Nash, Gary B. 1933-
NASH, Gary B. 1933-
PERSONAL: Born July 27, 1933, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Ralph C. and Edith (Baring) Nash; married Mary Workum, December 20, 1955 (divorced); children: Brooke, Robin, Jennifer, David. Education: Princeton University, B.A., 1955, Ph.D., 1964.
ADDRESSES: Home—16174 Alcima Ave., Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. Office—Department of History, University of California, Box 951473, 6265 Bunche Hall, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, assistant professor of history, 1964-66; University of California, Los Angeles, associate professor, 1968-72, professor of history, beginning 1972, became professor emeritus, director of National Center for History in the Schools, 1994—, also served as dean of under-graduate and inter-college curricular development and of council on educational development. Guest historian, Historical Society of Pennsylvania permanent exhibit, 1989-97; founding member and member of board of trustees, National Council for History Education, beginning 1990, vice chair, 1992-96; primary history consultant, Schlessinger Production series in United States history, 1996-97; historical consultant and writer for "Lights of Liberty" tour, Philadelphia, PA, 1999—; supervisor of history curriculum for online education service EduLink, Inc., 2000—. Has served on numerous prize and nominating committees, as well as faculty advisory committees. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1955-58; became lieutenant junior grade.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, Society of American Historians, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Antiquarian Society, Organization of American Historians (president, 1994-95).
AWARDS, HONORS: Guggenheim fellow, 1969-70; best book prize, Society for the History of the Early American Republic, 1989, for Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720-1840; Distinguished Award in Research and Teaching, University of California, 1996, for history; prize for best book in American history, American Historical Association (Pacific Coast Branch), for Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726; Pulitzer Prize finalist and Silver Prize in Literature from the Commonwealth Club of California, both for The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness and the Origins of the American Revolution; Defense of Academic Freedom Award, National Council for Social Studies; has also received research grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, and the University of California Institute of Humanities.
Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1968, new edition, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1993.
Class and Society in Early America, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1970.
Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early America, Princeton-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1974, 4th edition, 2000.
The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins and the American Revolution, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1979, abridged edition published as The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution, 1986.
Race, Class, and Politics: Essays on American Colonial and Revolutionary Society, foreword by Richard S. Dunn, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1986.
Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720-1840, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1988.
Race and Revolution: The Inaugural Merrill Jensen Lectures, Madison House (Madison, WI), 1990.
(With Charlotte Crabtree and Ross E. Dunn) History on Trial: National Identity, Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.
America's Hidden Mestizo Histo, Owl Publishing, 1998.
Forbidden Love: The Secret History of Mixed-Race America (young adult nonfiction), Holt (New York, NY), 1999.
First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.
Landmarks of the American Revolution (young adult nonfiction), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Author of introduction, The Negro in the American Revolution, by Benjamin Quarles, University of North Carolina Press, 1996. Contributor to over twenty books, including America Will Be: Houghton Mifflin Social Studies, Houghton Mifflin, 1997; American Will Be—Level 5, Houghton Mifflin, 1999; and A Message of Ancient Days, McDougal Littell, 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including William and Mary Quarterly. General editor, with Julie Roy Jeffrey and others, of The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society (includes study guide), Harper (New York, NY), 1986, 6th edition, Longman (New York, NY), 2004, brief edition, Harper (New York, NY), 1992, brief 4th edition, Longman (New York, NY), 2003; general editor of Encyclopedia of American History, Facts on File (New York, NY), 2003. Has served on editorial advisory boards.
(With Richard Weiss) The Great Fear: Race in the Mind of America, Holt (New York, NY), 1970.
The Private Side of American History: Readings in Everyday Life, since 1865, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1975, 5th edition, International Thomson, 2004.
(With David G. Sweet) Struggle and Survival in Colonial America, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1981.
Retracing the Past: Readings in the History of the American People, Harper (New York, NY), 1986, 5th edition, edited with Ronald Schultz, Longman (New York, NY), 2003.
(Coeditor) Lessons from History: Essential Understandings and Historical Perspectives Students Should Acquire, 1992.
(With Charlotte Crabtree) National Standards for World History: Exploring Paths to the Present, National Center for History in the Schools (Los Angeles, CA), 1994.
(With Charlotte Crabtree) National Standards for History for Grades K-4: Expanding Children's World in Time and Space, revised edition, DIANE Publishing (Collingdale, PA), 1994.
(With Kirk Ankeney, Richard Del Rio, and David Vigilante) Bring History Alive: A Sourcebook for Teaching United States History, National Council for the Social Studies (Washington, DC), 1996.
(Coeditor) Empire, Society, and Labor: Essays in Honor of Richard S. Dunn, 1997.
SIDELIGHTS: Although Gary B. Nash has been writing history books for decades in which he has tried to bring to light the multicultural aspects of history to Americans, he did not gain a great deal of attention for his efforts until the mid-1990s, when he helped develop a curriculum for students that would show them a wider world than previous textbooks that he believed had a distinctly white-male-Protestant outlook. With the input of dozens of educational and historical organizations around the country, and with government funding initiated in 1991, Nash and Charlotte Crabtree compiled the National Standards for World History: Exploring Paths to the Present in 1994 at the University of California at Los Angeles. The curriculum they recommended for students became highly controversial, with some saying that it takes political correctness too far by putting a negative spin on Western civilization; others went so far as to call it racist, if perhaps unintentionally so. As Washington Post contributor Guy Gugliotta reported, former National Endowment for the Humanities chair Lynne V. Cheney, who had approved of the grants for the project when it began, said that by "deciding not to give any emphasis to Western civilization, they lost any organizing principle," asserting that an emphasis on the West is essential for the understanding of "the rise of democratic standards."
Harsher criticism came from various minority scholars who complained of the way the suggested curriculum has what they feel are slanted views of Jews, Native Americans, Arabic peoples, blacks, and other minorities. In his defense, Nash told Doug Cumming in an Atlanta Journal and Constitution interview that the final product he and Crabtree edited was "produced collaboratively by scores of teachers at every level of history education" and that the new curriculum is important for showing students that American history is not one dimensional. "I think a more inclusive, balanced history based on modern scholarship is more affirming and creates a firmer basis for unum along with the pluribus."
When Nash, the son of a General Electric employee, was a high school student growing up in a white, middle-class Merion, Pennsylvania, he received the traditional American history teachings in which America began with the English pilgrims, was founded by white men with noble ideals, and was defended through several wars for just causes. Attending Princeton University challenged that viewpoint for him, however, and Nash was introduced to the exciting field of social history by one of his professors, Eric Goldman, the author of Rendezvous with Destiny. From Goldman's lectures, Nash found out that there was a lot about American history that was not so glorious and that was even disturbing. Becoming a social activist, he joined a Unitarian civil rights group after earning his B.A. and helped migrant farm workers as a carpenter. A stint in the U.S. Navy brought him into contact with people in other countries who had very different views on America. "His foreign hosts brought him face-to-face with a less forgiving view of American racism, its segregation, and its history of slavery," according to Kenneth Finkel in a Philly.com article. Returning to Princeton, Nash became one of a new group of academics who delved into church records, tax documents, wills, and other obscure papers to dig up little reported historical views that were important to America's social and cultural evolution.
One of his early works in the area of social history, Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early America, treads new ground in discussing how Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans interacted with each other during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The aim of the book is to show that there was much more going on at this time than what the white settlers were accomplishing. Although finding merit in this approach, Allen W. Trelease commented in the American Historical Review that "sometimes . . . this leads all too easily to a new imbalance, with the polarity reversed." As the critic noted, Nash seems to emphasize the brutality of European colonizers while downplaying the weaknesses of New World civilizations, such as the Aztec's lack of a written language, or overstating their accomplishments, such as the political union of the Iroquois tribes.
A number of Nash's books concern the issues of slavery in America and of white-black relations, especially during the Revolutionary War era. Nash plays the iconoclast here by publishing the real stories behind the American myths that have built up over time. For instance, in his Freedom by Degrees: Emancipation in Philadelphia and Its Aftermath, Nash and coauthor Jean R. Soderland reveal that, contrary to commonly held beliefs, slavery in Pennsylvania was abolished first among New England states not because of any noble idealism on the part of Quakers or other Europeans, but rather by various economic realities, including "the high death rate among urban slaves, a decline in slave imports, and an increase in runaway slaves," according to Philip D. Thomas in the Historian. An emancipation law in the state did put a final end to slavery, the authors admit, but the practice probably would have died out anyway.
Race and Revolution: The Inaugural Merrill Jensen Lectures contains three essays and reproduces documentary evidence that "argues convincingly" that America's founding fathers understood that their ownership of slaves was contrary to "their equalitarian ideology," as David Szatmary explained in a Library Journal review. Many Americans know these days that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, but it might surprise some who are not historians that other much-admired figures, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, also owned slaves. Nash further sets the record straight that political leaders in the North were just as much to blame as plantation owners in the South for not taking the opportunity when the country was founded to end institutionalized slavery when America established its first laws. Nash, said Village Voice critic Tom Frank, "is well qualified to offer this bold perspective. His coverage of the free black community's vigorous efforts to achieve justice in white supremacist society in the northern states is particularly illuminating."
In his Pulitzer-nominated The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins and the American Revolution, Nash analyzes the economic development of three U.S. cities: Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Focusing on the distribution of wealth, he illuminates the lives of labor and other lower-class Americans during the Revolutionary War, showing that there was not just one lower class but many, and that each social strata had its own characteristics, problems, and complaints that helped bring about the birth of the nation. Calling this "an important work," Library Journal critic Milton Cantor praised The Urban Crucible as a "pioneering study" that displays Nash's "meticulous research." Although Jack P. Greene, writing in the American Historical Review, felt that Nash's analysis of how economic conditions changed the social strata, which led to political upheavals, is "two-dimensional" because it neglects such areas as "material conditions and styles of life," the reviewer praised the author for uncovering "significant displays of lower-class consciousness. More important, he has linked them successfully with lower-class behavior and thereby enriched our understanding of the complexity of the American Revolution."
A native of Philadelphia, although he now resides in southern California, Nash has focused on the history of this city in several of his books, including Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720-1840 and First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory. As with his other history books, the author endeavors to cover aspects of his topic previously missed by other historians. Toward this end, the former book closely examines the contributions blacks made in the past to Philadelphia, while the latter Nash uncovers what Finkel called "long-lost stories about everyday heroes so compelling and resonant that we can now retire Philadelphia's threadbare, simplistic tales of times past." A number of reviewers, furthermore, were grateful for the author's Forging Freedom, which "provides a new, more complex understanding of white racial attitudes and policies in the city that viewed itself the anti-slavery capital of the world," stated Ira Berlin in the Journal of American Ethnic History.
While most of Nash's books are intended for adult audiences, in recent years he has also penned books that are appropriate for younger readers, including Forbidden Love: The Secret History of Mixed-Race America and Landmarks of the American Revolution. His Landmarks book goes beyond the usual important sites of the American Revolution to also include landmarks that are important for the religious and political battles they memorialize. Also, as is typical of Nash, he provides information representing other viewpoints from the war, including those of the loyalists and Native Americans who sided with the British during the Revolution. Forbidden Love details the stories of various European Americans who married or had children with minorities of black, Asian, or Native American descent, putting these events within their historical, political, and social context. Included are the historical facts about such people as Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, John Rolfe and Pocahontas, and, more recently, Phil Gramm and his Japanese-American wife. But the author also includes a number of lesser-known cases neglected by history books that help highlight his points on the harm that stereotypes and prejudices cause. Booklist's Hazel Rochman felt that Nash's book will provide "connections and context" for students learning about the history of America's racially mixed society, while Michelle Martin wrote in Horn Book that "Nash's text gives young adults a detailed overview of the history of racism and segregation in America, beginning with the fact that racial definitions 'lack any objective foundation.'"
Nash's devotion to educating Americans on the complex history of this country is seen not only in the books discussed above but also in his ongoing work in reference books, such as his work as general editor of the Encyclopedia of American History and his coeditorship of Bring History Alive: A Sourcebook for Teaching United States History. Through his work, Nash has been credited by many for helping to change the direction of history education for the better by broadening students' views of just what it means to be an American. The gains that he and other educators have made, however, have not been without their controversy, especially with regard to curriculum changes, a battle that he documents with Charlotte Crabtree and Ross E. Dunn in 1997's History on Trial: National Identity, Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past. The typical accusation that critics have made against Nash's approach is that it undervalues the contributions of European Americans and overstresses those made by the people who have typically been marginalized in the history books. As Keith Windschuttle noted in a New Criterion review, "All voices should be heard, but in their proper context." Cheney, as noted above, excoriated the authors of the revised curriculum, and conservatives such as radio host Rush Limbaugh "accused the authors of the standards of seeking to indoctrinate students with their radical message of hate America," reported Edward H. Shapiro in the World and I. Shapiro continued, "History on Trial claims that the opposition to the National History Standards was simply the latest attempt in the continuing effort by right-wing elements to stifle criticism of American political and economic institutions." Although not taking up the right-wing's position, Shapiro, who is a history professor at Seton Hall, commented that to ask typical high school students to grasp the incredible scope and detail of Nash and company's standards is simply not realistic in an era in which half of the country's college students are taking remedial English.
Despite the controversy and possible flaws in these history standards, the proposal and defense of revised standards for teaching history has been a valuable chapter in the evolution of the American educational system, maintained some critics. As Michael Berube concluded in a Nation review, "History on Trial is a necessary book. With its colorful cast of characters and ambitious historical sweep, it could perhaps have been a riveting book as well. But like the standards of which it is a belated and eloquent defense, it's a service to the nation's history teachers and a very serviceable document—altogether a worthy, thorough, commendable effort. Almost, I imagine, enough to make one believe in historical progress after all."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1969, Philip S. Klein, review of Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726, pp. 1704-1705; December, 1975, Allen W. Trelease, review of Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early America, p. 1379; February, 1981, Jack P. Greene, review of The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins and the American Revolution, p. 200; December, 1989, Eric Foner, review of Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720-1840, p. 1470; April, 1992, R. S. Dunn, review of Freedom by Degrees: Emancipation in Pennsylvania and Its Aftermath, p. 611; April, 2003, Eric Sandweiss, review of First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory, p. 515.
American Journal of Education, August, 1999, Chad Gaffield, review of History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past, p. 344.
American Journal of Sociology, January, 1972, Elijah Anderson, review of The Great Fear: Race in the Mind of America, pp. 789-790.
American Quarterly, summer, 1969, Lloyd N. Dendinger, review of Quakers and Politics, p. 389.
American Sociological Review, December, 1971, Suzanne Keller, review of Class and Society in Early America, p. 1134.
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, January 6, 1996, Doug Cumming, "University of California History Professor Gary B. Nash, Who Helped Write Proposed National Standards for Teaching History, Has Been Accused by Conservatives of Trashing American History," p. A2.
Booklist, September 15, 1997, Mary Carroll, review of History on Trial, p. 204; May 15, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of Forbidden Love: The Secret History of Mixed-Race America, p. 1687; May 15, 2003, James Rettig, "Double Dose of History," p. 1690.
Book Report, March-April, 1998, Ron Marinucci, "Reviews: Nonfiction."
Bulletin—Society for the Study of Labour History, spring, 1988, Edward Countryman, review of Race, Class, and Politics: Essays on American Colonial and Revolutionary Society, p. 111.
Business History Review, autumn, 1971, Alan Tully, review of Class and Society in Early America, pp. 372-374.
Business Wire, February 14, 2000, "EduLink, Inc. Announces Agreement with Premier Authority on Historical Content Curriculum," p. 1.
Canadian Journal of History, December, 1999, Christopher Kent, review of History on Trial, p. 386.
Christian Science Monitor, October 6, 1997, Gregory M. Lamb, "In Teaching History, No Single View of the Past Prevails."
Contemporary Sociology, September, 1972, James M. Fendrich, review of The Great Fear, pp. 465-466.
Education Digest, February, 1998, Dudley Barlow, "Education Resources"; April, 1999, Dudley Barlow, "Education Resources."
Ethnohistory, spring, 1983, John K. Chance, review of Struggle and Survival in Colonial America, p. 127.
History of Education, June, 1999, Kevin J. Brehony, review of History on Trial.
History Teacher, January, 1971, William M. Fowler Jr., review of Class and Society in Early America, pp. 77-78.
History Today, June, 1980, Geoffrey Seed, review of The Urban Crucible, p. 53.
Horn Book, July, 1999, Michelle Martin, review of Forbidden Love, p. 482.
International Migration Review, winter, 1971, Pierre L. van den Berghe, review of The Great Fear, pp. 514-515.
International Review of Education, Volume 44, issue 5-6, 1998, review of History on Trial, p. 601.
Journal of American Ethnic History, spring, 1991, Ira Berlin, "Reviews."
Journal of American History, September, 1969, James LaVerne Anderson, review of Quakers and Politics, pp. 348-349.
Journal of Social History, fall, 1981, Christopher Clar, review of The Urban Crucible; fall, 1992, G. S. Rowe, "Reviews."
Knight Ridder Tribune News Service, May 28, 2002, Jerry Large, "Nation's History Lies Buried under Ignorance," p. 1.
Labor History, spring, 1992, Thomas Joseph Davis, review of Freedom by Degrees, p. 294.
Library Journal, January 15, 1980, Milton Cantor, review of The Urban Crucible, p. 200; April 15, 1986, Roy H. Tryon, review of Race, Class, and Politics, p. 79; May 1, 1988, Thomas J. Davis, review of Forging Freedom, p. 79; October 1, 1990, David Szatmary, review of Race and Revolution, p. 101; March 1, 2003, Nathan Ward, review of Encyclopedia of American History, p. 78; April 1, 2003, Nathan Ward, "A New Historical Literacy?"
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 14, 1997, "Nonfiction," p. 6.
Nation, December, 1997, Michael Berube, review of History on Trial, p. 25.
National Review, November 10, 1997, John Fonte, review of History on Trial, p. 56.
New Criterion, June, 1998, Keith Windschuttle, "The Problem of Democratic History," p. 22.
New York Times Book Review, November 30, 1997, Sean Wilentz, "Don't Know Much about History," p. 28; September 12, 1999, Brent Staples, "Children's Books," p. 36.
Phylon, Volume 32, number 4, Francesco Cordasco, review of The Sources of Racism in America, pp. 420-421.
Public Historian, summer, 2002, Michael Kammen, review of First City, p. 53.
Publishers Weekly, September 1, 1997, review of History on Trial, p. 91; June 28, 1999, "Not a Black or White Issue," p. 81.
Reference & User Services Quarterly, fall, 2003, David A. Lincove, review of Encyclopedia of American History, p. 78.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 27, 1991, Robert Reinhold, "California Rewrites History," p. 7Z1.
School Library Journal, April, 2003, Linda Greengrass, review of Encyclopedia of American History, p. 99; August, 2003, Lana Miles, review of Landmarks of the American Revolution, p. 184.
Social Studies, May-June, 1998, John J. Chiodo, review of History on Trial, p. 140.
Teacher Magazine, May-June, 1998, David Ruenzel, "History in the Making."
Village Voice, November 11, 1997, Tom Frank, "History Clash," p. 59.
Virginia—Pilot (Norfolk, VA), December 14, 1997, Tom Robotham, "Teaching History: Glorify Our Past or Show Ugly Side," p. J2.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1969.
Washington Post, November 11, 1994, Guy Gugliotta, "World History Teaching Standards Draw Critics," p. A4.
Washington Times, November 16, 1997, Martin Morse Wooster, "Perilous Path to Reform," p. B6.
William and Mary Quarterly, April, 1969, Joseph E. Illick, review of Quakers and Politics, pp. 292-295.
World & I, March, 1998, Edward S. Shapiro, review of History on Trial, p. 279.
Philly.com,http://www.philly.com/ (May 10, 2004), Kenneth Finkel, "A Colorful Past."*