The United States has a pretty interesting history, but some of it has faded into relative obscurity with far too many facts and histories left unknown.
Fortunately, radio host Michael Hart’s book, Unknown America: Myths and Little Known Oddities about the Greatest Nation on Earth (Vol. 1) is full of facts, stories, and more about the history of the US that have become pretty unknown. Here, he talked with BookTrib about favorite overlooked facts, Claudette Colvin, historical inaccuracies, and more.
BookTrib: This book is filled with hundreds of details of little known facts, misconceptions, myths and stories about the United States. How long did it take you to compile all of these together?
Michael Hart: Approximately five years. Several of the stories I tell and inaccuracies I dispute have been long held beliefs and teachings in history books and American classrooms. I had to have all my facts straight because I was “righting” history that in some cases has been misstated for over two centuries.
BookTrib: You’re something of an expert on historical inaccuracies and little known facts of US history! It seems like there would be thousands of false stories or facts – how do you go about researching this field?
MH: Correct: there are literally thousands. In addition to being an author, I host a talk radio program that delves very deeply into politics and culture. I have learned over the years that many stories in the national news today have there origins in the past and to best understand the news of the day, you must first know correct US history.
BookTrib: What first inspired you to write a book on obscure facts about the United States?
MH: Living in Alabama, I’ve often been enamored with the Rosa Parks story. History teaches us the Parks was the first African American woman to refuse to surrender her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama which sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and fueled the Civil Rights movement. While Parks did in fact refuse to give up her seat she was not the first. The first to take this action was a 15 year old girl named Claudette Colvin. Unfortunately Claudette was not only 15, she was unmarried and pregnant. The leaders in Montgomery thought Colvin’s reputation would tarnish the movement and Parks, an attractive and more socially-acceptable seamstress, would be a better representative; and so she was encouraged to do the same. The picture of her on the bus in Montgomery with a man seated behind her was even staged. He was a reporter that was there to cover the boycott. And so the contribution of Claudette Colvin has been swept under the rug of history.
BookTrib: What’s your favorite overlooked fact?
MH: Probably the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Most portraits depict a bunch of middle aged white men gathered around a table to sign the document. Only it never happened that way. America did not declare independence on July 4th, it was actually the 2nd of the month, it was the signing that likely began around July 4th. When it did, only John Hancock was present and he was alone. History has taught that Hancock signed his name so large so that King George would be sure to see it. Also not true! Hancock actually signed a black piece of parchment that would be inscribed later. He had no idea how large the soon to be applied text would be. Moreover all the signers knew if the Patriots lost the war their fate would be certain death. So none would look to stand out. Hancock signed first because he was President of that body and for no other reason.
Most historians agree the signing definitely did not end until August and possibly went into November of that year as the delegates made their way to put pen to paper. This means our entire perception of the signing of our founding document is a complete fabrication.
BookTrib: Is there anything that didn’t make it into the book?
MH: Absolutely! As you can imagine, there is an overwhelming wealth of historical accounts that could be corrected about this great nation. It would simply be impossible to include them all. It for this reason the second and third editions of the book are already in the works. And if all goes according to plan, telling people all about the ‘Unknown America’ will be a lifelong project with no end in sight.
This interview has been edited and condensed for space.
‘Unknown America: Myths and Little Known Oddities about the Greatest Nation on Earth’ is now available for purchase.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Hart is an expert in US History with a special emphasis on historical inaccuracies. He is also the host of the popular daily talk radio program, The Michael Hart Show, which airs Monday through Friday on several talk radio stations. Hart speaks and writes frequently and is a featured guest on radio and television on a variety of issues related to American politics, history, faith and family.
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