Appreciating history through an appreciation of film

“Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history…are doomed to repeat them.” It’s an old saying but never without relevance, no matter the period of time. I remember first hearing this quote uttered by my fifth grade teacher some 25 years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Part of what sparked my interest in the study of history can be traced back to the underlying sentiment in that very simple statement. In conversations concerning historical matters, I always try to convey that sense of appreciation of history that has led me to make it one of the focuses of my undergraduate work and hopefully very soon, my graduate work.

Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honor Society, has taken on the task this year of encouraging an interest in history with its “History Night At the Movies” program.

“The purpose of this program is to help generate an appreciation of history through the medium of film,” said Phi Alpha Theta President Octavio Ramos, himself a Graduate student in the History Department.

The first in a regular bimonthly series of films will be Blackhawk Down, the story of the October 1993 battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, between U.S. Army forces and militia units loyal to the late Somali warlord Muhammad Farah Adid. The battle is perhaps best known as the event that precipitated the Clinton administration’s withdrawal of all U.S. forces from that country.

Following the presentation of the film, Phi Alpha Theta advisor Dr. Edmund Abaka, a specialist in African history and Interim Director of the African-American Studies Program, will be conducting a short lecture on the factual aspects of the film.

Almost since the advent of motion pictures, visual images of historical themes or events have made their way to prominence among motion picture productions. Today there is an entire commercial television network devoted to history, The History Channel. But why is an interest and appreciation of history important? For Ramos it’s because it gives one a sense of one’s context in the world.

“History is the sense of where we came from as well as where we are now,” he said. “It’s the best indicator of where we are going.”

Blackhawk Down will be shown this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in LC 110. Anyone interested in attending or in membership in Phi Alpha Theta can contact Mr. Ramos at Free pizza and refreshments will be served.

Scott Wacholtz can be contacted at