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James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, died last Thursday, August 19th in Bethesda, MD. Loewen was a well-respected sociologist and racial justice activist, and the author of several textbooks challenging the white, Eurocentric history taught in most schools. He attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he studied sociology. These studies led him to take auditing courses at Mississippi State University, the Tuskeegee Institute, and Tougaloo College in early 1963.

Loewen and Dr. Charles Sallis co-wrote Mississippi: Conflict and Change in 1974 as a corrective response to the content assigned to his fellow students in Tougaloo during their 9th grade history class. The book won the 1976 Lillian Smith Book Award for Best Southern Nonfiction Book, but at the same time the Mississippi State Textbook Purchasing Board refused to buy it and school districts threatened to fire teachers who used it in their classrooms. In 1980 Loewen finally won a lawsuit that forced the state to take over the book.

From there, Loewen published several texts that were intended to offer the public a more holistic and accurate representation of American history. Lies My Teacher Told Me was published in 1995 and has gone through several editions since then, with the last edition being revised in 2018 during the Trump administration. In 2023 the New Press will publish a graphic edition of Lies My Teacher Told Me, created in collaboration with artist Nate Powell, who worked with Rep. John Lewis on the three-part graphic novel for March.

Another of his works, Sundown Towns, inspired a database maintained by his colleagues that can be used to determine whether a particular city has seen sunset.

James Loewen’s work was critical in challenging traditional white Eurocentric history. He leaves behind his second wife, two children, four grandchildren and his sister.

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