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History Is Often What We Choose To Remember

Professor David Glassberg of UMass-Amherst explored truth and perceptions of American history at a seminar yesterday at the Framingham History Center.

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, it can also be used to sway the hearts and minds of a nation.

It is in how we remember and interpret those images that give us a sense of place and self. Yet we must remember how those historical flashbacks can, and often are, manipulated for various political persuasions.

According to David Glassberg, professor of history at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and author of Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life, we are a nation of dichotomies and contradictions when it comes to remembering historical events.

Such was the premise before about 65 people who attended a presentation on "Collective Memory and Community Engagement," by Glassberg at the , sponsored by the nonprofit yesterday afternoon.

Glassberg said he views these types of presentations are part of his job in educating the public and being an ambassador for the University of Massachusetts.

"Before I arrived at UMass in 1986, I used to work for the National Park Service, so I've always had an interest in engaging people outside of the classroom."

Depending on the juxtaposition of image, patriotic fervor, just cause and reality, we are drawn to think in one direction, i.e., "All men are created equal," yet the Founding Fathers condoned, practiced and wrote into law their intended injustices aimed directly at non-Anglos.

For instance, George Washington knew the rules very well. In his second home in Philadelphia, Glassberg said Washington had kept African-American slaves in his house and rotated them between his home in Virginia. His reason for rotating the servants was simple. If a slave resided in Pennsylvania for more than 60 days, he or she could seek to be released from the service of their owner. So Washington regularly shipped them back and forth between states to ensure they never reached that 60th day in his house, which was literally steps away from the Liberty Bell.

We tend to forget these caveats when, for example, we see the famous painting depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Both versions are part of United States history. Yet one story tends to make it on the pages of the books we read in elementary school, and we believe that to be history and true.

Glassberg says we go down a similar path when we memorialize the accomplishments of people or events in statues on our town commons or near government buildings. It is the concept of nobility, good vs. evil, that evokes a reaction when we "Remember the Alamo" or "Custer's Last Stand."

Yet we forget that Texas squatters were trespassing in Mexican territory in modern day San Antonio, driven by the God-granted Manifest Destiny that had no boundaries. And for decades, we forgot about the Native Americans who defended their own homeland at the Little Big Horn.

Glassberg also noted the importance of local history. In Framingham, the founding and subsequent demolition of Shoppers World connected generations with family traditions or annual events. Everyone experienced it.

Now that it's gone, there is likely a fond remembrance paired with a chasm of community of what was then vs. what is now.

Glassberg said a similar sense of losing identity occurs in other communities.

Forty and 50 years ago, Cape Cod communities such as Wellfleet and Truro were united by a central meeting place, a post office, general store or coffee shop.

For Wellfleet, once the post office was moved to the outskirts of town, people didn't congregate in the center any longer. They lost their motive to meet as neighbors and drifted apart.

New construction brought new neighbors and pretty soon the older generation didn't recognize their own town.

Many decided to sell and move. It didn't make sense to earn $20,000 a year and live in a house valued at $2 million.

Yesterday's presentation was the first in a series of four that will explore memory from the perspective of science, psychology, art and history, sponsored by the Framingham History Center.

Subsequent events will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 8 (The New Frontier of Slowing Brain Aging: Preventing Dementia by Dr. Dudha Seshadri); 7 p.m. Nov. 17 (The Seven Sins of Memory by Daniel Schacter) and 2 p.m. Jan. 22, 2012 (Making History/Making Place: New England's Search for a Usable Past by Bill Hosley).

For more information about these events, please e-mail info@framinghamhistory.org.

Jim Rizoli March 28, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Jim Rizoli from CCFIILE.COM said....Good points brought out here...But history is often written by the victors and when you read their viewpoint of it things it really get clouded of what is reality and fact. History should always be challenged and their should NOT be ANY historical event that can't be examined. I'm considered a Revisionist which basically looks into those topics that have been excluded from full disclosure. In approx 15 countries you can go to jail for even bringing up the Holocaust in conversation. Why is that? If a historical subject is being presented as happening a certain way why would people be jailed for bringing up any deviations from the "official" story? My cable show was subsequently taken off the air because I challenged the "official" story?? Why? I've even offered those in the town to debate me and haven't gotten back one response, why is that? Apparently there are some subjects that are NOT debatable to some people. So Mr Glassberg, please go to my website and show me where I'm wrong in even bringing the matter up. I have presented many views with lots of links that aren't available in the schools, colleges , and media in general. I will not debate the topic here because people will not be able to discuss the matter in a calm and reasonable way. But I do ask one thing from all of you who dare to consider the topic....Look over my information first and then come to me with your questions. Not an unreasonable request.
John Pearson March 28, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Of all the thousands of famous and infamous events in world history, why do you choose to re-examine the holocaust? Have you also re-examined the genocide in Rwanda? How about the atrocities under the Khmer Rouge? Are you just trying to stir the pot and create controversy? Is it the same reason you rebroadcast propoganda from David Duke, former Grand WIzard of the KKK? It's fine to seek the truth in things, as Professor Glassberg says. It can show you sides to things you never realized before. But you need to do so with tact. Otherwise people might get the idea that you just like to see your name in the paper.
Joe Rizoli March 28, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Joe Rizoli CCFIILE.com states: This comment: >>yet the Founding Fathers condoned, practiced and wrote into law their intended injustices aimed directly at non-Anglos.<< The way things are heading now in our town, State and America, is the NON-Anglos are influencing LAW that will eventually bring INJUSTICE to ANGLOS. The Secure Communities meeting at MAS BAY proved beyond a shadow of a doubt the power of the NON-ANGLOS at trying to influence new LAWS to accept the notion that we don't need to deport criminal Illegal aliens. MORE PRO illegal alien supporters and even ILLEGALS themselves were at that meeting than our Citizen ANGLOS. Discussion about that meeting was here: http://tinyurl.com/4jdjcsd Joe Rizoli CCFIILE.com
Joe Rizoli March 28, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Joe Rizoli states CCFIILE.com This comment by John Pearson: >>It's fine to seek the truth in things, as Professor Glassberg says. It can show you sides to things you never realized before.<< You hit the nail on the head here John. In my research on that particular topic that Jim mentions and my 15 years of reading and research I would say we all have been sold a bill of bad goods. WE have "realized things you never realized before" Those "things" we have a GOD GIVEN right and a CONSTITUTIONAL right to talk about. If you are going to build holocaust museums in my country I have a RIGHT to question YOUR HISTORICAL perspective and ask questions without being ridiculed, slandered, defamed or fired from my job with help from the ADL and other SINISTER ANTI-CHRISTIAN ANTI- AMERICAN organizations promoting reverse hate. If you can question the existence of God, the Bible and still remain without being ostracized then you can certainly examine the Holocaust, US history, our governments role in un just wars and what ever else you want to talk about. Apparently John, with the Holocaust, you have chosen THAT topic off limits because your agenda is either plain laziness or you want to keep the fables of that era and specifics of that event hidden, because exposing certain falsehoods about that event, may bring embarrassment. Joe Rizoli CCFIILE.com see "holocaust links" Apparently John can't dispute this information here so he closes debate. CCFIILE ( @) gmail.com

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