Clash of the Historians: Paper on Andrew Jackson and Trump Causes TurmoilHistorians in the News
tags: Andrew Jackson, SHEAR
Andrew Jackson has been no stranger to rough-and-tumble conflict. In his own time, he upended the established political order and helped spearhead the violent expansion of America’s borders. In ours, he has become a toxic figure for many, as even the Democratic Party he helped found has distanced itself from his legacy of slaveholding, Indian removal and populist demagogy.
Last week, Jackson cut a posthumously destructive path through another institution once centered on his legacy, when the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic was thrown into turmoil after a contentious scholarly panel about the man.
The panel, which was held via Zoom on July 17, featured discussion of a paper by Daniel Feller, the editor of the Andrew Jackson Papers. Titled “Andrew Jackson in the Age of Trump,” it set off a firestorm that led, within 72 hours, to the ouster of the group’s president, as well as the publication of open letters denouncing the talk and counterletters protesting the ouster. It also caused debate over whether the distinguished academic society was experiencing an overdue reckoning with racism or abandoning its commitment to robust scholarly debate in the face of a Twitter mob.
With Jackson and Mr. Trump, Mr. Feller was taking on two characters with few admirers in the often left-leaning historical profession. He began by recalling the day in 2017 when Mr. Trump visited the Hermitage, Jackson’s home in Nashville, before picking apart what he called the president’s distorted and self-serving efforts to wrap himself in the former president’s mantle.
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