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New organization aims to promote 'honest' Texas history

The layout of the Alamo diorama is narrated by singer and Alamo collector Phil Collins
Brian Kirkpatrick
/
TPR
The layout of the Alamo diorama is narrated by singer and Alamo collector Phil Collins

The stated goals of the Alliance for Texas History, a new historical association, are to focus on a 21st century approach for historical analysis, dialogue, and perspective of Texas history. The new organization is holding its first conference later this month.

TPR's Jerry Clayton spoke with Greg Cantrell, interim president of the new group.

Clayton: Talk to me about how accurate the Texas history is that's taught to our high schoolers and college students in 2024.

Cantrell: Well, I think that it varies a lot. I mean, it really depends on who the teacher is. Anyone who's had a history class at some level of school knows that there are wonderful teachers and there are not so wonderful teachers.

I spent a good bit of my time interacting with public school teachers who teach Texas history, and some of them are absolutely outstanding. We hear some of the horror stories about the teachers who are not well prepared. I know those are out there, too. As long as there are some of those out there, then, the job of professional historians is never done because we want all of them to be great teachers.

Clayton: On your website, you explain the Alliance's commitment to the discussion of "honest" history in Texas. Can you explain what you mean by "honest" history?

Cantrell: When it comes to scholarly research, we believe it needs to be supported by factual sources, documented with footnotes that can be examined by others and open to discussion and dialogue. And this shouldn't be controversial, in theory. It's the way the profession of history works.

But in practice, a lot of what passes for Texas history has often relied on a very selective reading of the evidence. So, we want to make sure that the Texas history that we put out does not rely on that selective reading of the evidence, and that it is very, very much grounded in in the facts.

Clayton: You've got a conference coming up on April 26 and 27. What are you hoping to achieve with this very first conference?

Cantrell: We thought that this was a good time for Texas historians to gather together and sort of take stock of where the field of Texas history has been, where it is today, and where it's headed. So, we hope that our symposium will do that.

It's also a great opportunity for Texas historians to find out more about what others are working on, and especially for graduate students and younger scholars, to see where the field is headed and get ideas for future research projects and learn about new approaches.

[It's also] for the leaders of the Alliance to listen to what our members are wanting from the new organization.

Clayton: What do you say to academics who are writing papers or book reviews that they want to publish, and might not feel comfortable now with the Texas State Historical Association? Can they submit those to your organization?

Cantrell: Well, let me begin by saying we do not see ourselves as a competitor or an alternative to the venerable TSHA, of which I am a former president.

However, we are making plans to launch our own journal, which will include peer reviewed articles and book reviews. We've only been public for a month this week. So we are a work in progress, so we don't have a timeline for the appearance of the first issue of our journal, but I certainly hope that it will be within the coming year.

I hope that within the next two or three months, we may be in a position to announce the new journal and to begin accepting submissions.

To learn more about membership, visit the Alliance website.

Copyright 2024 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Jerry Clayton