Barton, head of the WallBuilders organization, which can be kindly described as giving a right-wing Christian spin on American history, and who once headed the Republican Party in Texas, has no training as a historian. Rather, from WallBuilders you get the kind of agitprop that distorts history and causes division. Earlier this week a friend forwarded me a number of his papers on black history which proved either irrelevant or misleading.
Let's take an entry on Richard Allen, founding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. According to Barton, "Allen began to preach regularly at the St. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia. He suggested that Blacks should have a separate place of worship apart from Whites; and although his suggestion was at first resisted, his forceful preaching attracted such a vast number of Blacks to the church that when objections were raised, Allen's idea of a separate congregation was finally accepted."
In an entry on black voting rights published in 2003, Barton consistently mentions -- without perspective -- that the Democratic Party was the chief agent of racial segregation and discrimination (that was true only in the South). He's correct in saying that the Republican Party was founded specifically to take down chattel slavery -- but wait a minute. By the 1880s, with slavery gone and Reconstruction abandoned, the GOP had left its anti-racist past behind.
Moreover, what became known as the "New Right," pushed by William F. Buckley Jr. and developing appeal mostly in the West, was proving increasingly influential in the GOP in the 1960s, so much so that it was able to get Barry Goldwater on the ticket as its presidential candidate in 1964; Goldwater, who publicly opposed the civil-rights movement, was later denounced by Martin Luther King Jr. as "the most dangerous man in the country" at the time. Two years later, Richard Nixon enacted the GOP's notorious "Southern Strategy" which reached out to white Southerners by emphasizing, among other things, the national Democratic Party's commitment to civil rights (which was recast as "big government"). Slowly they began to trickle into the GOP but came full-scale with the election of Ronald Reagan -- who also opposed MLK Jr.
I wonder why Barton never mentions King and the civil-rights movement -- which of course came out of the black church and even to this day informs much of the African-American community -- in his writings. Perhaps because it clearly came from the political left and thus causes embarrassment to those on the right who want the exclusive franchise on religious activism. But that's a shame, especially considering his partisan view of history which leaves out much of the truth.