You’re right, but why was that important enough to make your top 3 historical topics every *American* should know?

Most of Cleopatra’s Egyptian subjects weren’t black, either. Ancient Egyptian and Kushite/Nubian art clearly distinguished between brown Egyptians and darker Kushites/Nubians.

I hope your husband, before clarifying that Cleopatra was white, taught his students about the great black Kushite pharaoh Piye, who reunified Egypt after the 3rd Intermediate Period and founded the 25th Dynasty, a rare period of relative peace, prosperity, and effective government in an otherwise grim millennium of decline for ancient Egypt. Piye was probably Egypt’s best ruler between Ramses II and Cleopatra.

It’s important to consider student needs for representation in history. When I taught in a school that was 99% black in the ’90s, I never caught any static for teaching that Cleopatra was white, because I’d already shown my students examples of Egyptian and Nubian people in ancient Egyptian art, and I’d already taught about Piye.

Representing women in history is a similar challenge, but I’ve been pleased to learn that if one cares to look, there are ample legitimate opportunities to represent diversity. Far from distorting history, representing diversity deepens everyone’s historical understanding.

Separation of Church and State *is* in Fact in the Constitution

Literally the first words of the First Amendment are: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In 18th-century parlance, an established church was a state-sponsored church, supported by tax dollars. Thus, an establishment of religion would be a state-sponsored religion. So, even before mentioning “free exercise” of religion (freedom of worship), the Constitution expressly forbade state-sponsored religion. The meaning of this prohibition has evolved significantly over time, and remains a matter of heated debate, but “separation of church and state” remains a defensible and historically appropriate shorthand for the establishment clause.

Ironically, the establishment clause stemmed from a political alliance between 1) Deist intellectuals like Jefferson and Madison, and 2) southern evangelicals who disliked paying taxes for established churches (usually Anglican) they did not attend, and then having to tithe to support the churches they did attend.

The Civil War *Was* Totally All About Slavery for the South

Slavery was the only state right the South cared about.

Rebel Vice-President Alexander Stephens called slavery the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy. He wrote that the “foundations” of the Confederacy were “laid … upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.”

The Mississippi Declaration of Secession added…

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.…

“a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.…

“[The North] denies the right of property in slaves.…

“It refuses the admission of new slave states into the Union.…

“It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law.…

“It advocates negro equality, socially and politically.…

“It has given indubitable evidence of its design to… destroy our social system.

“It has… formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation. …

“Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it.… We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property [slaves] worth four billions of money, or we must secede… to secure this as well as every other species of property.”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote that the Emancipation Proclamation confirmed the “sagacity” of secession.

The South had no consistent position on states’ rights outside of slavery. They condemned northern Federalists for even discussing the possibility of secession during the War of 1812. In the 1850s, they showed no regard for northern states’ rights on questions of slavery and black civil rights.

Written by

History, politics, education, music, culture. Award-winning high school teacher, former principal. College instructor. Seahawks Diehard. Twitter: @brian_mrbmkz

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