James W. Loewen is the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong (1995) and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong (1999), among other books, and his most recent book, a memoir titled Up a Creek, with a Paddle: Tales of Canoeing and Life (2020). He has been an expert witness or consultant in more than fifty class action lawsuits, mostly in civil rights, voting rights, employment discrimination, and education. His Sundown Towns (2006) tells how thousands of communities in America excluded African, Chinese, Jewish, or Native Americans between 1890 and 1970s, and how some still do. His Teaching What Really Happened (2009) offers specific methods and information to help K-12 U.S. history teachers go beyond the textbook and get their students excited about doing history. He is also the author of The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader (2010) and many Washington Post op-eds, including "Five Myths about Reconstruction." He has received the Spirit of America Award from the National Council for the Social Studies as well as the Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award from the American Sociological Association for his social justice work.
This talk shows how the ideology that the U.S. is different from Europe, somehow fairer, is built into our thinking about the past, from Thanksgiving to the treatment of "social class" in our high school history textbooks. It usually leads to a solid 15-minute Q&A that does not off-put students, even from "the 1%."