“A People’s History of the World is an indispensable volume on my reference bookshelf.” — Howard Zinn
Over the course of several months this year, I surveyed four-year college and university History departments at select academic institutions in the fifty United States. To determine whether or not professors thought slavery caused racism or racism caused slavery. I also addressed the same issue by contacting at least one high school History faculty member in each state. The response rate to my email survey was over 50%, indicating a high level of interest and cooperation respecting my single question:
Is it true or false that racism is a byproduct of slavery, rather than the other way around?
Not much wiggle room there, but that was the point. To secure a black and white response, if you will. A reply that even my fudging father couldn’t help but be totally clear with in submitting. Dad — on controversial issues especially — was always at the opposite end of the spectrum from clarity.
I did receive many unsolicited comments along with the simple rock bottom responses requested, and I’ll be glad to share those with readers, upon request. For now, though, let’s consider the meaning of the 359 answers sought and received; 544 were sent out, 444 to institutions of so-called higher education.
All but a baker’s dozen claimed that the question — which I was inspired to ask after reading Chris Harman’s A People’s History of the World — was False.
But it is True.
And another truth to be told is that teachers on all levels must be better students of History, as a rule, if they’re going to prepare youngsters to make a revolutionary difference in this troubled world. The kind that’s now needed.
At present, it would seem, History departments throughout the U.S. are compounding ignorance with ignorance. Making it virtually impossible for Truth to rear its beautiful head. At least on this all-important issue.
I trust that all educators will find the results of this humble survey instructive. And I would welcome any comments that readers want to make, once the implications of this outreach are contemplated leisurely.
Harman’s fascinating documentation seems definitive to me. If it didn’t appear to be so, I wouldn’t have taken the trouble to conduct the survey, or taken the time to write this article.
Truth is… it was an honor to do both.
Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator and activist for over half-a-century. He would be honored to speak gratis at any educational institution which makes a request at email@example.com. The survey was conducted with the help of Rachel Olivia O’ Connor, Valleria Ruselli and Annapurna Tosca Sririmarcel.