Review- Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

I read the 2018 version of this book by James W. Loewen.

Every single page. Well, not all the footnote pages. But the intro and the afterword.

Coming up, I was an American History hater.  Dates, War Generals, Battle of Blah Blah Blah. Slavery. Boring.

Was I really supposed to worship all these old white guys with fake white wigs?

Was I really supposed to idolize General Robert E. Lee like my 8th-grade social studies teacher Ms. Wheeler did?

According to Lies, no. I wasn’t. But little old me, who bought into the falsehoods of white supremacy, had no choice but to sit and suffer day after day in my American History courses in the American south.

This book changed my life. And I wanted so much more of it.

I really took my time with Lies because I wanted to cleanse my properly indoctrinated mind. I wanted to read every page and soak it all in.

With non-fiction titles, I like to skip around, going for the chapters that interest me most. And I was tempted to skip a chapter entitled John Brown and Abraham Lincoln. Like, who is John Brown?

I’d already learned on my own that Abraham Lincoln was a d*ck, even though he signed the infamous Emancipation Proclamation (and as a black person was supposed to be my God second only to Jesus). But John Brown? “Who knows? Who cares?” I thought. Glad I read that chapter because I learned about this badass abolitionist.

Aside from Brown and a brief mention of Nat Turner, I think Lies should have devoted more time to North American slave revolts and the role African Americans played in ending slavery and the construction of modern America. Loewen does admit the book has limitations in regards to the discussion of women and other neglected minority groups. But I think if he took the time to discuss slavery and the creation and development of racism in America, he should have addressed how whites systematically and intentionally destroyed the economic progress of Black Americans during Jim Crow: specifically addressing Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street correctly instead of calling it a black ghetto.

Nonetheless, I think the book’s strongest feature is the way it addresses how Native American society influenced America’s founding and culture. Everything from names of geographical features to our “local cuisine” truly belongs to the Native Americans.

Most interesting thing I learned: [spoiler] Some historians believe that the Lost Colony of Roanoke most likely was absorbed by the local Native American tribe.  In fact, so many colonists during America’s colonial period defected to Native American civilizations that doing so was outlawed. [/spoiler]

I came away feeling that the United States really is an amalgamation of stolen Native American cultures. It felt good to know that truth.

I also enjoyed hearing criticisms about America’s class system and economic system. A topic, as Loewen explains, is neglected in the American History textbook.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It made me aware of a true history of the United States–I always knew what I learned in school was biased, but I never knew a version of the truth. Honestly, this book is just a start. I need a new course in American History after this brief introduction to our society’s universally accepted lies.

4/5 stars

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *