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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Amelia Kashian
Amelia Kashian
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Being passionate is one of the best parts of being human, and I am glad that writing has helped me recognize that. I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, and over...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

NMU CARES — President Brock Tessman shares his feelings on the universitys new CARE Team. Photo Courtesy of Northern Michigan University
Letter to the Editor — Our New CARE Team
Brock TessmanFebruary 23, 2024

The most important era in U.S. history you’ve never heard about

American history lied to you.

James Loewen, author of “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong,” held discussions Jan. 28 at NMU. Engaging the audience with a myriad of questions, Loewen talked at length about American exceptionalism, an issue he said is littered throughout history textbooks.

The theme to Loewen’s featured workshop that evening focused on the Nadir in American race relations, a time period from 1890-1940.

Loewen hit home when he asked the packed auditorium “Why did the South secede from the rest of the U.S.?”

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There were four options presented to the audience, with the majority voting by raised hand that the Civil War was in fact started over the South’s issue with states’ rights, not slavery.

This led to a discussion about how the 14 free states were in fact guilty of violating the Fugitive Slave Act, with New Hampshire even guilty of allowing blacks to vote.

“155 years after the fact, we are still teaching this wrong,” Loewen said. “Why?”

After a pause for the crowd to reflect he continued.

“During the years 1890-1940 America went through a Nadir of race relations,” Loewen said. “The purpose of which was to rationalize and defend the South, but why did the North acquiesce?”

The crowd was silent.

“Euro-ethnocentricity, a word I invented,” Loewen said.

The effects the lie had were multiple, with a slide listing, among others: it minimized the role of blacks, valorizes the Confederate cause and bolsters the idea of white supremacy.

“History can be a weapon,” Loewen stressed.

The next key point of the discussion was the twin legacies the Nadir on America since 1940, a distorted history present to this day, and Sundown Towns.

“What’s a Sundown Town you ask?” Loewen panned the crowd before flipping his slideshow to a sign with the words “Whites Only after Dark.” The speaker professed that this was one of the cleaner signs, one he’d feel comfortable presenting to a 5th grade student. “What actually got me into investigating Sundown Towns was a town called Anna, Illinois which has unofficially stood for ‘Ain’t no [explicative] allowed’”

The discussion turned to the prominence of such towns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, including Ironwood, where black train porters would be stoned for simply stepping off the train.

When Loewen took questions, one person asked why the towns were far more prominent in the North as compared to the South, where U.S. history suggests the most blatant racism occurs.

“South wanted its black folk so it can exploit them— the North was worried about them becoming strike breakers and crossing picket lines,” Loewen replied.

The last question was how K-12 history education could be improved.

“How it’s taught needs to change,” Loewen said. “Educators can’t simply rely on their textbooks.”

Crowd response to the morning lecture was enthusiastic.

“I appreciate that Mr. Loewen engages people in the thought of collecting perspective from all sides of history,” said community member Kevin Lowe, who stressed his faith in the Mormon religion.

Senior history major Marley Chynoweth had a similar reaction to the evening workshop.

“NMU is the first place I considered thinking outside the box in terms of history, such as how Loewen teaches it,” Chynoweth said. “The Nadir is a part of history far too unfamiliar to most Americans. It takes a special kind of person to begin a mission to teach the country a factual history, and I admire his delivery.”

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