Photography courtesy of Deborah Hendrix from Home Magazine Gainesville
Photography courtesy of Deborah Hendrix from Home Magazine Gainesville

Historian Paul Ortiz visits TAMU-CC to emphasize why history matters

April 15, 2019

Paul Ortiz, an American historian and Humanities speaker, held a talk on African American and Latinx history in the UC ballroom on April 11.

A student mixer was held before the lecture, allowing students to socialize and  discus Ortiz’s new book, “An African American and Latinx History of the United States.” Among being a historian and public speaker, Ortiz is also a professor at the University of Florida, is a published author and is a military veteran of the airborne division and special forces unit in Central America.

Ortiz began the talk by sharing his own journey through education. .

“I speak to you all today as a community college graduate,” said Ortiz. “… I am a first generation college student. I would have never in a million years guessed I’d be here speaking.”

It was there where he learned what it meant to be a historian. Ortiz said that today, universities get their level of prestige based on how much technology is in place. He said that this is becoming an issue because schools are not giving humanity courses the level of importance.

(Nazi Germany) had the world’s biggest industrialized society,” said Ortiz, “It collapsed within months because they forgot the importance of the humanities The Germans forgot the historical value Jews had to their society.”

This introduction led him to explain how oppressed minorities, especially African Americans and those of Latinx descent, are the foundations and the legacy that built the U.S.

Ortiz said that American U.S History should be taught and centered around the minorities and the working class who built this country, the groups that faced racial injustice and discrimination. He emphasized how history is taught in K–12 on a surface level, meaning kids learn about Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King but do not actually grasp or get taught the deeper context of those powerful figures that shaped history.

Ortiz then referred back to his family’s military experience. His grandpa grew up in a time where segregation was still vividly practiced. Although his grandpa was not allowed in the whites only restroom, he still served a country that did not respect, represent or serve him back.

“Why is it that we sent them (minorities) to fight the wars,” said Ortiz, “but never fought alongside them during mainland battles, such as those of the civil rights movement?”

Again, it was minorities who spilled blood, both on the war front and then again on at home for civil rights. Ortiz then went further in depth about slavery’s impact and its build up to the civil rights movement, which ties to modern day U.S.

Lastly, Ortiz played an audio clip of his new book, which can be purchased at any major bookstore. As Ortiz wrapped up his lecture, he ended with, “I don’t understand why people say history is boring. History should bring you to tears. … These are people’s lives and struggles. Millions died to bring us here.”


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Historian Paul Ortiz visits TAMU-CC to emphasize why history matters