Thirty-eight years ago, I was part of writing Facing History’s first edition of Holocaust and Human Behavior. It was a different time then. Holocaust education was minimal and what was taught tended to focus only on the concentration camps and the victimization of Jews and other “undesirable” groups. Students would often respond with the sentiment of, “What happened was horrible but what has that got to do with me? I can’t change the past.” That’s why I knew Facing History was onto something with Holocaust and Human Behavior all those years ago.
About two years ago, when I began reading draft chapters of Facing History’s new publication on the Reconstruction era in American history, I got to thinking back to how I learned about this period in high school in 1959 and in college, and also how I taught it to my students while teaching high school several years later in 1965.
In both my high school class as student, and later my high school classes as a teacher, I used the same textbook, David Saville Muzzey’s 1937 A History of Our Country, which for decades was the most widely used high school text on American history. Curious about what I learned and how I taught it, I dug out my well-worn copy and looked at how Muzzey wrote about Reconstruction.