It was one of those GDEs (Greatest-Day’s-Ever).
It’s not often in life where you can meet the people who have written your academic textbooks, but my kids had just that opportunity as we attended a lecture with James Loewen. This is why I love homeschooling, and we’ve followed Loewen since I first heard about his book, Lies My Teacher Told Me.
This outing was perfect for me this week as my German colleague and I had a great time discussing history and compared a few interesting things about our countries.
1.) He noted that Germany has always taught its citizens about the Holocaust in an effort to acknowledge past sins and they have a desire never to see such a horrible atrocity happen again. I told him that I have a history book that I bought to use as a supplemental text this last year and there is no mention of slavery. The majority of people in this country know very little about the institution of slavery beyond its existence and could care less.
2.) Speaking of silence, Detroit had its version of the Berlin Wall as well. The “Detroit Race Wall” was created to be a physical barrier dividing whites and blacks. As an NPR story noted, “”And the developer who wanted to develop in this area was told no by the FHA,” Horner says. “Because it was considered to be too close to an African-American neighborhood. And so the solution that the developer came up with was to build a 6-foot-high wall that runs for about three long city blocks.” This truly was a symbol of Jim Crow North.
3.) Loewen has also done extensive research on Sundown towns. Sundown-towns required blacks to be out of town or face death by, you guessed it, sundown. Loewen told civilrights.org, “Well, the suburbs were all white for sundown policies, and this is clear after you read my book. So maybe there is some way to go after that decision and get it re-adjudicated. Certainly, that decision has left Detroit and the Detroit metropolitan area screwed to this day. And Detroit is the most segregated metropolitan area, it has the most downtown abandonment, and it had until the last five years the most sundown towns. Many of them have just recently broken and black folks can now live safely in at least three of the five Grosse Points, for instance, and in Dearborn, and in some of the others. But the damage has been done over the last several decades.” – http://www.civilrights.org/resources/bookclub/loewen-interview.html
4.) Loewen made dad right. CSD’s, you have to love that! He spoke of the importance of talking to people in order to find out real history. Young people today are far more text-savvy than they are book-savvy. Performing original research and interviews is becoming a lost skill, but it is vital in finding out the truth that (unlike Germany) our country has determined to suppress and modify in an effort to maintain a system of white supremacy. I’ve encouraged all of you to talk to your parents and friends about your past and race relations, because whether you realize it or not, it has shaped you. That past has shaped Detroit and if you live or lived in Michigan, Detroit shaped you.
It was truly a great night and the only down-side…my daughter didn’t bring the book so we could get it signed!
Oh well, it was still the Greatest Day Ever.
You can find out more about James Loewen at: