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ERIC Number: EJ794347
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-May
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0031-7217
Who Is a Famous American? Charting Historical Memory across the Generations
Wineburg, Sam; Monte-Sano, Chauncey
Phi Delta Kappan, v89 n9 p643-648 May 2008
This article presents a survey designed to investigate what young people know about history. The survey was administered to 2,000 high school juniors and seniors across all 50 states. The students were asked to "jot down the names of the most famous Americans in history," with the caveat that they could not include U.S. Presidents or First Ladies. Of the thousands of figures whom students listed on their questionnaires, only five names appeared on a quarter of all lists. The top three were all African Americans: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. Students' geographic region had almost no influence on their responses, while gender played a somewhat larger role. It was discovered that the most pronounced differences in students' responses were between races--particularly between African American and white students. Whereas black students' top 10 consisted of nine black figures and one white, white students' top 10 included six whites and four blacks. Results show, however, that the extent to which all Americans now place Black Americans at the top of their lists is a finding few would have predicted. Results suggest that those who fretted that opening up the canon to women and minorities would be the downfall of national historical culture were certainly off the mark. (Contains 1 table, 1 figure, and 21 notes.)
Phi Delta Kappa International. 408 North Union Street, P.O. Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-1789. Tel: 800-766-1156; Fax: 812-339-0018; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A