The quote from George Orwell’s novel 1984, “who controls the present controls the past” is unfortunately especially poignant under the Trump administration. The threats posed to education and Americans’ understanding of their own history, thanks to his endorsement of “alternative facts,” have already received widespread attention. Indeed, journalist David Graham astutely states that, “when presidents play historian, it almost always says more about them than it does with history.”
Trump’s relationship to the historic site at Beauvoir illustrates the need for historians to increase their public history outreach. Even prior to his presidency, Trump’s endorsement of historical figures prominent in American history has consistently reflected either an ignorance of the facts or a historiographical interpretation that is no longer taught at mainstream universities. Take, for instance, his interest in donating money to help renovate Beauvoir. Beauvoir, the home and presidential library where ex-president of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis retired, is near Biloxi. This coastal region of Mississippi, and Beauvoir specifically, were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. To the credit of the Mississippi locals, they have rebuilt this stunning coastal area. Beauvoir possesses beautifully well-kept grounds, the historic house has been exquisitely restored whilst being surrounded by washed up oyster shells, and the museum stands as an imposing building in the Greek revival style.
The entire article can be viewed on the Journal of the Civil War Era Muster blog.