Chapter 1

Handicapped By History-The Process of Hero-making

"One is astonished in the study of history at the recurrence of the idea that evil must be forgotten, distorted, or skimmed over. We must not remember that Daniel Webster got drunk but only remember that he was a splendid constitutional lawyer. We must forget that George Washington was a slave owner...and simply remember the things we regard as creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course, with this philosophy is that history loses its value as an incentive and example; it paints perfect men and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth." -W.E.B. Dubois

-Who are some of your heroes?

-What qualities define a hero?

-How might heroes be flawed to an extent?

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Some questions to consider as you read this chapter are:

1. Why does it appear there are certain, prescribed ways of remembering notable figures in history?

2. What all do you think Americans have missed out on as a result of "protecting" figures of the past?

3. Why are we so afraid of seeing the imperfections of history and society?

This chapter essentially focuses on heroification, basically a process that transforms people into heroes. It mainly discusses what actually occurred in the lives of Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson.


1. Who do you think Helen Keller was?

2. What are the things you remember most about her?

3. Where did your information come from?

Check out this link for more information about Helen Keller

Consider the following statements made by Helen Keller, "People do not like to think. If one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant."

-To what extent do you agree/disagree with Keller's statements?

-Is a statement such as this relevant nearly seventy years later? How?

-Why do we tend to shy away from real intellectual controversy?


1. What do you know about Woodrow Wilson?

2. What source did your information come from?

Check out this link for more information about Woodrow Wilson.

After reading this chapter, what are your thoughts regarding this brief video?