The Popular Myths of American History
Organized by Professors Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer, this two-day conference will explore some of the most misleading popular myths of American history.
Over the past decade, the new media echo-system has given rise to a series of false narratives about our nation’s past that have increasingly become part of mainstream political debates. Unfortunately, given the structure of television and online news, as well as social media, it has become relatively easy for these basic misconceptions about American history to spread and seep into the public conversation. Some of the most familiar of these myths include: Republicans have consistently been the party of civil rights and Democrats the party of racism; the New Deal and the Great Society did not work; deficits and debt tend to rise more under Democratic rather than Republican administrations; both parties have moved to the extremes in identical ways since the 1970s; international alliances have not served American interests; the founding fathers believed that impeachment had to be bipartisan; white extremist organizations are a recent phenomenon; voting fraud has long been a pervasive problem, and much more.
This conference will bring together some of the nation’s most talented historians—who have also emerged as “public intellectuals” and have been particularly active in engaging these debates
through various social media, such as Twitter. Each historian will tackle one of these myths, producing 6,000-word essays that offer an accurate, grounded account of the issue. Most of these historians have written thoughtful social media threads about these issues. This will offer them an opportunity to produce full, chapter-length pieces on the subjects.
This conference will include pre-circulated papers, which will be turned into an edited book to be published with a trade or academic press.