Science & Technology

How the Civil War’s losers got to write its history

If history is written by the victors, then post-Civil War America is a rare exception to the rule, argues Chara Bohan.

Last year, Bohan and her collaborators, including doctoral fellow Wade Morris, analyzed history textbooks published in the decades after Reconstruction and found the “Lost Cause narrative,” which advocates a heroic view of the Confederacy, not only predominated in Southern classrooms but crept into history textbooks used across the North as well.

By the 1930s, the so-called “mint julep” portrayals of figures including John Brown, John Wilkes Booth, and Nathan Bedford Forrest had become the national consensus.

This recasting of history carries on today, says Bohan, professor of educational policy studies in the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State University, as publishing companies continue to print different versions of history books to comply with the priorities and educational standards of various states.

Here, Bohan explains her research and the lingering implications of Americans’ miseducation:

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