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David Barton: Credible Historian or Not?
In recent years, David Barton, founder of an organization called Wallbuilders who's sole purpose is to present America's long forgotten history with true Christian perspectives, has been in the spotlight for presenting the amazing facts that prove America's heritage as a true Christian nation and the influence it has made in American culture and politics. Mr. Barton has been on shows such as the Glenn Beck program and on Huckabee on Fox News, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The 700 Club and other influential Christian talk shows on the air. There is no doubt that David Barton has proven himself to be as credible as he can when presenting his case about American history. But he comes with his critics. There have been other people on the other side of the political spectrum that has come out in stating their opinions and beliefs that David Barton is a liar, a "pseudo-historian", a man who is revising American history, and so forth. If you go to You Tube and just type in David Barton, you will see that there are many videos dedicated to discredit him. People such as Chris Rodda have even dedicated their leisurely time debunking the so-called myths that Barton puts in his books and researches.
But lately, even conservative Christian academics and writers have come out in criticizing his works and credentials. His recent book, The Jefferson Lies, have been recalled by its publisher Thomas Nelson, after many criticisms regarding the credibility and the sources the book contains. Particularly, an academic professor from Grove City College by the name of Warren Throckmorton, was the one who heavily criticized the book. He claims the same thing that Barton's book is full of errors. When Thomas Nelson dropped the book, their explanation was that they looked into it and accepted the belief that the book did contain errors. It got some flack when the publishing company was questioned that if it contained errors then why was it still published after going through many reviews before it got published. Yet that didn't stopped The Jefferson Lies from being recalled. Since that time, only Glenn Beck has come out to his fans and subscribers to his own show showing his support for his friend Barton and expressing his disappointment and fear on how people in America can now act friendly but on the inside can betray your trust. Now David Barton has scores of copies of his book now on sale on his website.
I had the opportunity to read The Jefferson Lies. I was amazed at the amount of information given on its pages with footnotes to show the primary sources used to state Jefferson's life as a Christian. Then comes the question: Is David Barton a credible historian?
David Barton has shown many original documents in his position as a historian. It is true that he is not a certified historian at all. He majored in science during his time in college and graduated with a degree in it. But again, through time, he has managed to acquire many documents that prove that America is a Christian nation. He has rarely used any secondary sources. These days, modern historians specializing in American history have often used secondary sources to state their claims, and this is based on my reading experience where when I read American history books written by other authors, I see the footnotes and I see that the sources they used are books starting from the 1960's, whereas when I read a David Barton book and see the footnotes, they go back to the date when the said event happened.
But now, there are other historical research that I have been doing this past couple of months that runs contrary to what Barton has done. I have been researching the life of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. What David Barton based on his conclusion when he did his own research is that Gen. Forrest was an evil racist man who led the massacre of black Union soldiers at Fort Pillow. As honest I can be in writing this article, unfortunately his research is wrong. It is true that Gen. Forrest had views that sound racist today and there is no doubt that he was the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. But later through the years, when he saw the uprising in violence among the Klans, he did everything in his power to stop the violence and when it got worse, he tried to disband the organization. He later gave up his leadership. As for the massacre at Fort Pillow, John C. Wyeth, the biographer of Gen. Forrest and a Confederate soldier himself who fought along side with him, mentions in his book "The Life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest" that he was not there at all. Yes there was a massacre, but he had no knowledge at all on what was going on and he was on the other side of the place where it was happening. There is some speculations and rumors from other sources that claims Forrest was pleading the black Union soldiers to surrender but they didn't and they continued to take up arms and fight. Either way, Forrest did not have any evil intention of killing the soldiers inhumanely. Yet David Barton continues to be the historian to follow whenever I needed info on issues of the day and to see if there were any similar event that happened in the past in this country. Nobody is perfect. Everyone can make mistakes. So I still respect Mr. Barton and his research and I hope that he reconsiders his research on the one that I mentioned above. David Barton continues to present America's Christian heritage all over the country in churches and universities, showing many original documents and original writings
Overall, is David Barton a credible historian: my answer is YES