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from The Textbook Letter, July-August 1998

More Fake "History" from Glencoe

William J. Bennetta

Ol' times there are not forgotten,
Whuppin' slaves and sellin' cotton, . . .

           from Tom Lehrer's comical song
           I Wanna Go Back to Dixie (1953)

Wherever multiculturalism goes, it brings Victimism with it. Victimism is an integral part of the multi-culti ideological package, and its practitioners, whom we may call Victimists, have two principal concerns: They invent fake stories and images that are intended to bring sympathy, admiration, glory and political advantage to groups of people who have been officially designated as Victims by the multi-culti establishment; and they strive to disseminate their fake stories and images in the guise of "history."

The Victims are always groups, not individuals. This isn't surprising, because all multi-culti ideology revolves around tribalism, the rejection of individualism, and the doctrine that a person's primary identity is his group identity -- i.e., the tribe to which he belongs. In practice, all the principal tribes turn out to be racial or quasiracial groups, which are defined in terms of their real or imaginary ancestries.

Among the racial groups represented in the population of the United States, two have not merely been certified as Victims but have also been selected for especially lavish treatment by the Victimists. These groups -- Amerindians and American blacks -- figure prominently in the multi-culti version of "American history," where they are sanitized and glorified beyond recognition, and are depicted as the hapless prey of evil white men.

Sanitization is an indispensable part of this endeavor, because certified Victims must always be depicted as innocent, righteous paragons of humanity. The sanitization process consists largely of hiding or denying any facts which show that the Victims had victims of their own, whom they slaughtered, displaced, subjugated, enslaved or exploited. This is why, for instance, the fabricators of multi-culti "history" conceal the fact that slavery and slave-trading were widespread among the Amerindians. And this is why they refuse to acknowledge that in Britain's American colonies, some blacks were slaves but other blacks were slave-owners. (See, for example, the reviews of the high-school book United States History: In the Course of Human Events in TTL, January-February 1997.)

The Victimists have been particularly vigorous in their efforts to distort the history of slavery, and in this context they have invented and promoted two grand lies. The first is the notion that slavery was unknown in the New World until it was introduced by Europeans. The second is the explicit claim that Europeans established, in the Americas, a form of slavery which entailed unprecedented cruelties -- cruelties that made American slavery different from all the other slave systems that ever had existed.

To the delight of the Victimists, the assertion that the American slave system was uniquely cruel is routinely parroted in today's high-school books and middle-school textbooks, as Jonathan Burack has told us in his Textbook Letter article "How Textbooks Obscure and Distort the History of Slavery." Usually, the textbook-writers are content to present this assertion as a throwaway line, without pretending to explain it. However, the writers of Glencoe's multi-culti high-school text American Odyssey: The United States in the 20th Century have done something different, for they have invented a list of features that supposedly set the American slave system apart from all others. In so doing, Glencoe's writers have provided an exceptional demonstration of the art of perverting the historical record for the sake of promoting Victimist delusions.

The false depiction of American slavery in American Odyssey begins on page 34, under the headline "A New Type of Slavery." The writers briefly note that slavery had existed in some other places, and they mention -- but do not describe -- a few examples. (Predictably, all the examples are drawn from the Old World. In American Odyssey, the slavery practiced by Amerindians is never mentioned at all.) Then the writers settle down to deception: "Before the American slave trade, however, slavery had never been permanent and irrevocable -- nor had enslaved persons ever before been treated as subhuman, denied the rights of education, marriage and parenthood, or forced to pass on their slave status to their descendants."

Every item in that passage is false or meaningless.

Consider, as an example, Glencoe's claim that the American slave system was the first in which slavery was hereditary -- the first in which "slave status" passed from parent to descendant. What a travesty! To find cases of hereditary slavery, we need only look to the Amerindians of the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps my readers will recall two such cases that I cited in these pages last year:

Though customs varied from group to group, slavery was often hereditary. Among the Tsimshians, for example, a child of any slavewoman was a slave from birth, and he remained a slave unless a freeman adopted him. Among the Chinooks, a freeman could marry a slave -- but if he did, he himself became a slave, and all the offspring originating from the marriage were slaves.

[from my review of McDougal Littell's America's Past and Promise in TTL, September-October 1997.]

Now remember the well known slave system of ancient Rome. Among the Romans, hereditary slavery was established in law and was reflected in, among other things, the deliberate breeding of slaves. The historian M.I. Finley -- an outstanding student of the ancient Roman economy -- has considered slave-breeding in his classic book Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology, and he has remarked that

We must take seriously . . . the assertion of Columella (1.8.19) that it was his practice to reward the slave mother of three children with exemption from work, [and] with freedom if she produced still more; or the statement of Appian (Civil War 1.7) that slave-owners in the Italian countryside made substantial subsidiary profits from the multitude of slave progeny, . . . .

Finley also gives the lie to Glencoe's claim that, until Europeans established slavery in America, slaves had never before been regarded as "subhuman." In this connection, I hope that history educators will be sure to read Finley's fine book and will give particular attention to his chapter "Slavery and Humanity." I hope, too, that they will read Jonathan Burack's article again and notice the view recorded by the 14th-century Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun: Blacks were well suited to slavery, wrote Khaldun, because they were hardly human and had attributes "quite similar to those of dumb animals."

Next, look at Glencoe's claim that slaves had never before been denied the right to education. This isn't even false. It is a meaningless absurdity. It is an absurdity because the idea of a universal "right" to education is a recent novelty -- and for that matter, so is the very idea of a universal right. Glencoe's notion that a "right" to education has existed always and everywhere, and has been extended to slaves everywhere but in America, is nonsense.

As my final example, I point to Glencoe's claim that slavery had never before been "permanent and irrevocable." That is another travesty. In North America at least, slavery certainly was not permanent and irrevocable -- and every educated American knows that such eminent figures as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, in their wills, granted freedom to all or some of their slaves. Similarly, every educated American knows that the most famous American slave of all, Dred Scott, eventually became a free man. The American Odyssey writers, however, are evidently seeking to produce dupes, not educated citizens.


William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes frequently about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.

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