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Historical figures should be given leniency as being products of their time when looking back on the negative aspects of their legacies - NewViewNews






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Historical figures should be given leniency as being products of their time when looking back on the negative aspects of their legacies

NewViewNews · social issues · prompt · 11/01/2020

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Attitudes on what is right and wrong often can shift dramatically with time. As social, political, and economic realities shift, so does our conscience, either evolving or devolving as the clock ticks and the calendar turns. While judging the actions of our friends, neighbors, and strangers can be easy because they are our fellow passengers through this current stretch of time, how ought we approach valuing the merits of those who have taken and finished the journey before us?

This conversation thrusts itself into the United States often, specifically as it relates to our memorials and idols of specific figures. Annually, we are prompted to consider the life and actions of Christopher Columbus. A, as the president put it, “great Italian who opened a new chapter in world history and . . . ushered in a new era of exploration and discovery” or not much more than the enslaver and decimator of the Taino people? Should statues of the plantation owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who between them held nearly 1,000 slaves be torn down or should they be hailed as heroes for their unprecedented strides in fostering democratic values and civil liberties that live on and expand to this day? And statues of Confederate soldiers: do they celebrate traitorous racists or southern heroes who stood against a tyrannical union?

Unlike these figures, the debate lives on. For the Social section’s NewViewNovember prompt, we ask you to respond to the following statement:

Historical figures should be given leniency as being products of their time when looking back on the negative aspects of their legacies.

There is no right answer to this prompt. Prompts are written in the from of a statement to fit with agreement/disagreement/other and do not imply the opinion of NewViewNews or contest judges. Responses may fall somewhere in-between these three responses, and we ask you not to stress about which category to put it in as all opinions are equally valid, and nuance is something to neither avoid nor force.

You will not be judged based on what your opinion is, but, rather, how well you deliver your argument. Some criteria of good articles include intelligible, well-reasoned arguments that are thorough in their response. While we feel specific rubrics are too creatively constraining of the writing process, we want to stress that plagiarism will not be tolerated. Also, the use of sources is encouraged if your article may benefit from it. Pictures are required for the purposes of thumbnails but will not be judged as a part of your article for content purposes.

NewViewNovember is a month-long series of contests hosted on NewViewNews. All seven topics of NewViewNews (business, entertainment, politics, religion, social issues, sports, and technology) have their own opinion prompt to respond to. The best response to each prompt receives $25 at the end of the month and the best site-wide opinion article, including NewViewNovember responses, for the month receives $50. For information on how to respond to articles, check this section of our how-to guide. For our opinion contest headquarters, navigate to the "contest" page. Any questions can be directed to [email protected]

We are also running a news article contest! More information can be found on the "contest" page.

Further reading for this prompt can be found in the sources section.


Smithsonian Magazine: Founding Fathers and Slaveholders: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/founding-fathers-and-slaveholders-72262393/

White House Proclamation on Columbus Day 2020: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-columbus-day-2020/

White House Proclamation on Columbus Day 2016: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/10/08/presidential-proclamation-columbus-day-2016

White House Proclamation on Columbus Day 2009: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/presidential-proclamation-columbus-day

NPR: Should Statues of Historical Figures With Complicated Pasts Be Taken Down?:

Wikipedia: List of monuments and memorials removed during the George Floyd protests

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