Herbert Aptheker, professor of History at Bryn Mawr, said last night that American historiography was "predominantly racist."
Aptheker--who spoke to a receptive crowd of 150 people in Boylston Hall--said last night that the great majority of books on American history published over the past 200 years had little or no emphasis on the lives of black people.
What little there has been written about blacks and oppression. Aptheker said, "has been written mostly from the perspectives of white scholars and slaveholders." Aptheker cited the recent works of Frank Freidel, professor of History, and Oscar Handlin, Warren Professor of American History, as examples of efforts which underplayed the role of black Americans.
"In a book Friedel edited. Builders of American Institutions Readings in American History, there is nothing about the efforts of black people in the entire 600,000 words of text," Aptheker said.
Aptheker urged that black scholars re-evaluate "the classical areas of American history such as the New Deal, the Square Deal and the New Freedom."
"Because of their oppression, blacks have a more just and truer vantage point" of history, Aptheker said.
Aptheker said that it was crucial that black scholars help people recognize that "historiography which did not deal with the mutual interaction of whites and blacks was racist." He said that the history of the Afro-American peoples demonstrates "that it is a myth that America is a land of social placidity as a number of scholars have said."
The ideology which many white historians perpetrate--that blacks were happy with their low social status--Aptheker said, serves "as the fabric of ruling class domination."
"There can be no possible social progress unless the reality of black oppression is recognized. The future of American society is at stake." Aptheker said.