My Plea for Humanist History
I write this with some urgency. I had immersed myself in some controversial local history in my history column in the Citizen-Times, Oct. 10, got a critical response, and took the opportunity in today's column, for the first time, to explain why I feel a humanist approach to history is so important. (See links below.)
I had titled my column, “Why I write about Gov. Aycock the way I do.” The newspaper changed the headline to: “Asheville history columnist Rob Neufeld on whether Gov. Charles Aycock was a racist” in the online edition; and, in the print edition, “Aycock’s race beliefs: Deeply held or just politics?”
The headliner got it wrong in both instances. Gov. Aycock was a racist, as defined by his central participation in the 1898 and 1900 Democratic Party campaigns, which inflamed race hatred. I am not taking sides on that. What I am doing is putting the contradiction between his progressivism and white supremacy beliefs in the context of his times and his life. There is a lot more to his story--and it is very interesting!
The humanities instruct us to understand human actions by putting ourselves in the skin of those whom we study. In this way, we understand why people like us might go wrong rather than why people who are no way like us are worthy of condemnation. This is something deeper than politics. I’m not telling you how I vote, but rather how we all might create a good society through understanding and communication.
Please help champion the humanities cause. There is nothing I feel more strongly about in my profession. Write the Citizen-Times. Contact me about your interests.
See the original article, the response, documentation, and my statement of purpose here.
See the Citizen-Times posting of my most recent article, and a good response from “Bettyinbuncombe.” Many thanks!/Rob