History is usually defined as a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes. Sometimes the interpretation of history along with its presentation can cause some problems. There’s a local kerfuffle over “Walking Tours of Civil War Boston’’ – the recently published guidebook whose intent is to highlight Boston’s role in the lead-up to the Civil War.
Marty Blatt, chief of cultural resources at Boston National Historical Park – who spent some time here as historian for the Lowell National Historical Park – is critical of the publication noting:
“I think that the publication . . . is diminished and deficient for including only a glancing reference to the Black Heritage Trail and no reference to several specialized tours that have been done by the Boston African American National Historic Site for years.”
There’s also a concern about the cover of the publication which the Park Ranger who conducts the Black Heritage Trail tours, says is misleading because it suggests that whites and blacks fought side by side during the war. The 54th Regiment was an all-black unit led by a white officer. “It’s a disservice to history that people knowingly portray it incorrectly,’’ Bakara said. “Instead of making up fairy tales, they should tell the real story.’’
Other historians who reviewed the guidebook pre-publiciation found no fault or had a diiferent interpretation of the cover and the text. It reminds me that there is whole library of books on the Civil War – over 70,000 with at least one new one published every day. Then there are the countless other manuscripts, guidebooks, pamphlets, brochures, exhibits and commentaries commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Imagine vetting this collection of interpretations of the Civil War!