Holy Cross Professor Introduces Annual Weemsy Awards in Effort to Shed Light on History Fails

Ed O'Donnell, associate professor of history at Holy Cross, is seen here working on his podcast "In The Past Lane" at BirchTree Bread Company in Worcester. Photo by Tom Rettig

The New Yorker

In an era of viral culture where the flood of misinformation can spread like wildfire, Ed O'Donnell, associate professor of history at College of the Holy Cross, tells the New Yorker in a recent article that it's vital to call attention to "history hucksters who misrepresent history out of ignorance or as a means to advance themselves or their cause."

Over the past few years, O'Donnell, along with other fellow "twitterstorians," or historians with large followings on Twitter, has been bringing his expertise to the social media platform to rebut lies and historical misinformation. And this year he went one step further by creating the annual Weemsy Awards, highlighting "the biggest history fails of the year" by politicians, celebrities, executives and more.

The awards are named in honor of Mason Locke Weems — more commonly known as Parson Weems — an American author who wrote the famous 1800 biography of George Washington considered as the point of origin for many long-held myths about Washington, in particular the famous cherry tree anecdote.

Last year's big winner was writer and political commentator, Dinesh D'Souza, for the multitude of demonstrably false claims about U.S. history he shared in 2019.

O'Donnell, a member of the Holy Cross class of 1986, is the author of several books, including "1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish-American History" (Broadway Books, 2002) and "Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age" (Columbia University Press, June 2015). He also hosts a popular podcast, In The Past Lane, exploring various topics in U.S. history.

To read the full article, go to the NewYorker.com.