Closing Column

Even History Changes

Leonard Ornstein ’94

I had my first “full circle” moment as a history teacher in the 1990s at the Museum of Natural History. I was with my students from Gompers High School in the Bronx on a field trip. We passed a painting showing explorer Richard Burton sneaking into Mecca on a hajj, and a student asked me what the painting was. I nearly cried. On a sixth-grade field trip to the museum, I had asked the same question of my teacher. I had another full-circle moment in Richmond this year at the workshop “The South in American History,” sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Back in the 1990s, I was majoring in history at then-Mary Washington College. The make-or-break class for history students was History 299, a course on how to research and write. I decided to write on Gen. George H. Thomas − a Union general and Virginia native. I was in Virginia, ground zero for the Civil War. I was in Fredericksburg, home to four major Civil War battlefields. It was the era of the Ken … [Read more...]