History Lesson: A Race Odyssey / Edition 1

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Overview

In the early 1990s, Classics professor Mary Lefkowitz discovered that one of her faculty colleagues at Wellesley College was teaching his students that Greek culture had been stolen from Africa and that Jews were responsible for the slave trade. This book tells the disturbing story of what happened when she spoke out.

Lefkowitz quickly learned that to investigate the origin and meaning of myths composed by people who have for centuries been dead and buried is one thing, but it is quite another to critique myths that living people take very seriously. She also found that many in academia were reluctant to challenge the fashionable idea that truth is merely a form of opinion. For her insistent defense of obvious truths about the Greeks and the Jews, Lefkowitz was embroiled in turmoil for a decade. She faced institutional indifference, angry colleagues, reverse racism, anti-Semitism, and even a lawsuit intended to silence her.

In History Lesson Lefkowitz describes what it was like to experience directly the power of both postmodernism and compensatory politics. She offers personal insights into important issues of academic values and political correctness, and she suggests practical solutions for the divisive and painful problems that arise when a political agenda takes precedence over objective scholarship. Her forthright tale uncovers surprising features in the landscape of higher education and an unexpected need for courage from those who venture there.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

"A clear-eyed look at the perils—and promise—of contemporary academic life."—Booklist
Boston Sunday Globe

"[Lefkowitz''s] account asks—and answers—provocative questions about the limits of [academic] freedom and about what scholars owe to their disciplines, their students and their colleagues."—Amanda Heller, Boston Sunday Globe

— Amanda Heller

The Weekly Standard

"Lefkowitz''s painful struggle and ultimate victory are edifying—and, perhaps, a hopeful sign for higher education."—Robert Whitcomb, The Weekly Standard

— Robert Whitcomb

Wall Street Journal

"[Mary Lefkowitz] has advanced the intellectual case against Afrocentrism before, in Not Out of Africa; here she takes a more personal approach, at one point mentioning the strain of the controversy as she battled breast cancer."—John Leo, Wall Street Journal

— John Leo

Greek America Magazine

"[Lefkowitz'] forthright tale uncovers surprising features in the landscape of higher education and an unexpected need for courage from those who venture there."—Greek America Magazine

National Jewish Post & Opinion

"[Lefkowitz] is a courageous woman who deserves commendation for instructing us that academic freedom is not a license to tell lies in the classroom."—Morton I. Teicher, National Jewish Post & Opinion

— Morton I. Teicher

Moment Magazine

"This short but important book is the personal account of an acrid controversy that erupted at Wellesley College during the culture wars of the early and mid-1990s. . . . [Lefkowitz] recounts her ''cautionary tale'' in lucid and riveting detail."—Leo Goldberger, Moment Magazine

— Leo Goldberger

Choice

"Highly recommended."—Choice

Martha Nussbaum

"Lefkowitz makes a passionate and well-reasoned case for the importance of traditional virtues in the writing of history: close attention to evidence, clear argument, the refusal to substitute wish for reality. She also discusses with some subtlety the vexed issue of civility on campus."—Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago

Boston Sunday Globe - Amanda Heller

"[Lefkowitz's] account asks—and answers—provocative questions about the limits of [academic] freedom and about what scholars owe to their disciplines, their students and their colleagues."—Amanda Heller, Boston Sunday Globe
The Weekly Standard - Robert Whitcomb

"Lefkowitz's painful struggle and ultimate victory are edifying—and, perhaps, a hopeful sign for higher education."—Robert Whitcomb, The Weekly Standard
Wall Street Journal - John Leo

"[Mary Lefkowitz] has advanced the intellectual case against Afrocentrism before, in Not Out of Africa; here she takes a more personal approach, at one point mentioning the strain of the controversy as she battled breast cancer."—John Leo, Wall Street Journal

National Jewish Post & Opinion - Morton I. Teicher

"[Lefkowitz] is a courageous woman who deserves commendation for instructing us that academic freedom is not a license to tell lies in the classroom."—Morton I. Teicher, National Jewish Post & Opinion
Moment Magazine - Leo Goldberger

"This short but important book is the personal account of an acrid controversy that erupted at Wellesley College during the culture wars of the early and mid-1990s. . . . [Lefkowitz] recounts her 'cautionary tale' in lucid and riveting detail."—Leo Goldberger, Moment Magazine
Choice

"Highly recommended."—Choice

Booklist

"A clear-eyed look at the perils—and promise—of contemporary academic life."—Booklist

Greek America Magazine

"[Lefkowitz''] forthright tale uncovers surprising features in the landscape of higher education and an unexpected need for courage from those who venture there."—Greek America Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300126594
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Lefkowitz is Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Emerita, Wellesley College. She has published many books on classical culture, including Greek Gods, Human Lives (published by Yale University Press) and Not Out of Africa. In 2006 she was awarded a National Humanities Medal for outstanding excellence in teaching and scholarship and for championing high standards and integrity in the study of Ancient Greece and its relevance to contemporary thought. She lives in Wellesley, MA.

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Table of Contents

Introduction     1
A Racist Incident?     15
Discovering Afrocentrism     26
Two Views of Ancient History     45
Turning Myths into History     58
A New Anti-Semitism     82
Truth or Slander?     95
Reparations?     105
A Racist Polemic?     115
Turning History into Fiction     131
Epilogue     148
Notes     161
Acknowledgments     189
Index     191
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