We are all historians now.


Each news cycle unleashes fresh waves of history.


Media stories on the coronavirus pandemic refer back to the Spanish flu (1918-1919) or sometimes SARS (2002-2004) and MERS (2012-2020), which are more closely related to the coronavirus than the earlier influenza. Other reports allude to past outbreaks of polio, cholera, yellow fever and even the Black Death (1300s).


Articles on economic disruption and widespread unemployment recall the Great Depression (1929-1939) and the Great Recession (2007-2009). More ambitious reports reach back to a 50-year period of American history when the U.S. economy was in a state of recession 50% of the time (1870-1910).


Pieces on police brutality and, especially, systemic racism are, by nature, historical as well as current. Several media outlets, especially The New York Times, devoted a good deal of sustained coverage last year to the 400th anniversary of the arrival of slavery in what is now the United States in 1619 and how that event effectively defined our history ever since.


People are paying attention.


Each day, readers are learning more about the Civil War (1861-1865), Reconstruction (1865-1877), Black Codes (pre- and post-war in the North and South), Jim Crow laws (roughly 1880s-1960s) and the modern civil rights movement, which itself has broken in waves since the early 20th century, as well as the forces of reaction to each hard-won step forward.


Until a large political rally was organized in Tulsa, Okla., for June 19, 2020 — it was later moved back a day — many Americans apparently did not know much about Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, Texas slaves finally began to learn that they were free — it took a while for the news to reach the hinterlands. That date that is now widely celebrated.


They also had forgotten or never knew about the Tulsa Massacre, when more than 300 African Americans were killed and a bustling business district was destroyed (May 31-June 1, 1921).


Texas had more than its share of riots, mob murders, massacres and racial violence. Among those recently cited by the media have been the Camp Logan Riot (1917), Porvenir Massacre (1918) and Sherman Courthouse Riot (1930).


Meanwhile, the sports pages are full of articles about team names, mascots, school songs and other symbols taken from the country’s divisive and often outright racist past. A group of Black athletes at the University of Texas is also leading a charge to change the names of campus buildings associated with racist figures.


And people are paying attention.


Reporters, columnists, broadcasters and bloggers who write about food, music, books, arts, movies, health, education, business, faith, politics and other subjects are also delving more frequently into history in fresh and discerning ways.


After all, we are unarguably living in historic times.


It is gratifying to see that Texas archivists, librarians, community historians and history advocates are contributing regularly to this revival of historical interest while preserving and reviving the primary historical evidence. They keep the rest of us factually honest.


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It is even more hopeful for the long run that expert storytellers and academics — who employ that preserved primary evidence — are more thoroughly describing, analyzing, interpreting and evaluating the record, much of which history buffs have known about for decades.


And people are paying attention.


To give you an example, back in the 1990s, I put together a photo essay about the memorial statuary around town. I called the collective figures that lined the South Mall of the UT campus a "racist walk of shame."


George Littlefield, the benefactor for that parade of historical personages, most since removed, was a veteran of the Civil War. He was not shy about promoting his gift as a salute to white supremacy as well as a public memorial for those who served in World War I.


Exactly one reader responded back then.


That would not happen today.


Currently I’m reading "Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers" (Viking) by former Austin and Dallas journalist Doug J. Swanson. The author vividly recounts well-polished tales of Rangers’ boldness — at first as a militia formed in the 1820s — but he also records their brutality with devastating thoroughness, more so than any other book for a popular audience I’ve read so far.


Those accounts of brain-searing barbarism will last a lifetime.


And people are paying attention.