If you’ve followed Knowledge Keepers for any amount of time, you know that we started after a simple google search for historic photos of American inventors. That led down a rabbit trail of learning how biased an internet search can be, and realizing just how atrocious the “history” online is.
Now, I know that history content on the web is sketchy, but it’s gotten worse each year. Take my search for a photo of Robert Carter III.
Labeled for Life
Who’s Robert Carter III? He’s the wealthy Virginia plantation owner in Virginia Tutor: Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian, our latest (to date) Knowledge Keepers title. As I do with all of my history reprints, I seek out up-to-date information on the people and places in the books. I like to add maps, photos, or even info that wasn’t readily available when these old books were first published.
So, I wanted to find a portrait of Robert Carter III, his wife, and maybe their plantation, Nominy Hall. As I suspected, Wikipedia has a page on each of them. But in my search, here’s how it showed up in the results:
Notice the title given to Ann? “American Slaveowner.”
Yes, she and her husband did own slaves. About 500, in fact. But you’d guess by this simple web search that owning slaves was all they were known for.
However, there’s something very interesting that you’d only know if you kept digging for info on the Carters.
Oops, there’s that label again. Sigh.
At least CNN reported on him more fairly:
“It was 230 years ago Sunday that Robert Carter III, the patriarch of one of the wealthiest families in Virginia, quietly walked into a Northumberland County courthouse and delivered an airtight legal document announcing his intention to free, or manumit, more than 500 slaves.
He titled it the “deed of gift.” It was, by far, experts say, the largest liberation of Black people before President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act and Emancipation Proclamation more than seven decades later.“
It is disingenuous to label Robert and Ann with the title “American Slaveowner” when there is a lot more to their history. This is the modern way of marking someone for their wrongs, while ignoring anything they did of worth.
He is quoted as having a religious conversion that prompted him to begin the process of manumission. It took several years, but he set the process in motion to free 452 slaves, and ended up freeing nearly 600.
This info was not even mentioned in the original release of Philip Fithian’s journal, though the first printing was in 1900. Maybe the publisher and editor weren’t aware. Who knows? But it is certainly included in the Knowledge Keepers edition.
But that’s not all. I want to show you how much has changed in history videos on the web.
When I’m reading and proofing one of these old history books, I like to do a lot of research in case there are notes to add (ahem: manumission, anyone?) or terms to clarify. So I perused YouTube for some videos on 18th century life in Virginia. I want you to watch these two videos and tell me if you spot the differences. (Note the date of release for each one.)
Virginia Museum of History and Culture: October 7, 2020
P. Allen Smith: August 11, 2014
Did you notice the bias? Did you notice the vast differences in information?
The Virginia Museum of History and Culture has access to a wealth of artifacts and information. Yet in that short 8 minutes of “Life in Colonial Virginia,” they chose to predominantly focus on the enslaved population of Virginia, even when attempting to focus on the other classes.
The P. Allen Smith video truly focuses on actual “18th Century Living,” which is what most people are expecting when they google “life in 18th century Virginia.”
While slavery was and is an abhorrent practice, it was not the only thing that took place in American history. We want to know about all aspects of life in different time periods, and we want to know the full story.
The examples I shared are illustrative of Critical Race Theory. Those that practice this will say it doesn’t exist. But viewing everything in history through a racial lense is exactly that.
You can Google what happened at a certain time period and get numerous results with varying levels of bias, or you could read books written in that same time period.
That’s what we’re here for: The original writings of ordinary and extraordinary people. The big, the small, the good, the bad, the embarrassing, and the celebratory. Nothing is left out and nothing is revised to make modern readers feel comfy. Just snapshots in time that bring history to life.
We strongly believe that Americans must preserve our history in printed books, in homes across the nation. Internet archives are not sufficient. They are unreliable, and easily revised on a whim. Will you join the home library movement?
Get your copy of Virginia Tutor and read up on life in 18th century Virginia, Robert Carter III, and get all the facts.