Although he is best known for his 1995 book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, author James Loewen’s Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong is another highly-acclaimed book.
In researching both books, Loewen spent countless hours digging, searching, reading and finally finding the truth.
It took Loewen two years to comb through 12 leading American high school history textbooks and begin his book. What he found was something described as “an embarrassing blend of bland optimism, blind nationalism, and plain misinformation.” The works he read – all 888 pages – weighed almost five pounds.
Lies Across America teaches historic marker visitors to read between the lines and deconstruct the sculptures on monuments and memorials. He said, the lies and omissions across the countryside suggest times and ways that the United States went astray as a nation. The book covers more than a hundred historic sites in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In his introduction, Loewen gives the reader a snap shot of some of the absurdity he encountered while researching and writing the book.
“Americans like to remember only the positive things, and communities like to publicize the great things that happened in them. One result is silliness: the first airplane was invented not by the Wright Brothers but by Rev. Burrell Cannon, and the first flight was not in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, but in Pittsburg, Texas. And markers in Brunswick, Georgia and Brunswick County, Virginia battle over where Brunswick stew was born.”
While the only Florida chapter in the book surrounds the missing town of Rosewood, Florida, Clay County may have a marker to offer Loewen if he ever considers a volume two of his book.
On Sept. 30, local history buffs and others turned out for a ceremony to unveil Clay County’s newest historic marker at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church on Fleming Island.
Despite a steady downpour that Saturday morning, the historic church was filled to capacity. During the ceremony, the Clay County Historic Preservation Board walked attendees through the church’s history by having a former docent explain the meanings of the sanctuary’s pristine stained-glass windows.
The event culminated with a rainy unveiling of the classic iron marker that sits just outside the picket fence of the church that was originally built in 1897 in coordination with Episcopal Bishop John F. Young and named after Saint Margaret of Scotland.
Descendants of the Fleming family traveled from as far away as Texas to take part in the festivities.
Within days after the unveiling, the chatter started. It seemed that everyone but us here at the paper knew there was an error on the new shiny object. We quickly learned that contrary to what the sign states, former Florida Governor Francis P. Fleming is not buried in the St. Margaret’s cemetery on Fleming Island. A Google search could have avoided the $1,900 error, the cost of an historical marker with the same text printed on both sides, according to the Florida Division of Historical Resources. Gov. Fleming is buried in the Jacksonville Old City Cemetery at the immediate right of the main entrance.
However, all hope is not lost.
Two months and a week later, we’ve learned there is good news. Clay Today was able to confirm today for the first time that a fix is in the works. An official with the state historical archives said he is working with Clay County officials to correct the error that his department spokeswoman originally said did not exist.
So, at least for now, Loewen can be held at bay.