies My Teacher Told Me. I think I'd like it more as a travel guide to read before I visit any of these places. I enjoyed reading the sections on states I've lived in or know a lot about (and finding out my home state, Oklahoma, has, in his opinion, the single worst museum presentation in the U.S.). I'm sure when I travel to other states I'll want to read the sections relating to them. It's just a little repetitive to read s This book sort of bored me. I didn't like it as much as his other book, Lies My Teacher Told Me. I think I'd like it more as a travel guide to read before I visit any of these places. I enjoyed reading the sections on states I've lived in or know a lot about (and finding out my home state, Oklahoma, has, in his opinion, the single worst museum presentation in the U.S.). I'm sure when I travel to other states I'll want to read the sections relating to them. It's just a little repetitive to read straight through as a book--I mean, after a while you get it that most Confederate monuments are inaccurate; reading one more example isn't necessary unless you're actually going there. My favorite part was his discussion about how mares are often turned into stallions so they seem stronger and more appropriate for heroes to ride.

  24. 5 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    Professor Loewen, after doing his critically acclaimed expose on American history books Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, now takes his show on the road...literally. This book follows the professor as he goes to all 50 states to show either what information each state fabricates, lies about, or in some cases cover up about historic landmarks across the country. In some cases you have erroneous confederate monuments where no Confederate solider from th Professor Loewen, after doing his critically acclaimed expose on American history books Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, now takes his show on the road...literally. This book follows the professor as he goes to all 50 states to show either what information each state fabricates, lies about, or in some cases cover up about historic landmarks across the country. In some cases you have erroneous confederate monuments where no Confederate solider from the Confederacy came from. And in other places like Scottsboro, Alabama you have no mention of one of the most controversial episodes in American history. This book came out in 2000 so the version I read maybe a little outdated but I seriously doubt most of these states have corrected some of these seriously messed up errors strewn across the country.

  25. 4 out of 5

    melydia

    As an avid landmark snarfer, you can imagine my excitement at finding this book on what our historical markers, memorials, and monuments get wrong - and, occasionally, right. Some of it made me very sad. After all, much of American history can be summarized as "white people ruin everything," but there were some bright spots. And some very funny ones, like the woman in Indiana who is only remembered for moving there sans a body part. It certainly opened my eyes when reading markers and visiting m As an avid landmark snarfer, you can imagine my excitement at finding this book on what our historical markers, memorials, and monuments get wrong - and, occasionally, right. Some of it made me very sad. After all, much of American history can be summarized as "white people ruin everything," but there were some bright spots. And some very funny ones, like the woman in Indiana who is only remembered for moving there sans a body part. It certainly opened my eyes when reading markers and visiting monuments, and gave me new questions to ask and points to ponder. I'd never even heard of the Philippines-American war, for example, and my education about Reconstruction was much less thorough (and more biased) than I'd realized. Now I have a whole new list of places I'd like to visit and events and people I want to learn more about. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in American history, especially if you like to visit historic sites.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This is an extremely valuable resource for anyone who enjoys visiting historical sites, because Loewen fills in the unstated or insufficiently interpreted "facts" depicted in a number of these locales. Read up on your local sites or on places you intend to visit, and see them more fully. Personally, I wouldn't sit down with this book and read straight through, because it IS a book of intensely felt criticism, and as such could leave a reader feeling a bit overwhelmed and gloomy. Keep a copy of "A This is an extremely valuable resource for anyone who enjoys visiting historical sites, because Loewen fills in the unstated or insufficiently interpreted "facts" depicted in a number of these locales. Read up on your local sites or on places you intend to visit, and see them more fully. Personally, I wouldn't sit down with this book and read straight through, because it IS a book of intensely felt criticism, and as such could leave a reader feeling a bit overwhelmed and gloomy. Keep a copy of "Assassination Vacation" close at hand! But the introduction is highly recommended because of what it has to offer for interpreting historical materials. For whom was this created-- the living, the dead, the future? What else might have been said? What do images like this say about culture in general?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Once again, only concerned with race. From time to time he omits parts of the story himself, to boost his own point (for example mentioning that labor leader Joe Hill was executed, but never mentioning why, implying it was for his views. Nope - murder). I wanted history, not whining preaching. Disappointing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dubi

    On a walking tour of Barcelona, our guide told us the story of Christopher Columbus. He was an Aussie who said he was qualified to act as Barcelona guide because he was a graduate student in history at the local university. I cornered him afterward and said, as a history student, you surely know the Columbus story you just told us was completely fabricated. He said, you have to give the people what they want. I said, no, people want to know the truth, your tour would be vastly improved if you re On a walking tour of Barcelona, our guide told us the story of Christopher Columbus. He was an Aussie who said he was qualified to act as Barcelona guide because he was a graduate student in history at the local university. I cornered him afterward and said, as a history student, you surely know the Columbus story you just told us was completely fabricated. He said, you have to give the people what they want. I said, no, people want to know the truth, your tour would be vastly improved if you retold the Columbus myth and then debunked it with the true history. I only learned about the Columbus myth a few years ago, thanks to James Loewen's eye-popping book, Lies My Teacher Told Me. When I repeated Loewen's lessons about Columbus to one of my traveling companions after that walking tour, she was completely surprised, despite being a successful, intelligent, well-educated attorney. And as Loewen says, and I myself have said since reading his book, don't get me started on Woodrow Wilson. Lies Across America does for public historical markers and monuments what Lies My Teacher Told Me did for high school history texts -- expose the distortions, inaccuracies, omissions, back-patting, propaganda, and outright lies that appear across the American landscape, posing as history. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming number of examples deal with the historical treatment of Native Americans in the West and Northeast, and with African Americans in the South. Originally published in 1999, Loewen has cause to issue this revised version: the 2017 Charlottesville demonstrations, which started in response to the removal of a Confederate momument. That catalyzed changes in public history that Loewen had been advocating over the past two decades, particularly with respect to the Confederacy and race relations. Tentative though those changes may be, to date, it is heartening to see some movement toward correcting the public record, changes significant enough to warrant an update to Loewen's record of inaccuracies. One of the interesting aspects of Loewen's analysis that may not at first be obvious is that these distortions in the public sphere may say as much about when they were erected as they do about the historical period they pretend to document. Mainly, this means that the rewriting of the history of the Confederacy, Civil War, slavery, and race relations is more of a reflection of the resurgence of institutional racism in the early 20th century than anything else. And what is happening now in the wake of Charlottesville is a repudiation of that unfortunate legacy. The book is not really organized for a straight reading. After a few introductory chapters, Loewen travels through all 50 states from west to east visiting individual sites and examining the veracity of some of their public historical markers, telling the real stories behind them. Having gotten an advance copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, I read them all from start to finish. But most people will probably want to pick and choose which entries to read based on their personal interest. This subject matter may be a tough pill for many Americans to swallow, as was the case with Lies My Teacher Told Me. It directly challenges the popular vision of America and its history. I for one believe that, for all the greatness this nation has achieved, undeniably, there are also a number of unpleasant truths that have been swept under the rug. Like I said to the Aussie in Barcelona, I believe that people want to know the truth. James Loewen is a historian devoted to telling the unadulterated truth, and I commend him for it. He should be required reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anson Cassel Mills

    During the public debate over the Smithsonian’s ill-fated Enola Gay exhibit in the early 1990s, supporters and critics unwittingly agreed on one point: that those who visited the planned exhibit would accept whatever historians and museum professionals served up without a fleeting thought that the exhibition represented a particular point of view. James Loewen’s Lies Across America is worth reading if for no other reason than that it stimulates critical thinking about the points of view represen During the public debate over the Smithsonian’s ill-fated Enola Gay exhibit in the early 1990s, supporters and critics unwittingly agreed on one point: that those who visited the planned exhibit would accept whatever historians and museum professionals served up without a fleeting thought that the exhibition represented a particular point of view. James Loewen’s Lies Across America is worth reading if for no other reason than that it stimulates critical thinking about the points of view represented at historical sites and monuments. Furthermore, unlike most academic commentators on the Left, Loewen writes wittily and well. Indeed, some of his most amusing examples have no ideological slant at all, like the Indian massacre that never happened, the airship that never flew, and the birthplace cabin of Abraham Lincoln constructed thirty years after his death. Nevertheless, Loewen’s book has serious flaws. In part they are the product of Loewen’s political and social views, in part they derive from his lack of historical perspective. Some errors are simply “nonsense on stilts,” the sort of academic pretentiousness that pretends to make telling points while it actually says nothing much at all. A good example is Loewen’s allegation that Europeans are always found at the apex of historical sculpture. In fact, the triangular form is aesthetically pleasing, and it would have been inconceivable for an artist commissioned to sculpt a statue of Theodore Roosevelt to have put him anywhere but at the top of the triangle. Loewen also makes no allowance for artistic license. If the tail or muscles of a horse are not strictly representational, these attributes do not reflect the sculptor’s artistic style but some political message. Another theory that sounds impressive is Loewen’s proposition that more accurate history can often be written when the history is closer to the present. Monuments and markers erected after the historical actors die “usually go up to serve the political exigencies of the time of their erection.”(38) Unfortunately most of Loewen’s examples run counter to this theory. Former Confederates were very much alive when monuments to the Lost Cause started going up around the South. Memorials to white southerners who supported the rights of freedmen during Reconstruction have had to wait until the recent past. Some of Loewen’s “lies” were being revised (sometimes into new ones) while he was writing the book. More importantly, Loewen’s constant stress on racism begs the question of why turn-of-the-twentieth-century Americans of the most educated classes accepted racism almost unthinkingly. The answer, of course, is that racism marched hand-in-hand with the rise of Darwinism. In the view of most educated Americans of the period, Euro-Americans had reached a higher level of evolution than had non-whites, an assertion endorsed by virtually all contemporary scientists. The myth of Columbus and the flat-earth (treated in Loewen’s book as example of chauvinism) grew in popularity for the same reason: to demonstrate the eternal (though, in fact, mythical) conflict between science and religion. If, however, Loewen had pointed up the irrationality of past intellectuals, the reader might have paused to question the presuppositions of modern intellectuals, perhaps even Loewen himself. The political correctness of one era is the academic heresy of another. Sometimes Loewen has to ignore, or skip lightly over, contrary evidence because the individual or event in question has a less black-and-white interpretation than a book about “lies” can accommodate. For example, Loewen’s treatment of the atomic bombing of Japan rigorously follows New Leftist scholarship without even a hint that reputable historians (among whom are David McCullough and Stephen Ambrose) hold opposing views. Loewen also suggests that John Brown was written down as a madman only because of late nineteenth century racism, that “he went insane during the nadir of race relations, 1890-1925.” (392) But Loewen has to ignore Brown’s actual mental processes, which were unusual to say the least, as well as his execution-style murder of five pro-slavers by broad sword. Both Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee thought Brown was crazy. In other cases, Loewen’s sense of evidence is casual at best. Loewen charges that geographical features such as Devil’s Lake and Devil’s Tower were given those names as “deliberate attempts to stigmatize the religions of Native Americans.” Not one etymological example is given. Likewise, the reader is puzzled at Loewen’s assertion that if a local historian and other residents of the town of Alba, Texas “believe that their town was named ‘white’ because it was intended solely for whites, then for all intents and purposes it was.”(185) Loewen’s view of how history should be conveyed to the public is sometimes otherworldly. For instance, he seriously argues that the Union League Club of New York should itself post a marker on its building “telling how the elite turned their backs on the rights of all man in favor of promoting the privileges of the rich.” (402) Loewen also advocates telling visitors to the homes of Willa Cather and James Buchanan that they were gay, then criticizes Buchanan for his pro-slavery views and Cather for her belief that women were inferior to men. Yet presumably Loewen would be offended if Buchanan’s pro-slavery views were regularly interpreted as being related to his homosexuality—which it was. (I predict that Loewen’s proposed changes will be made at about the same time it is regularly and solemnly declared at Martin Luther King’s childhood home that King cheated on his wife and on his academic papers.) Finally, there is considerable tension between Loewen’s populism—“we the people have the power to take back the landscape and make it ours”—and the realist view that revolutions in historical markers could produce counterrevolutions with deep popular support. So at the end of the book, Loewen produces a list of “Twenty Candidates for ‘Toppling’” but remains of two minds about how literal this toppling should be. Read and enjoy Lies Across America. It should stimulate your thoughts about the nature of historical commemoration and evidence. Only ask as many questions of the book itself as of a historical marker.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Frazer Hendricks

    Lies Across America is an atlas of flawed public history markers across the United States by James Loewen. Like his other works of history targeted at the public, this book is well researched and written with evenhanded joviality and solemnity that creates an enjoyable read in what could have felt like a list of monuments. These are some highlights that caught my interest: *Adam Fortunate Eagle “discovered” Rome in 1973* In September 1973, on his way to the International Conference of World Future Lies Across America is an atlas of flawed public history markers across the United States by James Loewen. Like his other works of history targeted at the public, this book is well researched and written with evenhanded joviality and solemnity that creates an enjoyable read in what could have felt like a list of monuments. These are some highlights that caught my interest: *Adam Fortunate Eagle “discovered” Rome in 1973* In September 1973, on his way to the International Conference of World Futures, he descended from the plane in Rome in full tribal regalia and claimed the country "by right of discovery" in the manner Columbus had claimed America. Invited for an audience with Pope Paul VI, instead of kissing the papal ring, he offered his own ringed hand in return; the Pope grinned and clasped his hand. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Fo... *The pilgrims were not first, or even second to colonize North America* On September 28, 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew entered San Diego Bay--the first Europeans to visit California. On May 14, 1607, a group of roughly 100 members of a joint venture called the Virginia Company founded the first permanent English settlement in North America on the banks of the James River. The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth Harbor in 1620, after first stopping near today's Provincetown. *American Indians only roved for about a hundred years.* The white man started the classic image of plains Indians “roving” was started by General John Sullivan who burned the Delaware’s fields and forced them to live a nomadic lifestyle. *Southerners Served in the Union Army* Many southern soldiers remained loyal when their states seceded; 40 percent of Virginian officers in the United States military, for example, stayed with the Union. During the war, many Southern Unionists went North and joined the Union armies. Others joined when Union armies entered their hometowns in Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana and elsewhere. Over 100,000 Southern Unionists served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and every Southern state except South Carolina raised at least a battalion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Souther... *The slave labor that built Antebellum homes is usually ignored in historical markers, displays, and tours.* The *Reverse Underground Railroad* is the name given, sardonically, to the pre-American Civil War practice of kidnapping in free states not only fugitive slaves but free blacks as well, transporting them to slave states, and selling them as slaves, or occasionally getting a reward for return of a fugitive. Those who used the term were pro-slavery and angered at an "underground railroad" helping slaves escape. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse...

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