All in all, I found Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lecture to be incredibly interesting. He was certainly an engaging speaker and brought up a lot of points that I had not previously thought about. For instance, he discussed the fact that on one hand, his education celebrated black historical figures in an effort to instill pride in the black student body at his school. Yet on the other hand, Coates mentions that he never really learned about the Civil War when he was a student. This is a glaring omission. As he said, race was very much a part of the Civil War, and this cannot be ignored. I agree with his cry to change the American Education System, so that the Civil War is not considered a battle over states’ rights. I found Coates’ observation particularly interesting because in one of the summer programs for which I worked, the Civil War was covered extensively. A program for international students, our class studied the Civil War and Civil Rights Issues because these types of topics were not as well-known to the students. I enjoyed re-learning about the Civil War, but I felt at points it rang a little false. We watched quite a few films discussing the “righteous North” vs. the “sinful South,” ignoring the fact that many Northerners were not as passionate about abolition as history would like to believe. I think this goes right back to Coates’ argument that American schools need to tell the truth in their history lessons. Just as he said at the end of the lecture, part of being patriotic is being truthful about your country and being aware of both the good and the bad. I think this is something that schools definitely need to take into account, but like Coates, I do not see this change happening anytime soon.


1 Comment so far

  1.    Claire Bowen on February 20, 2013 7:52 pm

    Taylor, that’s a great connection to your pedagogical work in the summer program for international students. Beyond that, I share your sense that Coates’s reflection on how he was taught black history–both formally in school and informally in his book-filled home–was particularly surprising and riveting. He expressed a real sympathy for his dad and his teachers (as he put it, they were doing the best they could) and yet also, clearly, felt the need to historicize the concept of “black history” itself. All histories, it seems, are plagued by omissions.

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