How Old Is History?

I’m nearly 50 years old. Some people live 100 years or more. With that in mind, I contend that so-called “history” is a lot more recent than we may have realized as students, especially for a very young country such as the United States.

• Only 244 years ago, until Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain in 1776, the USA was not yet a country. That was less than two-and-a-half 100-year lifespans ago.

• Only 100 years ago, until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, women were not guaranteed the right to vote as equals to men. There are people alive today who were born before women finally gained this right.

• Only 64 years ago, the last Union Army veteran of the American Civil War, Albert Woolson, passed away at the age of 106. There are many people alive today who met him and could hear firsthand his war stories.

• Only 56 years ago, until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial segregation was still legal in the United States: segregated schools, restaurants, buses, and other services. This existed just a few years before I was born.

I wonder what 14-year-olds in the year 2044 will ask us about the inauspicious events of 2020 when they study them at school as if they were a distant time to which they can’t relate. At some point, well into the 2100s, humanity will recognize the last surviving person who lived through 2020, a year only described in history books (not in paper form, of course 😉).

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