Whether an illustration on a book cover or a portrait on money, the images show how we want to remember history
Once upon a time men dominated our national mythology and American history was for white men only.
Take this 60-year-old book entitled Cavalcade of America in which the author Carl Carmer proudly proclaims is a “golden honor role of Americans and their deeds, achievements and contributions.”
But on closer inspection this celebration of great Americans becomes more of a “Where’s Waldo” experience if you are looking for any diversity. How long does it take you to find that lone woman tucked in the sea of white men.
This cavalier approach to equal representation was typical of most mid-century history books.
A Passing Parade of Great Americans
“Here in this passing parade of great Americans,” the reader learns in the introduction, “we have a fascinating new kind of American history told through the stories of the men and women who made it.”
Sounds inclusive. So far so good.
“The strength and greatness of our country stem from our richest resource – the American people themselves,” the book declares proudly.
Continuing in its cold war era bravado it boasts : “Leaders, fighters, teachers, workers, merchants – Free men and women of all trades and professions of all creeds and color – helped America grow, kept our national family one, and indivisible and served to make the U.S.A. the great power of the free world.”
Despite it’s assertion to portray men of vision you have to do a double take to find any women. Blink and you miss the lone Black man.
And this cavalcade’s claim of all creeds and colors is more of a white wash.
The book honors 77 white, Christian men highlighting only 6 women. But the women do better than African-Americans. Booker T. Washington stands alone. Not even a mention of those old Negro standbys like George Washington Carver, and Frederick Douglass.
Genocidal Andrew Jackson gets glorified…American heroine Harriet Tubman, never heard of her.
Luckily, that approach is a thing of the past.
Most contemporary U.S. history books would no longer tell you that it’s because of a few great white men that this country became what it is. They now cite social movements, and cultural upheavals, along with crediting women and African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.
No one would disagree with that.
Matters of Money
So why expect less of our money?
It doesn’t make cents!
Yet whining right-wing pundits who are in a meltdown over the fact of a Harriet Tubman eventually kicking Andrew Jackson to the back of the $20 bill are holding on to dear life to that antiquated notion that white men are the ones who matter and the rest of us are merely a supporting cast. Their perspectives are as dated as that vintage book cover.
Representation matters. Putting people of color and women on money matters.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.