Andrew Jackson will soon be removed from the front of the $20 bill. The family crest of Isaac Royall, the benefactor whose bequest funded the first professorship at Harvard Law School, is about to be erased from campus. The seal of New Mexico University, which features an Anglo settler and a Spanish conquistador, is under attack. Woodrow Wilson’s name has survived a challenge to remove it from Princeton’s School of Public Policy and International Affairs, but just barely.
These, and many other comparable campaigns, constitute expeditions into the past in the relentless pursuit of imperfections. Why are these expeditions undertaken, and what do they tell us about the searchers? Continue reading