(Smithsonian) A new generation of scholarship – not to mention high-profile films like 12 Years a Slave and Lincoln -- has changed the way that the public understands American history, particularly slavery, capitalism, and the Civil War. Our language should change as well. The old labels and terms handed down to us from the conservative scholars of the early to mid-20th century no longer reflect the best evidence and arguments. Terms like "compromise" or "plantation" served either to reassure worried Americans in a Cold War world, or uphold a white supremacist, sexist interpretation of the past.
But the Cold War is over, and historians, and in turn the general public, must consider rejecting faulty frameworks and phrases. We no longer call the Civil War "The War Between the States," nor do we refer to women's rights activists as "suffragettes," nor do we call African-Americans "Negroes." Language has changed before