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xi Pref­ ace This is a his­ tory of the us­ able past in the post­ war ­ United ­ States. Or ­ rather, it is a col­ lec­ tion of five inter­ re­ lated his­ to­ ries of some­ times con­ flict­ ing, some­ times over­ lap­ ping us­ able pasts. In each story, a par­ tic­ u­ lar group of ­ Americans pur­ ported to teach their ren­ der­ ing of the vital les­ sons of his­ tory to the pub­ lic. The large num­ ber of pop­ u­ lar his­ tor­ i­ cal pro­ duc­ tions in this pe­ riod, the ­ unique ways in which they com­ peted for the ­ public’s at­ ten­ tion, and the range of con­ tem­ po­ rary sub­ jects that they ad­ dressed make ­ in-depth study of the post­ war us­ able pasts crit­ i­ cal. Their sto­ ries also de­ scribe the chal­ lenges faced by var­ i­ ous in­ di­ vid­ u­ als who have nobly at­ tempted to ­ bridge di­ vi­ sions ­ between ac­ a­ demic, pop­ u­ lar, and pub­ lic his­ tory. Some­ what par­ a­ dox­ i­ cally, these con­ structed pasts re­ veal a high de­ gree of con­ sen­ sus as well as sig­ nif­i­ cant ­ cracks in the ­ nation’s pub­ lic, ­ though un­ of­ fi­ cial, his­ tory. On the one hand, post­ war ­ Americans gen­ er­ ally drew upon a ­ broadly­ shared and fa­ mil­ iar her­ i­ tage, a us­ able past that was then re­ inter­ preted to fit par­ tic­ u­ lar agen­ das. On the other, as early as the late 1940s some of the his­ to­ ries ex­ am­ ined in this book came from well be­ yond the lim­ ited, nar­ row main­ stream per­ spec­ tive, and in­ cluded ig­ nored or for­ got­ ten epi­ sodes of black or Na­ tive­ American strug­ gles ­ against white op­ pres­ sion. How­ ever, even when the more ob­ scure counter­ nar­ ra­ tives were ­ brought to main­ stream (white) Amer­ ica’s at­ ten­ tion, they still ­ relied on a basic foun­ da­ tional under­ stand­ ing of the na­ tional past and were ­ rooted in rec­ og­ niz­ able val­ ues and tra­ di­ tions; they just strug­ gled for in­ clu­ sion. The post­ war pasts de­ signed for con­ sump­ tion by the ­ American pub­ lic orig­ i­ nated ­ within one or an­ other com­ mu­ nity of ­ elites who were able, ­ through new and emerg­ ing media, to ef­ fec­ tively dis­ semi­ nate their po­ lit­ i­ cal and his­ tor­ i­ cal inter­ pre­ ta­ tions to a sur­ pris­ ingly large au­ di­ ence. This pub­ lic ap­ par­ ently ac­ cepted the prem­ ise that mass ed­ u­ ca­ tion in his­ tory, how­ ever de­ fined and inter­ preted, was rel­ e­ vant, or even nec­ es­ sary, to any at­ tempt to deal with the is­ sues of the xii E Preface day. These facts make the post­ war re­ la­ tion­ ship ­ between con­ tem­ po­ rary­ Americans and the past very dif­ fer­ ent from that of other pe­ ri­ ods, par­ tic­ u­ larly today. For ex­ am­ ple, through­ out the ­ spring of 2010, the New York Times ran a se­ ries of ar­ ti­ cles about the Texas ­ school ­ board’s re­ view of the ­ state’s pub­ lic ­ school his­ tory cur­ ric­ u­ lum. The Times be­ moaned the con­ ser­ va­ tive tenor of the pro­ posed amend­ ments to ­ American his­ tory text­ books, as well as the ­ decision-making pro­ cess it­ self. The af­ fair mat­ tered be­ cause the im­ por­ tance of the giant Texas mar­ ket el­ e­ vates the sig­ nif­i­ cance of its ­ school ­ board’s ­ choices. The board it­ self was dom­ i­ nated by out­ spoken con­ ser­ va­ tives, none of whom was a his­ to­ rian. Some amend­ ments, like a di­ rec­ tive to em­ pha­ size the lead­ ing ac­ tors in the late­ twentieth-century con­ ser­ va­ tive move­ ment, may make sense historio­ graph­ i­ cally,­ though the Times did not ap­ prove. Oth­ ers, like the era­ sure of ­ Thomas Jef­ fer­ son be­ cause he too ­ clearly ad­ vo­ cated for a sep­ ar­ a­ tion of ­ church and state, ap­ peared in­ de­ fen­ sible. The Times...


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