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3 Historical Topics Every American Should Know

Updated on December 26, 2016
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Too many Americans have false information that they share with everyone else. Three very common ones are discussed here. Most people I talk to have the wrong information on these three topics.


Cleopatra Wasn’t Black

I’m amazed at how many people believe this. Yes, Cleopatra was queen of Egypt,but she was not the least bit African. She was a direct descent of Ptolemy who was a general of Alexander the Great. They were Greek! No, she did not marry an Egyptian. Ptolemy conquered Egypt. His descendants ruled over the land for several generations.

Oh, but images of her show her dark skinned, you might say. We can make ourselves look like anything. If I want to be thinner, I can tell the artist to make me so. What made Cleopatra so great was the fact that she appealed to the Egyptians themselves more than just a god. She was the first of her line to actually learn the native language and understand the culture. She wanted to be seen as an Egyptian so her images were darkened. She was not a foreign ruler. She was one of them.

My husband has a master’s in history and was teaching in a local school. When February rolled around and Black History was the focal point, he corrected the material he was given and said that Cleopatra was not black, but she did rule an African country. The principal of the school blew a few gaskets and accused him of lying and wanted him removed from the classroom. My husband brought out all the academic evidence to show otherwise and was told that he needed to leave history alone. Guess we shouldn’t know the facts but only what we wish they were.


Separation of Church and State is Not in the Constitution

Too many people believe that separation of church and state is a constitutional right. This phrase is nowhere to be found on any official government document. It comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in an attempt to explain the clause in the Constitution where the government is not allowed to impose a religion on any citizen. No citizen can be forced to worship any way and choose their own religion and methods.

This phrase is usually shouted when someone wants to remove the Ten Commandments from official buildings. Nowhere in our government’s founding did it state that the two entities could not exist together. It only prohibits one domineering the other.

Before stating that this is a constitutional right, make sure you know exactly what you stating. It is not mentioned in any formal government paper.

The Civil War Was Not All About Slavery

Now, I’ll probably have people ready to take my head off. Let’s keep our cool. Think of this as the dolphin/porpoise relationship. It is wrong to say that the porpoise is a dolphin, but it is correct to say that a dolphin is a porpoise. This is how you have to look at the American Civil War.

To understand this, you have to understand the history from pre-Revolutionary days. Each colony/state wanted to be its own country. They wanted complete autonomy. That was not to happen if they wanted to survive outside of Britain or Spanish rule. Both countries would do anything to take the land back. As the colonies sought to create a new government, slavery was a very hot topic. The Southern states wanted to do what they wanted without interference from the government. In the beginning, they won out. The issue of slavery was decided not to be important enough to deal with at that moment. It was going to have to wait as the founding fathers created a foundation for a new government.

Over the years, the continued debate of state sovereignty grew over multiple issues. Slavery was just one of the topics that was argued over. Some states wanted it; others did not. Of all the topics, slavery became the predominant one as new states were added. If they were added as slave states, that titled Congress in favor of the South. If they were free states, that tilted it in favor of the North.

Many Southerners who championed separation constantly argued for state rights. Slavery was not the reason for the war. It was a battle of wills between the Unions and the states who wanted the benefits of a whole government while keeping their autonomy. For the North, the war was over keeping the Union together. For the South, it was keeping their independence from the uppity Northerners. Slavery was just one of the pawns used between both sides to get what they wanted.

Oh, and the Gettysburg Address did not free the slaves. It only freed those slaves in the rebelling states. Why? Because the hope was that the slaves would rise up to help the North win the war. Slavery was still allowed in many Northern areas.


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