Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 15: First Families of America (Vol. 43, pp. 28-44)

Celebrating genocide seems to be the theme this week, with bits of imperialism thrown in for good measure. On this day in 1498, Americo Vespucci returned from his first voyage from what came to be called America.

Taken together with Columbus' letter from earlier this week, you can see that the age that the Harvard Classics were assembled in was an age where the white male was supreme and the darker hued folks were mere impediments to the spread of western "civilization."

That is the significant difference between a century ago -- when Columbus, Vespucci and the rest of the explorers were still considered heroes -- and our present age where we see them for what they really are.

"Revisionist" is often used as a slur in the field of history. But, in the case of historians such as Howard Zinn -- who told the story of America from the point of view of the conquered -- revisionist history is a necessary corrective to the original narrative. To not acknowledge the brutal subjugation of native peoples is to gloss over the original sin of the American story.

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