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LETTER: Importance of knowing your history

Published 10:52am Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dear Editor,

I was told long ago that having a sense of history was essential, but at the time I was too young and skeptical. It was like saying geometry or algebra was essential.

The older I get, however, the more I realize that a detailed knowledge of history is absolutely necessary to understanding everything around us whether politics, economics or otherwise and speculating, sometimes quite accurately, about the future.

Yes, if you know your history, much of what has happened in the last decade was not a big surprise.

Unfortunately, acquiring a sense of history has never been more difficult. Even if one majored in history in college, his or her knowledge base is likely dated due to the fact that the modern interpretations of what happened 200, 50 or even 10 years ago have changed and are still changing, generally for the better.

One reason for this is that political or profit motivations led some 19th and 20th century authors to manipulate the data to fit their agendas. Nothing new there either; those who watch 24 hour news programs witness that regularly. As a result, modern historians are constantly reexamining the original data, exposing much of what you and I thought we knew about our state or nation’s history as mere myth.

You were probably wondering when I would finally get to the hook. Well, here it is.

The Alabama Historical Association, of which I am a member, is the answer to the conundrum of how to obtain or maintain an accurate knowledge of history, and have fun while doing so.

Membership is cheap and includes, among other benefits, an excellent periodical containing articles about significant events in Alabama’s history. At the AHA’s annual meeting each Spring, which was held in Huntsville this year and will be in Eufaula next, speakers make very interesting presentations on a variety of topics relating to Alabama’s rich history.

Moreover, this meeting, and the AHA’s Fall meeting, give one a chance to tour older homes possessing historical or architectural significance. In addition, membership allows you to get outside your Abox@ and meet persons from elsewhere who share your love of history.

I ask that you, your staff and your readers give membership in the AHA prayerful consideration, and join soon by following the directions on the AHA website (http:// www.archives.alabama.gov/aha/join.html) or sending a check along with your name, mailing address, phone number and email address to Alabama Historical Association, P.O. Box 300100, Montgomery, AL 36130-0100.

Indicate which of the four membership categories you choose: Individual ($35), Family ($45), Student ($15), Institutional ($50). The Fall meeting is in Livingston and I hope to see you there.

Christopher Lyle McIlwain Sr.

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