Knowledge Question: How does a historian assess the reliability of evidence (sources)?
Today we formed our groups which consisted of Diego, Muno, and Patrick. Our first area of knowledge that we chose to study was History. Initial thoughts I had about History and knowledge is the fact that there is a lot of bias and the facts cannot be completely reliable since there are many stories and many sources. I have to make sure to study for the quiz and I will do that by reading the key points and reading the definitions of certain important words. I hope to not fail.
I passed my quiz with an 8 out of 10!!!!!!!!!!! Now as a group we started to brainstorm ideas for our project. I came only at 9:00 so I missed the first hour of brainstorming. The two questions we had in mind were How does a historian assess the reliability of sources? AND Is it possible for historical writing to be free from perspective? We were debating on which question to use because we had presentation ideas for both. We did not have the time to chose our question this class, so we chose our knowledge question next work day.
This work day we chose our knowledge question and brainstormed with ideas. Mr. Morrison shut down all of our ideas so it was hard to come up with a solid idea. He kept insisting on choosing one source rather than two and compare them. So Patrick ended up reading the article about the Slocum Massacre and we ended up using this article for our presentation on history. We're going to assess the reliability of the source by seeing both sides of the story which is all included in this specific article.
I hope to achieve and teach the class about our view on history and its reliability. I want them to understand our source connection to the question and think of it as a reliable source. My goal for this presentation is to pass and help the class understand our view on history and its reliability.
A historian assesses the reliability of evidence by looking at the strength of the evidence, whether or not the details are agreed on by many people, the reliability of testimonies, and investigating any reasons for the story to be covered up or muddled.
The Slocum Massacre was an event that took place one day in Slocum, East Texas in 1910. A large amount of the white community went around town shooting any black residents, forcing the rest to flee, opening fire even as they left town. All buildings owned by black residents were burned down. As tragic, shocking, and high magnitude as the massacre was, most people haven’t heard of it. Some even believe it never happened.
Reasons as to why the massacre doesn’t exist in our known Texas history include a variety of possibilities, all of which are plausible. One reason is that many of the white citizens of Slocum didn’t want to mention it as it would soil their name and many of the black citizens of Slocum buried/disposed of the bodies of the dead to avoid further aggravating the attackers the day of the massacre. According to the article, it was also unknown who exactly the attackers were and who and how many exactly were shot. The reason the story was even looked into was because descendants of an escapee decided that they needed to honour the victims by immortalizing their story into part of Texas history forever. It is even possible that Texas doesn’t want to include this event into their history for it’s not anything to be proud of, an example of the bias of wanting to keep a certain public image affecting history.
As historians, we can analyse this event for reliability of the evidence. Based on the article, much of the physical evidence doesn’t exist, but some of the men who opened fire were tried in court, and there have to be records of that. Most of what the family knows is based on word of mouth; they pass down the story to honor their past. So far it seems to be pretty unreliable. However, we can also look at the idea that Texas history doesn’t want this included as it’s a deplorable act that was more or less excused in the end. Also, the photo of the marker on the article we read seems to be censored, so that adds an extra layer of someone possibly trying to cover up something.
These external sources really help one understand how to evaluate a source and the connection history and human knowledge. The first external source is an article from Stanford. The second external source is a ted talk about the connection of history and knowledge. Both of them are very relevant to the topic.
This picture is the original tribute to the massacre. On the article we assessed our question on, this picture is covered with a white box. Someone must have done that to make the readers think this is all false. This is how historians "rewrite" history and this is how they assess the reliability of sources.