It Matters Who Matters

Vintage history book Cavalcade of America by Carl Carmer

Pictures matter.

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

American Men

“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.

American Men 2

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

Harriet Tubman 20 dollar bill

Harriet Tubman an African American woman who shepherded thousands of slaves to freedom via the underground railroad will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill

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.

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12 comments

  1. Pierre Lagacé

    Right on!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pierre Lagacé

    No pun intended about the “right” in right on…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pierre Lagacé

    Have you ever heard about the “real” Christopher Columbus?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Another interesting read Sally. With the exception of the $5 bill, all of the paper (actually polymer) money in my home country of Australia has a female on one side and a male on the other. (The $5 has the Queen on one side and Parliament House on the other.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post, great blog. I recommend your blog so often to others. Always something good here.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes Sally! Bravo!

    Genocidal Andrew Jackson…

    LOVE IT! Sadly, quite true however. One day (hopefully) America will evolve and mature and catch-up with many other advanced cultures in the world. But dear mercy, we have SO MUCH work to do before we might graduate! Cum Laude or Magna Cum Laude is probably a big stretch, eh? One good place to start would be to re-educate, or re-programme, or re-move (sort of joking; or am I? 😉 ) those who erroneously think ethnicity matters, nationalism matters, wealth matters, only binary genders matter, or race matters… instead of simple human value as a collective brilliant whole.

    Another fine post Sally! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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