Expressing disagreement with Fetters and Malkas with regard to history

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Local Voices

Bruce Langman

My name is Bruce Langman I am a resident of Lynwood, Illinois. I grew up on the East Side.

I just read the article “’Revisionist’ history” by Frank Fetters. I find it somewhat flawed. The article referred to the Bob Malkas article, “From the files of Bob Malkas: The 1619 Project.” I find that flawed as well. A casual reading of these two seems to show that no one is being completely candid and unbiased in their analysis.

In 1619 the first Africans were imported as property to the North American colonies. The very rich were buying these Africans as slaves. Simple logic would indicate that these Africans were not brought here as property on the gamble that there would be a market for them. My conclusion is: given the racist mindset of those rich land-owning colonists, someone asked for someone to bring them. I ascribe that Racist Mindset to them by virtue of their subsequent behaviors, which are well documented by (if nothing else) the secession documents of the rebellious states of the Confederacy as well as the constitution of the Confederate States.

I think that both Mr Malkas and Mr Fetters can agree with me so far.

Let me address Mr Fetters’ article first, since I read that first. Mr Fetters states:

  1. “All truth, all details, all facts exist in and of themselves.”

  2. “A fact does not gain significance until it is observed. Once it is observed, the observer may offer an opinion or a judgement concerning the veracity and the value of what was observed.”

  3. “If the initial opinion concerning that fact is a lie, the subsequent value judgement WILL, in fact, be the truth.”

The first statement I agree with 100%.

The second statement is a little ambiguous. A fact has significance in and of itself. History is only the record of observed facts. One’s opinion or judgement does not alter the significance of the fact. An opinion or judgement may be flawed but the fact just IS. The veracity of the recording of said fact can and indeed should be checked and verified.

The third statement is not necessarily true. A lie can also be replaced by another lie.

Mr. Fetters’ reference, https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/black-american-history-facts, includes a section labeled, “White Lies My Textbooks Taught Me.” If I were compiling that list, I would label it: “Untruths my textbooks taught me, and truths that they omitted,” because they did both.

On to Mr Malkas’ assertions:

“No agreement could have been reached without compromise, thus the reason for a less than perfect document, but with the mechanics to achieve its ultimate goals.”

234 years later, having still not lived up to the ideals of our founding documents, the “mechanics” of which he speaks seem woefully inadequate.

“I was allowed to do what teachers should be doing — teach the truth,” says Malkas.

Not being a betting man, I would nonetheless be willing to bet that the whole truth was not taught, by him or any teacher. Why? Because no one was taught the whole truth to begin with. So teachers did not know the whole truth. Textbooks all had their biases (as did the professors who trained the teachers). They left out things that the authors thought to be unimportant. This is the human condition: Say what you like and just don’t say what you don’t like. Bias will show itself with some critical reading, but omitted facts are hidden. There are plenty of facts which have been hidden by omission.

“The 1619 Project wants to replace the real facts with revisionist history, and they are being allowed to do that,” says Malkas.

I am not very familiar with the 1619 Project. And the idea of “revisionist history” is somewhat vague. History is supposed to be the written record of the truth, and it is meant to be revised as new or omitted facts are uncovered, otherwise it’s not the whole truth.

“That one statement expresses an ignorance of American history or a plan to manipulate it. The author should be asked to list the slave-owning Founding Fathers. No one would hesitate to name Thomas Jefferson, but finding a second one would be difficult,” claims Malkas.

A second founding father comes immediately to mind, initials GW. A little googling, and I find that 41 of the 56 signers of the Declaration were slave owners. That “fact” I would not stand by without further scrutiny, but it does seem reasonable. Some people would insist that Robert E. Lee owned no slaves, but he had control of them as executor of his father-in-law’s estate, and he held them for as long as he legally could before the will mandated that they be manumitted. I think that it would not be difficult to verify whether 41 is the correct number. If not, it could be REVISED to indicate the correct number. Ah, history!

Mr. Malkas asserts that author Tiya Miles, “…avoided the fact that in 1808 Congress abolished the slave trade.”

The fact is, slave trading went on until at least 1865. Nathan Bedford Forrest made his fortune through the slave trade and he wasn’t born until 1821.

I would submit that American history should indeed be read with a critical eye. Otherwise we will end up believing that Paul Bunyan owned a big blue ox.

Bruce Langman, Lynwood, Illinois


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15 COMMENTS

  1. Mr; Langman:

    Usually, when I read an opinion that is different from mine, I drag out my “yeah but” comments. Today, I have none of those to make. You are right about my comment that any contrary argument must be the truth. Oc course that can’t be accurate. Thank you for your insight.

    Sincerely,

    Frank Fetters

  2. Mr. Langman you made my day. Citizens have finally taken the opportunity to communicate with one another.
    Let me expand on some of your conclusions.
    In 1619 there were few of what you call rich people in the country.
    Personal survival was the main concern. There was no plantation cultural yet in need of cheap labor. So there was no market for them.
    First lets establish the basis for those who gathered together to write a document that would free the colonists from the control of England.
    We know there were 56 of them representing the 13 colonist : North and South.
    They came from two separate and unique developing cultures defined by their geography needs.
    Questions that needed to be agreed upon.
    representation for the small and large states, how much representation would be assigned to the slave population in the south, would slavery be authorized in all the colonies.
    That is what I meant by mechanics.
    To be a good and effective teacher you don’t con your students to think as you do.
    You present facts and direct them to make decisions for themselves.
    That is not the way teaching is conducted today.
    I will make you the same offer I did for Mr. Fetters
    E-mail me your mailing aggress and I will send you a copy of David Barton’s book.
    It will answer your questions better than I can.
    If they stood alone they would not have been able to be free from England, but they still had personal differences-so a decision was made to compromise-for now to achieve a common goal.

    • I did a little nosing around on the internet. And found this article: https://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/25577

      In answering the question What are some common misconceptions about colonial history?
      Rosemarie Zagarri PhD wrote: It is common to read back into colonial times an understanding of slavery that is based on conditions that existed just prior to the Civil War.

      Of this I am guilty. She also pointed out that the institution of slavery changed over time, and that is why such a read back is a flawed concept.

      I did rather focus on the JUNETEENTH article, which really was the relevant basis for the revisionist history article from Frank Fetters. That brings us to 1865. So my claim of rich landowners being greedy for more wealth and political power, I’ll stand by. The constitution included that infamous 3/5 compromise which granted these elite landowners (and slave owners) disproportionate representation in Congress based on valuable property that they owned when representation was supposed to be by population as regards to the House of Representatives.
      They were not entitled to additional representation for property, except for that travesty. As a nation we have not had a lot of success in living up to the ideals of our founding documents. We should be ashamed of that.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Langman, for your reasoned, informed response. Assumptions based on what we’ve always heard are not facts, even if they make us feel better. I would much rather deal with an uncomfortable truth than a comfortable falsehood, and having ALL the facts is much preferred to only knowing some. If I were buying a car, would I want to trust that the salesman is telling me the complete history, when I know that it is in his best interest (not mine) to omit those facts that may cause me to look elsewhere? Nope – show me the CARFAX. And that is what the 1619 Project was all about. We live in a country great enough to withstand the critical eye that we need to focus on the whole of our history, the good and the bad. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we shouldn’t resist those who are trying to help us see what we don’t know.

  4. Jennifer-Let me explain my article a bit further. In 1808 Congress did abolish the slave trade industry of bringing slaves into the country. The Democratic Party controlled southern states refused to abide by that law. The national government could not control their actions at that time Thus, the background for the Civil War.
    The 1609 Project is cluttered with falsehoods. I would suggest that you read all 20 essays. That will prove to you that its teachings are not true.
    I addressed this in an earlier article.
    The George Washington story of owning slaves was true but not complete. Virginia law made it unlawful to free slaves.
    Did you know that the first slaves to come to the Massachusetts Colony were sent back by the Christian Pilgrims and Puritans. The ship officers were arrested and imprisoned.
    The 1619 Project would not tell our school children this story. You might want to ask Why?

    l

    • In 1782, Washington could have freed his slaves. From MT. Vernon’s website: “In 1782, toward the end of the American Revolution, the Virginia legislature made it legal for slave holders to manumit their slaves, without a special action of the governor and council.” He couldn’t, however, free the slaves that Martha Washington inherited from her first husband as those belonged to her children and their families. And in fact, Washington’s will said that his slaves would be free among Martha’s death. Because Martha was afraid of being murdered, she freed them before her death. and there wasn’t a problem. SO YES, Virginia allowed slaves to be freed. Don’t believe everything that David Barton says, as he emphatically states that Virginia wouldn’t allow the freeing of slaves.

  5. I very much appreciate all the comments made by everyone here. Respectfully, this is what America is about.

    I appreciate Melanie and those at the Lansing Journal.

  6. I’ve read the articles and comments on this subject, and I have a question for Bob Malkas: Can you recommend another source for this information besides David Barton? From what I’ve read, he does not have a very good reputation among historians and his work seems to be highly partisan and pro-Republican. I think we could all benefit from a good non-partisan source.

  7. Linda-Credible history is mostly achieved by consulting primary sources. Consulting GOOGLE does not work or using terms, I believe this or I believe that shouldn’t be relied upon outside of hearing another opinion. Do the research then make your own decisions.
    David Barton’s books cover a great scope of U.S. History topics.
    All subjects are well documented from primary sources and derived from extensive studies.
    Just to give you an idea Thomas Jefferson Lies book Exposing the Myths You’ve Always believed about Thomas Jefferson is the product of 30 pages of Notes.
    I can provide sources for you if you are more specific.
    I have written a lot already that you might be able to use.
    Do a search for Bob Malkas and you will be able to get to them.
    I am currently being intrigues by all of David Horowitz’s books.
    Tell me more!

    • I would disagree in some point about using google. One can use google to find sources that are available online. You can access primary and original documents online through the library of congress. You can also access original documents on line for many historical societies. so if one is searching for something specific, google may bring up a source that actually legitimate. When I research my family history, i will google a name in many different spellings or versions of the name to find a new source.
      If it is a source that is not a .gov, .org or .edu, you have to determine the reliability of the site. but do not dissuade people from using google.

  8. To Mr. Bob Malkas:

    I think I need to take you up on your kind offer. I will send my mailing address to Melanie Jongsma, and I will ask her to forward it to you. Then you can send me the book and I can study the basis for your responses and offer more intelligent answers.

    Thank you for your feedback.

    Sincerely,
    Frank

  9. Dear Mr. Malkas:

    I received a copy of David Barton’s book, AMERICAN HISTORY IN BLACK & WHITE. Of course, I will want to study it before I reply, but I want you to know what my approach to the book will be. I will, of course, try to compare it to what I know to be true and offer independent sources to back up my opinions. And yet, I presume there will be points where we both disagree about some aspect of its reporting. My goal will be to respectfully disagree and to present my arguments only once.

    I will say that, upon viewing the book for the first time, it seems to be a well-researched book with copious endnotes to support the arguments of the author. And I can also say that I find it to be a unique publication and also that is an admirable goal to want to report on this subject as clarity on this subject is something we all should be clamoring for.

    It may take me a while to report my thoughts and feelings concerning this book because I have other projects going on, but I intend to read it all and offer my comments respectfully.

    Thank you for sending this to me, and I will study it throughly.

    Sincerely and Respectfully,
    Frank Fetters

  10. I have received David Barton’s book entitled SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: AMERICAN HISTORY IN BLACK & WHITE from Mr. Malkas, and I want to offer my initial responses. My first response is to apologize to Mr. Malkas in advance because I am sure we will continue to disagree about the contents of this book, but I will not be disrespectful to him or the subject at hand.

    There are some definite pluses concerning the information on these pages. It appears to be a Conservagive document that includes information about Black Americans and values their existence rather than pushing them away or disrespecting what they have gone through. And the research is extensive, using several different resources and citing each source.

    I had never heard of David Barton, so I went to Wikipedia in hopes of gaining a better idea of who the man is. Wikipedia says:

    1. Barton is “an evangelical Christian political activist” described as a “Christian nationalist”.
    2. He “rejects the consensus view that the U.S. Constitution calls or separation of church and state.”
    3. “Scholars of history and law have described his research as highly flawed ‘pseudoscholarship’ and spreading ‘outright falsehoods.'”
    4. Barton’s book, THE JEFFERSON LIES, was voted “the least credible history book in print” by users of the HISTORY NEWS NETWORK website.
    5. “A group of ten conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and reported negatively on its claims, saying that Barton misstated facts about Jefferson.”
    6. “Barton holds no formal credentials in history or law, and scholars dispute the accuracy and integrity of his assertions about history, accusing him of practicing misleading historical revisionism.”

    Finally, I submit this information respectfully and will offer further comments after I begin reading Barton’s text.

    Sincerely,
    Frank Fetters

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