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Georgia Southern University

Loewen urges truth in teaching American history

Historian and sociologist James Loewen, author of ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me,” will bring his campaign for truth in American history to Georgia Southern University on Wednesday, September 13, in two separate events.

At 4 p.m. Loewen will offer a workshop titled ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me and How to Do Better” for area history teachers and for Georgia Southern history and education majors in the Assembly Hall of the Nessmith-Lane Building, Chandler Road in Statesboro. At 7 p.m. Loewen will present a public lecture, again located in the Assembly Hall of the Nessmith-Lane Building. Each of his presentations is free and open to the public.

‘James Loewen is one of the first people who spoke out in the 1970s about the lack of drama, interactivity, and accuracy in American history textbooks,” said Sandra Peacock, chair of the history department at Georgia Southern. ‘He’s challenged the way social studies has been taught at the K-12 level for years. How we are taught history as children influences how we look at the past as adults, so it’s important for us as a community and a nation to be more aware of how our history and social studies education is shaped.

‘We’ve invited James Loewen to speak to members of the community, and also to current and future history teachers about how they interpret history for students,” Peacock said. ‘We’d like everyone in the community to have an opportunity to hear him unravel historical fact from fiction.”

Loewen’s most recent book is titled ‘Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism” (New Press, 2005). It tells of the establishment between 1890 and 1968 of thousands of ‘sundown towns” that systematically excluded African-Americans from living within their borders. Located mostly outside the traditional South, these towns did whatever was necessary”legal or illegal”to produce homogeneously Caucasian communities.

Loewen’s campaign for historical truth began in the 1970s when he co-authored an American history textbook titled ‘Mississippi: Conflict and Change.” The book earned the Lillian Smith Award for Best Southern Nonfiction, but was not approved for use in the Mississippi schools on the grounds that it was too controversial and placed too much focus on racial matters. This led to Loewen et al. vs. Turnipseed, an historic First Amendment case in which the U.S. District Court ruled that rejection of the textbook was not based on ‘justifiable grounds” and that the authors were denied their right to free speech and press.

Loewen’s appearance at Georgia Southern is sponsored by the Campus Life Enrichment Committee, the History Department, Department of Teaching and Learning, Georgia Southern Museum, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Georgia Southern University Writing Project, Henderson Library, and the CLASS Dean’s Office. For more information contact the History Department at (912) 681-5586 or visit the Web site at http://class.georgiasouthern.edu/history/.

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