The 14,000 members of this Association, however, know that revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship.
History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past.
Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time.
There is no single, eternal, and immutable “truth” about past events and their meaning.
The unending quest of historians for understanding the past—that is, “revisionism”—is what makes history vital and meaningful. Without revisionism, we might be stuck with the images of Reconstruction after the American Civil War that were conveyed by D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and Claude Bowers’s The Tragic Era. Were the Gilded Age entrepreneurs “Captains of Industry” or “Robber Barons”?
Without revisionist historians who have done research in new sources and asked new and nuanced questions, we would remain mired in one or another of these stereotypes.
Ukraine, a far away country of which we know almost nothing about.
History seems to repeat himself. According to Marx the first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce. Lets hope he was right.
Cenni di Francesco di Ser Cenni
Polyptych with Coronation of the Virgin and Saints
Italy (c. 1390s)
Tempera and Gold Leaf on Panel, 355.6 x 233 cm.
I’d like to take a moment to point out the diversity of skin tones depicted in this Italian work, which falls into the 14th century era of “stutter” before Italian Renaissance. This was made in Florence during a time when the city was in a a state of crisis and change.
Although it makes some White Italian people angry that I include works like these here , my point is that that has no effect on the way that these paintings are taught or included in American educational materials.
One more time: racial categories in modern Italy have no effect on how Medieval and Renaissance Italian Art is included (or omitted) from American curricula.
I think it’s important to note that some of these figures are obviously meant to have brown skin, while others have pink or white skin. Many of the dark-skinned figures in various paintings from European history are “explained” as being due to candle or wood smoke, aging pigments, “restorations gone wrong”, dirt, or some other suggested besmirching of their original and assumed to be white-skinned state.
The problem is twofold: firstly, that a dark skin color is felt to need an “explanation”; secondly, that this only seems to apply to skin/faces, and in many cases, only to some of the figures’ skin/faces. Often, other figures in the same work will have noticeable lighter or darker skin. Many images claimed to have been darkened by age or smoke include lighter portions of the same image that have not been affected, like cloth or backgrounds.
In this image, most of the aging appears to have affected the darkest shadows: it’s faded some of them to a slightly lighter grey in some places. If you look at the enormous image of this entire artwork available for free download at the Getty Museum’s website, you can see that both the lighter and darker skinned figures are affected more or less the same. Now, since we’re analyzing a photograph of an image instead of having the actual painting in front of us, it’s possible this is an effect of the photography, but it is more noticeable in the midtones of the lighter-skinned figures, and in some portions of white cloth.
Discussing race in America has always been the equivalent of shaking a bag of gunpowder and fire separated by a sheet of paper, as evidenced in popular American schlock media, a la the “Sicilian Scene” in the craptacular film True Romance.
The fact is, this is an Italian work in an American museum (specifically in Los Angeles), and I really do wonder how Americans have been conditioned to view a work like this. Plenty of young people I’m sure have viewed this painting on field trips in high school, college, and perhaps even grade school. Considering it’s a free high quality image of an important historical piece of Italian art, I imagine it’s often used by many instructors in their educational materials.
How does this piece function in American society? That’s what I wonder.
Jesse Williams On The Importance Of History
Host: What, in your opinion, are some ways that we can keep students interested in this country’s history?
Jesse Williams: First off, probably by teaching it. We don’t teach history in this country, at all. We don’t teach global history. We teach a little bit of Anglo-American history. We teach who the heroes are, we teach the bullet points. I think to speak on kind of a thread that we’ve had going in terms of African American involvement, here, and just in general, we spend the first twelve years of our school life, particularly in inner-city, low income communities and school systems learning nothing about ourselves and if you’re lucky enough to go to college or something, then maybe you’ll take some cute African-American studies classes in college or something.
It is an incredibly competitive world, it is hard for people to figure out what they wanna do in their life, and what they’re interested in and where they stand. Are they a global citizen? Have they contributed to this planet? Have they contributed to their country? And you can’t know that without knowing where you came from, and it’s very difficult as a student in school, a student of color to deal with that dichotomy; trying to juxtapose white heroes who have their boot on your neck. That is something to balance, and we can hide from it and only teach one half of it, that is a disservice to everybody that’s involved.
So once we start teaching the truth, and what actually happened, and let us just decide how we feel about it, instead of forcing it down people’s throat as to who’s heroes and who’s not, that’s not really relevant. What happened happened, let’s learn about it and that’s what made this country what it is.
So, as somebody who was the product of a pretty crappy school system myself for a portion of my life, and really enjoys being in the classroom, and who was a teacher; there’s nothing more important, I think, than education, and particularly for people of color in this country, learning their actual history and the contributions they’ve made to all of this society. And not just physical labor, cause that’s not even an eighth of it, and that goes beyond this country, but also Africa and the rest of the world.
So I think this an important stepping stone, to get people involved; to see that you can express yourself, you can put yourself at risk, you can expose yourself, you can feel vulnerable, you can feel guilty, you can feel embarrassed, you can feel furious. And you’re entitled to all of those things. So hopefully we can contribute to that in some form.
Genuine brilliance and perspective. I appreciate him.
Jesse Williams and others in period costumes.
The 30,000-Year-Old Cave That Descends Into Hell
There’s a cave in France where no humans have been in 26,000 years. The walls are full of fantastic, perfectly-preserved paintings of animals, ending in a chamber full of monsters 1312-feet underground, where CO2 and radon gas concentrations provoke hallucinations.
It’s called the the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, a really weird and mysterious place. The walls contain hundreds of animals—like the typical Paleolithic horses and bisons—but some of them are not supposed to be there, like lions, panthers, rhinos and hyenas.
A few are not even supposed to exist, like weird butterflyish animals or chimerical figures half bison half woman. These may be linked to the hallucinations. The trip is such that some archeologists think that it had a ritual nature, with people transcending into a new state as they descended into the final room.
In fact, the paintings themselves are of such sophistication—some even have three-dimensional relief—that is hard to believe they were made back then. However, radiocarbon dating shows that these paintings are indeed prehistoric: A group was made around 27,000-26,000 years ago and the other at 32,000-30,000 years ago.
The all-white reinvention of Medieval Europe commonly depicted in popular fiction, films, tv shows and art is entirely that: a fiction. An invention. An erasure. Obviously, people of color have been an essential and integral part of European life, European art, and European literary imagination since time immemorial. To cite “historical accuracy” as a means to project whitewashed images of the past into the future to maintain a fiction of white supremacy is an unconscionable farce.
People of Color are not an anachronism.
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World