Episode 28: American Amnesia

On September 26 Northwestern University doctoral students Hope McCaffrey, left, and Heather Menefee, right, participated in a #WeWantMoreHistory event at Chicago’s Confederate Mound. Writing on behalf of his co-organizers, Greg Downs explains: “At a moment of intense protest against racial injustice, when history and historical monuments have emerged as key flashpoints in political and social debates, [we] wanted to demonstrate that historians can offer clear, concise examples of good history. On September 26, 2020, we, and dozens of other historians, participated in the Civil War history day of action. At historic sites across the United States, participating historians presented evidence to disrupt, correct, or fill out the oversimplified and problematic messages too often communicated by the nation’s memorial landscape.”

Our History

Few things can lift the spirits of the Saucy boys like a hard hittin’ vigorous round of Beefin’ with Meacham, and once again Jon “Soul of America” Meacham earns every haymaker we dish out. Our special guest this week is Gregory Downs, co-editor of the Civil War Era journal and history professor extraordinaire at UC Davis, who was recently featured in a New York Times story on the “monument wars.” Greg explains how he joined a group of colleagues to meet America’s amnesia head-on by staging coordinated history demonstrations on actual sites of the nation’s bloodiest war. From Gettysburg, PA to Elizabeth City, NC these historians rallied under the #wewantmorehistory hashtag for a multi-battlefield teach-in on the raw truth of slavery and the past America loves to mis-remember. Was Robert E. Lee really a southern gentleman, or a cruel and racist enslaver? Are confederate statues the depositories of history, or hateful symbols of domestic terrorism? And while we’re at it, was the British Empire really great, or were they just better at destroying the evidence? Join the HAG team as we refuse to get our affairs in order before what might very well be the last presidential election in human history. Hold fast HAG fans, we’ll see you on the other side of Episode 28: American Amnesia.

Greg Downs

To hear Episode 28 American Amensia click the link below:


Sources Referenced and Items of Interest

Greg Downs, Hilary N. Green, Scott Hancock, and Kate Masur , “#WEWANTMOREHISTORY A National Day of Action” (October 9, 2020 Perspectives on History)


Greg Downs, “The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox” (April 11, 2015 New York Times)


Jennifer Schuessler, “Amid the Monuments Wars, a Rally for More History” (September 28, 2020 New York Times)


Maya Jasanoff, “Misremembering the British Empire” (October 26, 2020 The New Yorker )


“Although a nation has a right to decide what conflicts are worth fighting, it does not have the right to forget its history…”

Greg Downs

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