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Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,762 ratings  ·  175 reviews
"In Lies Across America," James W. Loewen continues his mission, begun in the award-winning "Lies My Teacher Told Me," of overturning the myths and misinformation that too often pass for American history. "Lies Across America" is a one-of-a-kind examination of sites all over the country where history is literally written on the landscape, including historical markers, monu ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published November 14th 2000 by Touchstone (first published November 1st 1999)
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 ·  2,762 ratings  ·  175 reviews

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Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Lies of omission would be a better title.

I found this book to be a little disappointing. Perhaps it's my fault for misinterpreting the subject matter. I had assumed it dealt with information that was undeniably wrong or untrue. Presenting things inaccurate in fact rather than too concise or limited in scope.

The majority of the entries are not so much out and out "lies" as they are lies of omission or representative of events the author feels are insufficiently recognized. An example of the latt
Nov 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Lies Across America: What our Historic Sites Get Wrong is an excellent book by James Loewen. He starts first with the western half of the United States since most history textbooks start with the eastern side. All of the information about historical markers is broken up into small sections for easy reading. Loewen proceeds to give state-by-state accounts of historical markers and their errors or in some cases their silliness. Many of the markers honor people as heroes who were in fact overt raci ...more
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book can't possibly be for everybody...I, in fact, started out hating it... too repetitious, too dense, way too many footnotes and as an African American, too little of any new revelations...American history is racist so why should its markers and monuments be any different? But as I read I became fascinated with the history and minutiae that's slowly revealed. Much of it local and passed by unnoticed by me for years (A statue honoring a founder of the KKK in Judiciary Square in majority Bl ...more
So do you know someone who just doesn't understand the whole take down the statues thing? Yeah? Lend them this book. Loewen not only lists mistakes places make, but also skillfully sets out the reasons for change and how you, as a visitor, can uncover the true story. ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
This book actually deserves no stars or a minus star. James W. Loewen obviously has an extreme amount of guilt from being a "White, European-American Male" as his entire book speaks of nothing other than mistreatment and degradation of blacks, native Americans and women to the aggrandizing of WASP American males. The one monument he finds accurate and correct is actually wrong in its interpreting of the facts. The author was a professor at U of VT. He and his ilk are what is wrong with our colle ...more
Harry Klinkhamer
Feb 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
I'm sorry, but Loewen's scathing attacks on history organizations for failing to preserve and interpret a more open and progressive past fails to take into account the restrictions placed on many organiations to do that. I worked for one of the organizations that was criticized in this book and take offense at his remarks that we failed to adequately preserve women's history in our state markers program. Markers are placed when a private source funds them, so if Mr. Loewen is that upset, he shou ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm a librarian with archival training who has known several people who worked in public history, including the head of the Indiana Historical Bureau (which produces every historic marker in that state) and actually understands public history as a professional field. And this book is proof that James W. Loewen, while an adequate, if revisionist, historian in the academy, is completely out of his element where something like this is concerned. When Loewen is writing about history itself, his rese ...more
I think the timing of my reading of this book with the recent furor over monuments is a coincidence, but a happy one. If you have been watching the news and asking yourself what the big deal is about a bunch of Confederate monuments, read the introductory essays in this book.

The biggest thing I learned was the two purposes of monuments. Loewen gives them Japanese names but lord knows I can't remember which was which. Basically, some monuments are erected for the people who were actually involved
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book that managed to teach me as much about history as about sociology. I am a "collector" of historical markers and belong to a group of crazy people who do the same thing (one of whom passed this book along to me). So I found it educational and a good reminder to take into consideration the people who erected the monuments and markers, the people who fight the most flagrantly incorrect and insensitive markers being removed or corrected, and the people who bankroll museums and suc ...more
This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in US History. In fact, I wish every high school student had this as required reading. My degree is in history, and it is a sad truth that misinformation is so ingrained that people will argue the facts even when presented with concrete evidence. Very important and highly recommended!

This unbiased review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Lori Cox
Feb 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult
Listened to this in the car but couldn't get past CD #3, even if I was stuck in traffic. Dull subject matter and Mr. Loewen's personal and liberal opinion comes through too often. ...more
Oct 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic
Published in 1999, Lies Across America contains 100 brief essays about the mistakes and misrepresentations that abound across the US on roadside history markers. First there are the blatant deceptions: Consider, for example, that The Native American tribe known today as the Delawares had that name foisted upon them by Europeans; its members referred to themselves as Lenape, which means "we are the people". In Kentucky, the log cabin said to be the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln was built 30 years ...more
Oct 14, 2009 marked it as not-going-to-finish
When I was in high school, I needed books like this. I knew just enough to be dangerous and books like Lies My Teacher Told Me challenged some of my preconceived notions. Even if I didn't always agree, I learned something and it brought me down a peg.
However. Now that I'm older and (I like to think) wiser, I have put aside teenage angst and entitlement.
And maybe it is about time Mr. Loewen does too.
I've tried getting into this book, and I do think it contains a lot of good points. But I think
Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all Americans
Shelves: non-fiction
Awesome book. If you've ever wondered what America really looks like to other countries, this is the book for you. Loewen chose over 100 historic sites/museums/markers to dispel the myths of. Some are more surprising than others, but all of them are interesting. So much that I didn't know about our country. Not everything in the past is as rosy as our government would have us believe. And if we would only learn about these blemishes on our past, then we could learn from them and not repeat them. ...more
Alan Pickersgill
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I live in Guelph, a mid-sized city in Southern Ontario. We like to think of our home as a green and growing place, full of people who are alert to environmental and social justice. We think we know our history. Guelph was founded in 1827 by a Scottish novelist and businessman named John Galt. As a director of the Canada Company, it was his job to open the countryside for immigrant settlers. There’s a bronze and granite bust of him outside our former city hall downtown. It’s the courthouse now. T ...more
James Steele
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On his travels across the United States, Lowen documents inaccurate historical markers and sites. From west coast to east, he points out statues, markers, plaques, buildings, and even entire towns that ignore or misrepresent their own history. What he finds should surprise no one.

Broadly, his criticisms fall into one of 3 categories. 1) America’s treatment of the Native Americans. 2) Confederate monuments that misrepresent the Civil War. 3) Monuments to racism that have no place in modern societ
Carolyn Fagan
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read. Very timely with all the issues with Confederate statues in the South. I had never really thought about the need to think critically when reading historic always think if they are up there, then they must be vetted by an expert somewhere. This book brings to light so many issues with that thought! There are markers out there for events that never took place! I can't wait to check out all my local historic markers and then do a bit of digging myself. He also has so ...more
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
I’ll bet the United Daughters of the Confederacy didn’t love this book. I will say that I didn’t love it either – though certainly not for the same reasons. As something of a follow up to his investigation into the dismal state of public school US History textbooks, Loewen sets his sights on the questionable state of monuments, markers, and historical plaques scattered throughout the US. It’s a valiant effort, and certainly makes for a clear thesis about how misinterpretations and misinformation ...more
Chris Demer
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, expose
This was an excellent book and I found out about a lot of history I was vague about, or had never heard of.
Among the interesting facts I recall:
Many American places, rivers, mountains, lakes, etc were "discovered" by Europeans and named by them, even though Natives Americans had discovered them centuries or millenia ago and already had names for them.
The racism and atrocities perpetrated against the Native Americans and African Americans was far more evil and pervasive than anything you will fin
Jun 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointed in revised edition.

I was looking forward to reading the updated edition of the book, without the controversy over various racist monuments in recent but was disappointed that he removed passages on several "positive" story monuments: The Lincoln Memorial and the 54th Mass in Boston. The article critiquing the Jefferson Memorial is better in context of what is right about the Lincoln Memorial. And the article about the Shaw memorial explained so eloquently what a good monument can d
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about public monuments and the stories they tell. Many public monuments, historic sights, roadside plaques, etc. tell an inaccurate or biased story. The author has gone through a number of these and described what the monument got wrong.For example, in Scottsboro Alabama, the most important event ever to have happened there was the trial of the Scottsboro Boys in 1931-39. The town has several historic plaques in its central square, but nothing about that case.This is very much a pro ...more
Aug 14, 2007 rated it liked it
This book sort of bored me. I didn't like it as much as his other book, Lies My Teacher Told Me. I think I'd like it more as a travel guide to read before I visit any of these places. I enjoyed reading the sections on states I've lived in or know a lot about (and finding out my home state, Oklahoma, has, in his opinion, the single worst museum presentation in the U.S.). I'm sure when I travel to other states I'll want to read the sections relating to them. It's just a little repetitive to read s ...more
B. P. Rinehart
Professor Loewen, after doing his critically acclaimed expose on American history books Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, now takes his show on the road...literally.

This book follows the professor as he goes to all 50 states to show either what information each state fabricates, lies about, or in some cases cover up about historic landmarks across the country. In some cases you have erroneous confederate monuments where no Confederate solider from th
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As an avid landmark snarfer, you can imagine my excitement at finding this book on what our historical markers, memorials, and monuments get wrong - and, occasionally, right. Some of it made me very sad. After all, much of American history can be summarized as "white people ruin everything," but there were some bright spots. And some very funny ones, like the woman in Indiana who is only remembered for moving there sans a body part. It certainly opened my eyes when reading markers and visiting m ...more
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an extremely valuable resource for anyone who enjoys visiting historical sites, because Loewen fills in the unstated or insufficiently interpreted "facts" depicted in a number of these locales. Read up on your local sites or on places you intend to visit, and see them more fully.

Personally, I wouldn't sit down with this book and read straight through, because it IS a book of intensely felt criticism, and as such could leave a reader feeling a bit overwhelmed and gloomy. Keep a copy of "A
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Once again, only concerned with race. From time to time he omits parts of the story himself, to boost his own point (for example mentioning that labor leader Joe Hill was executed, but never mentioning why, implying it was for his views. Nope - murder). I wanted history, not whining preaching. Disappointing.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On a walking tour of Barcelona, our guide told us the story of Christopher Columbus. He was an Aussie who said he was qualified to act as Barcelona guide because he was a graduate student in history at the local university. I cornered him afterward and said, as a history student, you surely know the Columbus story you just told us was completely fabricated. He said, you have to give the people what they want. I said, no, people want to know the truth, your tour would be vastly improved if you re ...more
Anson Cassel Mills
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
During the public debate over the Smithsonian’s ill-fated Enola Gay exhibit in the early 1990s, supporters and critics unwittingly agreed on one point: that those who visited the planned exhibit would accept whatever historians and museum professionals served up without a fleeting thought that the exhibition represented a particular point of view. James Loewen’s Lies Across America is worth reading if for no other reason than that it stimulates critical thinking about the points of view represen ...more
Frazer Hendricks
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lies Across America is an atlas of flawed public history markers across the United States by James Loewen. Like his other works of history targeted at the public, this book is well researched and written with evenhanded joviality and solemnity that creates an enjoyable read in what could have felt like a list of monuments. These are some highlights that caught my interest:

*Adam Fortunate Eagle “discovered” Rome in 1973*
In September 1973, on his way to the International Conference of World Future
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lies Across America by James W. Loewen: What Our Historic Sits Get Wrong is a solid look at less the wholesale error of historical markers, monuments, and the like and more the distorting and omitting of history, which I grant may be a distinction without a difference. It’s a worthy and valuable book and does at times provoke the reader to think more deeply about both our history and the way we make and mark that history. It is also not a “reading” book so much as a “reading for a while then sto ...more
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