Hobby Historians and the Plethora of Poor Sources Online

I do much of my research online and I love access to information for free. The amazing ability to have information at my finger tips has one significant downside: any deranged conspiracy theorist can upload their speculation and present it as fact.

I have spent so many wasted hours doing research only to have the sinking realization that the source is not credible. Have you ever watched a Youtube video about history only to realize that the creator of the video has a delusional agenda and nothing you have heard is credible?

So, how do you separate the real from the delusional? Well, you have to look at a few factors and think critically. There are also some great resources that provide accurate information to compare new sources and fact check.

How to Check for Accuracy and Bias:

  1. Who is the author? Is there an about page that may show more information? Does this person claim special “secret” knowledge or access to information not available to the public?
  2. Some keywords that point to conspiracy rantings are: secret, elite, Rothschild, illuminati, Big Pharma, Bilderberg,  wake up, and many others.
  3. Look at the links to other pages or the sponsors. Is this person linked to more obvious sources of conspiracy or hate? Is this person profiting off the “secret knowledge” they provide? This is especially common in the “Big Pharma” conspiracists.  They inevitably are selling a “natural” or “safe” alternative to legitimate modern medicine.
  4. Does it all fit together just a little too neatly? Does it claim a single cause for world events or for illness/harm? Truth is complicated and complex. There is rarely a single cause of any event. It is almost always a complex series of events that lead to anything.
  5. Are the sources used current and reputable? Here is a hint: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is never a sign of reputable information unless the writer is holding them up as false. Do they reference primary documents anywhere or do they only reference works by other historians that do not have credentials? If a historian has only been self-published or has no creditable education, read with caution.

Reliable Sources for Fact Checking the Claims Made:

WhoWhatWhen – A site that allows you to search famous people and events

Smithsonian Institute – Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities.

UH-Digital History –  Includes: a U.S. history e-textbook; over 400 annotated documents, primary sources on slavery, Mexican American and Native American history, and U.S. political, social, and legal history; short essays on the history of film, ethnicity, private life, and technology; multimedia exhibitions; reference resources that include a searchable database of 1,500 annotated links, classroom handouts, chronologies, glossaries, an audio archive including speeches and book talks by historians, and a visual archive with hundreds of historical maps and images. The site’s Ask the HyperHistorian feature allows users to pose questions to professional historians.

Local Historical societies and university-affiliated history projects


When Motherhood Isn’t a Blessing

Do I look terrified in that picture? I don’t remember now if I was terrified or not, the medications given post c-section (and during) are no joke.  I remember thinking the food in the hospital was the most delicious food I had ever eaten.  I ate the same food a few weeks later.  Apparently, pain meds give me the munchies.

I knew I was overwhelmed and a little scared. I assumed the only sane response to being responsible for two newborns was terror.  What if I did this wrong? What if I damaged them forever? What if they grew up to be Dallas Cowboys fans? The struggle is real, folks.

Looking back, I should have known something wasn’t right when a couple of days post-delivery, I yelled at a nurse, flipped out on three family members and had a panic attack that was only solved by my doctor sitting on the floor in my room and holding my hand and my dad taking me for a walk to get coffee. I assumed it was hormones and I would be fine.  I was so very wrong.

I was worried I would be depressed. I knew the signs for that. I knew what to do if I got sad. I was not even aware that it would be anxiety that hijacked any joy I had in being a mother.

Many things were glaring signs in hindsight, but at the time, I just kept doing what I had to do to survive the day.  I scrubbed 20 bottles every day by hand and had to have them assembled and lined up just right or something would go horribly wrong. I would get worried we would run out of formula if there were less than 3 GIANT tubs unopened in the cabinet. One tub would last about 4 days. I am not sure what kind of crisis would have kept us from being able to get more food within 12 days but the fear was real.

When I left the boys in the truck with Randal to make a quick run into the store for formula one day, I came out and could not see the truck immediately. Within seconds, I was having a full blown panic attack with tears streaming down my face that something had happened or that Randal had run off with the boys and left me there. In reality, he had just pulled over to the side of the store to wait.

I would not leave the house to go to Target without 10 diapers and 4 bottles. That was enough for at least 8 hours. I have no idea what I thought would happen to keep us at Target for that long, but I believed something would if I didn’t take them.

As the boys grew, the anxiety changed. I stopped being terrified of them starving only to be terrified that they were behind developmentally and were going to be hindered by my sub par parenting. They weren’t talking or walking when we went for a well check at 15 months. That couldn’t be right. Sure enough, they were behind. They were behind enough to qualify for our state early intervention program.

I had failed as a mom.

I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing. I felt like an imposter. No one could be this horrible of a parent. I am a smart girl and had no idea what to do with my own kids.

The boys were two-years-old before I finally admitted that reality and my perception just were not lining up. I wasted two years being immobilized by fear and overwhelmed by any change in routine or new stage.

If this sounds familiar, do not wait two years. Do not be afraid to admit something is wrong. You have not failed. You are not a bad mom. Body chemistry is weird. You can get help. You are not alone. In fact, studies are finding that postpartum anxiety is much more prevalent than the much wider understood postpartum depression.

You are not alone.

I have received some amazing help and have come so far in just a few months. The first step of admitting I needed my doctor’s help was the hardest. Guess what? He did not think I was crazy or a bad mom. He did not think I was lazy or weird. He understood. He walked me through my options for treatment and offered his help.

You can get through this. A trip to the mall does not have to take 7 hours of planning and three bags. A cough does not mean your child will die. A bump on the head is really not likely to be fatal.

My boys are thriving. They are funny and curious and smart. I’m still worried they’ll be Dallas fans. I can’t control everything, but I am okay with that.

Want more information or need support? You can start at Postpartum Progress and then talk to a doctor.

Book Review: In the Land of the Long White Clouds


“That is to say that the land revealed itself to the first travelers, who came by canoe from Polynesia to New Zealand, in the same way. That explains New Zealand’s Maori name— Aotearoa, ‘Land of the Long White Cloud.’”

The adventure of colonizing New Zealand by Great Britain is detailed in this first novel of the series by Sarah Lark.  Following the migration of two very different women with a common goal, one aristocrat who is on her way to marry a New Zealand sheep baron’s son and a governess escorting orphans in order to join a man she has never met but plans to marry, the novel builds into a multi-generational epic that shows the beauty and the struggles in the early years of New Zealand’s settlement.

Daughter of a wealthy sheep breeder, Gwyneira Silkham is thrilled to be off on an adventure and certain that her husband, the heir to Kiward Station, will be just like the heroes of the penny dreadfuls her family disapproves of her reading.  Governess Helen Davenport has been corresponding with a gentleman farmer who is searching for a wife.  In order to gain passage to New Zealand, she agrees to escort orphans that are being sent to homes as domestic servants.  The two very different women meet while onboard the ship bound for their new home and develop an unlikely friendship.

When their arrival shows them that nothing is what they imagined, their friendship will carry them through the trials and the adventures in their new homeland.  It will be filled with romance, tragedy, and the dilemma of relations between the new settlers and the native Maori people. Lark follows the lives of not only the two women but also all six orphan girls. 

While enjoyable and interesting, there are times that it seems unbelievable that so many coincidences would tie together so perfectly.  Also, while I enjoyed the glimpse into the history of colonial New Zealand, there is criticism from some more knowledgeable than I that it is not accurate. The translation led to some incongruous moments where the currency isn’t accurate (use of dollars, etc instead of the accurate shillings) and use of words that are more modern than accurate to the period. I would recommend a more accurate, nonfiction title if you want to learn the accurate history, but I would also say to enjoy this for the story and the adventure.

I am looking forward to continue the rest of the series and discover where the characters go and how their lives develop.  What are other historical series that you have enjoyed?

The Greenwood Massacre

There are always overlooked stories in history.  These are almost always the stories of the minority and the marginalized. Oklahoma is no different.

In recent years, there has been a focus on uncovering and discussing the horrific tragedy of Greenwood in 1921. It is important to know about the destruction of the incredibly affluent and successful “Black Wall Street” that occurred.  It is a horrific tragedy that was unfortunately not rare for the time.

Throughout African American communities across the country, Tulsa was known as a place of economic opportunity throughout the first decades of the 20th century.  There were Black owned hotels, stores, and various businesses.  The success of this community was often held up as a standard to other communities.

The events of May 31, 1921 are often referred to as the “Tulsa Race Riot” by journalists and historians.  I prefer to refer to it as the Greenwood Massacre.  In less than 24 hours, hundreds were killed, businesses and homes burned to the ground, and countless citizens of Greenwood were injured.

It all began with an incident at the Drexel Hotel.  A young African American employee stumbled leaving an elevator and was charged with rape for having fallen into another employee, Sarah Page. The press at the time portrayed Sarah as an “innocent orphan” that was “scratched and attacked” by a vicious Dick Rowland.  The characterization of both was loaded and mostly inaccurate.

There was mob crying for the lynching of Rowland.  At a time when an average of two African Americans were lynched daily in this country, this was not an empty threat.  A group of men from Greenwood went to the jail to protect Rowland from the mob.  It was then that all hell broke loose.

The mob attacked the men as they walked down the street toward the jail. They quickly deputized multiple white men and were given the authority of the government to attack.  Most of the mob was originally organized by the Ku Klux Klan.

They then marched on Greenwood. There are reports of military equipment being used in the attack as well. The district was attacked at the sound of a whistle while the people of Greenwood were sleeping.  As people attempted to flee, the mob shot indiscriminately at those running. The emptying houses and businesses were looted by the mob of anything of value. There were women seen walking with the mob carrying shopping bags to carry away looted belongings.

It was a night of terror and thievery. The homes and businesses were set afire after they were looted. The telegraph and phone lines were cut in order to make it impossible for any news of the attack to spread. The fire department stood by in order to protect the property of white citizens that was near the district as it burned but provided no assistance to the people of Greenwood.

This was no unorganized gang of criminals. The truth is that the mayor, the police department, and the Ku Klux Klan had orchestrated an attack of near-military precision. It was initiated block by block and systematically. Military planes dropped bombs on the district, including a 42 day old church. Hospitals with patients inside were burned down.  Women carrying infants were shot and killed while running for safety.

It did not end until National Guard troops arrived on June 1st from Oklahoma City. They worked for hours to put down the unrest. They did however pause to eat breakfast before declaring martial law a few hours later.

Black people were rounded up into detention centers.  They were only allowed to leave if vouched for by a white person. Those who were able to leave Tulsa often did not ever return. Those who remained fought to rebuild a community literally out of the ashes. This was further hindered by the Tulsa Real Estate Exchange and City Commission with changes in building codes that rezoned the district for commercial and industrial construction only and that increased requirements for construction to make it economically prohibitive to rebuild.

Generations later, there is a thriving movement to rebuild and preserve the heritage of the Greenwood District. It was not until 1996 that the incident was investigated fully and the truth told.

For further reading:

James S. Hirsch, Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2002

The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 a thorough and well written examination of the events available online

“Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 archive”, University of Tulsa McFarlin Library, Special Collections, links to inventory, related materials, and photographs

Tulsa Race Riot – A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, Tulsa Reparations Coalition Website

“Tulsa Race Riot”, Oklahoma Historical Society

Lesson Plans:

Linda Christensen. “Why Teaching the Tulsa Race Riot is More Than Just Teaching History”, 28 May 2013, GOOD Magazine.

Linda Christensen. “Burned Out of Homes and History: Unearthing the Silent Voices of the Tulsa Race Riot”, 8-page lesson plan for high school Students, 2013, Zinn Education Project/Rethinking Schools.

Multimedia Resources:

Tulsa race riot Collection of 11 real photographic postcards of the race riot that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 31 and June 1, 1921. Pictures illustrate the devastation to the Greenwood District’s African American community, including whole blocks burned to the ground, bodies of victims and the convention hall where Greenwood citizens were detained.

“Black Wall Street, Little Africa, Tulsa, Oklahoma”  full version of documentary streaming at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4IvFXPGYNA

The Only Thing Better than Books: Great Deals on Books!

I have a bit of a problem.  I want more books than I have money in my bank account.  So, what is a girl to do? Simple. Get a Kindle app and then scour the web for great deals and freebies to download.

Yes, when you download a free book, you do sometimes get what you paid for and it isn’t the best quality.  However, sometimes, you stumble across a rare gem that you would have happily paid full price and then some to read.

Here are some of my favorite resources for great deals and discounts on ebooks.

http://www.ohfb.com – One Hundred Free Books will definitely bring some variety and interesting deals to you daily.  They publish a list 2-3 times a day of special deals.  I have found many enjoyable reads here.

http://www.bookbub.com – This is the best known website for great ebook deals.  It conveniently lets you set up a list of your favorite genres and will email you daily with deals just for you.  This is a great starting point and very user friendly.

http://www.theereadercafe.com – Another great source that will send automated emails to you as well.  They have an excellent variety and some deals that I haven’t seen on the other sites.

http://www.robinreads.com – Another site that will email you daily.  This does tend to have some overlap with the other sites but will occasionally have a deal not found elsewhere.

http://www.earlybirdbooks.com – This will have discounts on great books and usually one free classic a day.  These are usually one day deals and you will want to take advantage of the email feature to ensure you don’t miss out.

http://www.bookbarbarian.com – Focusing on sci-fi and fantasy, this will have a smaller list of genre-specific deals.  If you love magic or space adventures, this is a must for you.  They will often list titles that are overlooked by the larger lists.

http://www.digitalbookspot.com – This website is incredibly thorough and usually my first stop of the day.  It will send an email reminder as well.

I have enjoyed hours of reading due to the special deals and discounts from these websites.  Do you have any resources to recommend?