University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Do you believe every historical document or book was true? Before, we consider if the historical documents or books are true; first, we have to look at the historical event with a different point of view because it is easy to get biased information; if we only focus on one side of the event. In the book After The Fact “The View from the Bottom Rail” by James West Davidson and Mark Hamilton Lytle, the authors demonstrate that discovering the historical story of the freed people is difficult because histories deal with “top rail” rather than the “bottom rail” of the lower social classes. Therefore, the freed people’s history has become flawed.
Writing about a historical event is exceedingly difficult, because we have to consider different points of view. Thus, if a historian focused on only one side of the story, the historical event will remain biased. For example, the history of slavery was biased and was not accurate. According to the authors, the black slaves could not read or write during that time; even if someone could read, they had to hide this skill from their masters. Then, almost of the written books or documents about slavery were written by the white masters. Therefore, the information was not only accurate but also biased because the information came from white masters rather than slaves who actually know the truth.
Moreover, although the interviews came from slaves, almost every interviewee experienced slavery by his or her childhood; therefore, the interviews were also biased because they focused on those who survived slavery. As the author explains, “the average life expectancy of a slave in 1850 was less than fifty years”(Davison and Lytle 180). Thus, when they were interviewed by someone, they were old. Two-thirds of them were over 80 years old; that could lead us to assume that they were treated less harsh than other people who died early because of harsher treatment in earlier years. Moreover, as interviewees get older, their memories could fade, and they could not certainly remember the details. This is common sense that if the event occurred a long time ago, the person could not remember every detail.
In addition, the interviewees couldn’t answer honestly because they were scared. One interviewee says,” I’ve told you too much. How come they want all this stuff from the colored people anyway? Do you take any stories from the white people?” (Davison and Lytle 183). Like the interviewee, other interviewees were also scared to speak out about what they really experienced because they thought speaking out frankly would put them in a trouble. Therefore, they could not answer honestly.
In retrospect, the slave interviews become flawed, and it was biased, because the interviews were not considering different points of view. Additionally, there was no voice recorder, which could provide us with what the interviewees truly said to the interviewer. Therefore, when we look at historical events, we have to consider different points of view; thus, we do not accept everything we just find out or read. As the authors state, we cannot believe everything at “face value” before we carefully discover.