The “True” American History?

Matthew Teutsch
10 min readSep 24, 2020

Speaking at the White House Conference on American History, Trump stated, “On this very day in 1787, our Founding Fathers signed the Constitution at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It was the fulfillment of a thousand years of Western civilization.” In this statement, and throughout the entire event, speakers railed against the the destruction of the “true” history of America’s founding and growth. They spoke about the radical left rewriting the stories of the Founding Fathers and erasing the history of our past. They invoked writers and activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Frederick Douglass in their argument for American exceptionalism.

In his remarks, Trump even stated, “We embrace the vision of Martin Luther King, where children are not judged on the color of their skin but on the content of their character.” What he left out, of course, were earlier parts of King’s famous 1963 speech where he stated “ that American has defaulted on this promissory note [of equality] so far as her citizens of color are concerned” and “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”

Throughout the conference, the speakers who preceded Trump spoke about figures such as King, Douglass, Jefferson, and more. One pointed out Douglass’ thoughts on the Constitution from his 1852 speech “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” There, Douglass called the Constitution “a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT” as he spoke about those who used it to support slavery. What the speakers did not mention, and which Robert Jackson only mentioned in passing, was Douglass’ scathing critique of America throughout the speech, rhetorically using “you” and “your” throughout to indicate that he was not, as a Black man, considered a citizen.

As well, he spoke about the ways that the church sanctioned slavery. In this manner, he both challenged the history of America and it’s supposed divine blessing and Christian founding. He writes, “But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.