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ERIC Number: EJ837178
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Aug
Pages: 16
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Hollywood's Reconstruction and the Persistence of Historical Mythmaking
Briley, Ron
History Teacher, v41 n4 p453-468 Aug 2008
Historiography is often overlooked as a fascinating subject by most contemporary students, whether in the secondary history classroom or undergraduate course. Some sense of the changing historical interpretation of a topic such as Reconstruction may be provided through contrasting passages from a modern history text with earlier editions of books printed before the intellectual impact of the civil rights movement. Such an exercise makes its point, but from the student's perspective it is also somewhat sterile. For, as many teachers lament, students tend to get their history from the silver screen rather than the printed page. In support of this observation, the author suggests history teachers to incorporate Hollywood's Reconstruction into the classroom by contrasting contemporary historical scholarship with the powerful images offered by film texts such as "The Birth of a Nation" or "Gone With the Wind," both of which are readily available in VHs or DVD format for classroom use. Between 1915 and World War II, such seminal films as "The Birth of a Nation" (1915) and "Gone With the Wind" (1939) played a crucial role in formulating popular perceptions and misperceptions of Reconstruction. In Media-Made Dixie, Jack Temple Kirby argued that D. W. Griffith's racist epic "The Birth of a Nation" reflected the historiography of the day as contained in the works of Woodrow Wilson, Walter L. Fleming, and William Dunning. Introducing the historiography of Reconstruction through cinematic primary sources such as the two films should encourage historical thinking in the classroom and meet such history standards as examining continuity and change, understanding multiple points of view, interpreting historical perspectives and evidence, and evaluating historical narratives. (Contains 29 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A