History Doyens: John Hope Franklin


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

John Hope Franklin, 1915-2009, 3-30-09

What They’re Famous For

John Hope Franklin died at March 25, 2009 at the age of 94, Franklin was the doyen of African American history. However, as Franklin claimed “the history of Black people in America is American history.” And that it “not separated so that it isn’t accorded the respect that it deserves from other scholars.”

Franklin lived through America’s most defining twentieth-century transformation, the dismantling of legally-protected racial segregation. A renowned scholar, he explored that transformation in its myriad aspects, notably in his 3.5 million-copy bestseller, From Slavery to Freedom. And he was an active participant.
John Hope Franklin JPGBorn in 1915, he, like every other African American, could not but participate: he was evicted from whites-only train cars, confined to segregated schools, threatened-once with lynching-and consistently met with racism’s denigration of his humanity. And yet he managed to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard, become the first black historian to assume a full-professorship at a white institution, Brooklyn College, be appointed chair of the University of Chicago’s history department and, later, John B. Duke Professor at Duke University. He has reshaped the way African American history is understood and taught and become one of the world’s most celebrated historians, garnering over 130 honorary degrees. But Franklin’s participation was much more fundamental than that.

From his effort in 1934 to hand President Franklin Roosevelt a petition calling for action in response to the Cordie Cheek lynching, to his 1997 appointment by President Clinton to head the President’s Initiative on Race, and continuing to the present, Franklin has influenced with determination and dignity the nation’s racial conscience. Whether aiding Thurgood Marshall’s preparation for arguing Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, marching to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965, or testifying against Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987, Franklin has pushed the national conversation on race towards humanity and equality, a life-long effort that earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1995.
“I think this will be in a class by itself.” Obama’s campaign “is the most radical, far-reaching, significant [undertaking] by any individual or group in our history,” he said. “This strikes at the very heart of national ideology on race and the political patterns of this country’s history.”

Adapted from John Hope Franklin’s author biography from his memoir “Mirror to America” Published in November 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Excerpt from Mirror to America

No Crystal Stair

Living in a world restricted by laws defining race, as well as creating obstacles, disadvantages, and even superstitions regarding race, challenged my capacities for survival. For ninety years I have witnessed countless men and women likewise meet this challenge. Some bested it; some did not; many had to settle for any accommodation they could. I became a student and eventually a scholar. And it was armed with the tools of scholarship that I strove to dismantle those laws, level those obstacles and disadvantages, and replace superstitions with humane dignity. Along with much else, the habits of scholarship granted me something many of my similarly striving contemporaries did not have. I knew, or should say know, what we are up against.

Slavery was a principal centerpiece of the New World Order that set standards of conduct including complicated patterns of relationships. These lasted not merely until emancipations but after Reconstruction and on into the twentieth century. Many of them were still very much in place when beginning in the late 1950s, the sit-ins, marches, and the black revolution began a successful onslaught on some of the antediluvian practices that had become a part of the very fabric of society in the New World and American society in particular.

Born in 1915, I grew up in a racial climate that was stifling to my senses and damaging to my emotional health and social well-being. Society at that time presented a challenge to the strongest adult, and to a child it was not merely difficult but cruel. I watched my mother and father, who surely numbered among the former, daily meet that challenge; I and my three siblings felt equally that cruelty. And it was no more possible to escape that environment of racist barbarism than one today can escape the industrial gases that pollute the atmosphere.

This climate touched me at every stage of my life. I was forcibly removed from a train at the age of six for having accidentally taken a seat in the “white people’s coach.” I was the unhappy victim, also at age six, of a race riot that kept the family divided for more than four years. I endured the very strict segregation laws and practices in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was rejected as a guide through busy downtown Tulsa traffic by a blind white woman when she discovered that the twelve-year-old at her side was black. I underwent the harrowing experience as a sixteen-year-old college freshman of being denounced in the most insulting terms for having the temerity to suggest to a white ticket seller a convenient way to make change. More harrowing yet was the crowd of rural white men who confronted and then nominated me as a possible Mississippi lynching victim when I was nineteen. I was refused service while on a date as a Harvard University graduate student at age twenty-one. Racism in the navy turned my effort to volunteer during World War II into a demeaning embarrassment, such that at a time when the United States was ostensibly fighting for the Four Freedoms I struggled to evade the draft. I was called a “Harvard nigger” at age forty. At age forty-five, because of race, New York banks denied me a loan to purchase a home. At age sixty I was ordered to serve as a porter for a white person in a New York hotel, at age eighty to hang up a white guest’s coat at a Washington club where I was not an employee but a member.

John Hope Franklin JPG To these everyday, ordinary experiences during ninety years in the American race jungle should be added the problem of trying to live in a community where the economic and social odds clearly placed any descendant of Africans at a disadvantage. For a profession, my father, Buck Franklin, proudly chose the practice of law. Depending as it did on the judicial system in which it operated, the practice of law in America could not possibly have functioned favorably or even fairly for a person who qualified as, at best, a pariah within it. My father, ever the optimist, persisted in holding the view that the practice of law was a noble pursuit whose nobility entailed the privilege of working to rectify a system that contained a set of advantages for white people and a corresponding set of disadvantages for black people. The integrity and the high moral standards by which he lived and that he commended to his children forbade him to violate the law or resort to any form of unethical conduct. And, as children, we had to adjust ourselves to dignified, abject poverty.

My mother, Mollie, shared these views, to which she added a remarkable amount of creativity and resourcefulness in her effort to supplement the family income and boost the family morale. She taught in public schools, made hats, and developed a line of beauty aids. To these creative skills should be added her equanimity, her sense of fairness, her high standards of performance, and her will to succeed. On many occasions she would say to me, “If you do your best, the angels cannot do any better!” These qualities became the hallmark of her relationship with her four children, giving us the strength and skills to cope with the formidable odds she knew we would encounter. If we did not always succeed, it was not the fault of our parents.

But the challenges I, my brother, Buck, and my sisters, Mozella and Anne, faced were always formidable. Living through years of remarkable change, the barrier of race was a constant. With the appearance of each new institution or industry, racism would rear its ugly head again. When the age of the automobile made its debut, there was the question of whether African Americans should be given the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to find work within that industry. It was the same with the advent of the computer age. More than one company dragged its feet when it came to making certain that young people on “both sides of the track” had an opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to be successful participants in the new scientific revolution. Indeed, the expansion of numerous American industries caused debates or at least discussions regarding the abilities of African Americans to cope with new developments, whatever they were. Even at the end of the twentieth century, many Americans continued to debate nineteenth-century racial theories regarding the abilities of blacks to see at night, to make accurate calculations, and to learn foreign languages. These debates ranged from discussions having to do with the effect of African Americans on the growth of the gross national product to their ability to resist new diseases or their capacity to adjust to new educational or cultural developments. Throughout a life spent at the intersection of scholarship and public service, I have been painfully aware that superstitions and quaint notions of biological and even moral differences between blacks and whites continue to affect race relations in the United States—even into the twenty-first century.

In 1943 Gunnar Myrdal called attention to these discussions and debates over racial differences in his classic American Dilemma. And when the Committee on the Status of Black Americans, of which I was a member, took another look in 1989 while updating Myrdal’s book, we saw much the same thing and set forth these and other views in A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society. In our discussion of the problem of race, we declared that it could well create new fissures that might, in turn, lead to an increased level of confrontations and violence. The Rodney King riots of 1991 offered vivid testimony that there still persists much too much potential for racial conflict for anyone to be complacent.

Of the many recollections I have arising from my fifteen months as chair of President Clinton’s advisory board on race is that of the black woman who screamed during a meeting her history of how she had been abused and mistreated because of her race. My memory of the white man who claimed that already too much was being done for African Americans, and it was he who needed protection from policies such as affirmative action, is no less vivid. The advisory board was troubled by these and similar competing claims, and it became clear that open dialogues and, if necessary, limitless discussions were the civilized approach to finding constructive ways of dealing with America’s racial ills. It did and will require not only persistent diligence but also abiding patience.

John Hope Franklin JPGDuring my life it has been necessary to work not only as hard as my energies would permit, but to do it as regularly and as consistently as humanly possible. This involved the strictest discipline in the maximum use of my time and energy. I worked two jobs in college and graduate school that made inordinate demands on my time, but there was no alternative to the regimen that circumstances demanded. And those circumstances included a refusal to check my catholic interests that have always prompted me to participate in activities beyond scholarship. Balancing professional and personal activities has resulted in a life full of rich rewards, a consequence deeply indebted to my near sixty-year marriage to Aurelia Whittington. My father called her the Trooper for her patient, good-willed, indomitable spirit. She was that and so much more. How do I calculate the influence of having spent two-thirds of my life living alongside an exemplar of selfless dignity?

Even before we were married, I learned much from Aurelia. She taught me to put others ahead of my own preference, as she did routinely. There is no more vivid example of her habit of self-sacrifice than when she abandoned her own career. She did so in order to be there for Whit, our only child, when our adult Brooklyn neighbors taunted him and sought in every way possible to convey that neither he nor his family was welcome to live in their previously all-white neighborhood.

My life has been dedicated to and publicly defined by scholarship, a lifelong affection for the profession of history and the myriad institutions that support it. A white professor at historically black Fisk University powerfully influenced my choice of a career, one I decided early on to dedicate to new areas of study, wherever possible, in order to maintain a lively, fresh approach to teaching and writing history. This is how I happened to get into African American history, in which I never had a formal course but that attracted an increasing number of students of my generation and many more in later generations. But I was determined that I would not be confined to a box of any kind, so I regarded African American history as not so much a separate field as a subspecialty of American history. Even in graduate school I was interested in women’s history, and in more recent years I have studied and written papers in that field, although I never claimed more than the desire to examine it intensely rather than presume to master it entirely.

I could not work in the field of history without maintaining some contact with other historians and some affiliation with historical associations. Consequently, at the Library of Congress and in local libraries where I was engaged in research, I made a point of meeting other historians and discussing with them matters of mutual interest. I not only maintained an active membership in the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History but joined other groups, even where it became necessary to educate members, to the extent possible, that history knows no bounds, either in the human experience or in the rules governing who is eligible to record it. This would not, could not involve demeaning myself or in any way compromising my own self-respect. On occasion it did involve venturing into groups and organizations when it was not clear if their reception of me would be cool or cordial. Nevertheless, as a consequence I became active in the major national professional organizations long before most other African Americans joined them.

In much the same way, I became involved with historical groups in other parts of the world. My ever-widening contacts in the United States presented me with opportunities to become associated with historians in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America. Each contact was instructive not only about the many things that peoples of the world have in common but also as to the intense interest other peoples have in problems and developments far removed from their own that would nevertheless assist them in understanding their own society. A remarkable and unforeseen result of my determination to pursue my profession wherever it led, be that into the halls of previously all-white academic associations or to the far-flung scholarly organizations scattered across the globe, were the contacts that released me from the straitjacket confinement of pursuing a career exclusively in historically black colleges and universities.

My life and my career have been fulfilled not merely by my own efforts but also by the thoughtful generosity of family, friends, and professional colleagues. I can only hope that they realize, as do I, how interdependent we all are and how much more rewarding and fulfilling life is whenever we reach a level of understanding where we can fully appreciate the extent of our interrelationships with and our reliance on those who came before us, kept us company during our lives, and will come after us.

Excerpted from Mirror to America by John Hope Franklin. Copyright © 2005 by John Hope Franklin. Publishes in November 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


By John Hope Franklin

  • “This is one of the most historic moments-if not the most historic moment-in the history of the country.” — Franklin commented after Barack Obama was elected the United States’ first black president in a video.
  • “My challenge was to weave into the fabric of American history enough of the presence of blacks so that the story of the United States could be told adequately and fairly. That was terribly important.” — John Hope Franklin in 1997 at the 50th Anniversary of his definitive account of the black experience in America, “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans.”
  • A FULL CENTURY has elapsed since Abraham Lincoln signed the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. A large number of people were participants in the drama that culminated in the signing: members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, Negroes, religious and civic leaders, military leaders and common soldiers, clerks and telegraph operators. Many of them have left accounts of their experiences and observations, but few if any were in a position to tell the full story. Thus, we have from the participants who left some record of their role mere fragments. And none of them was able to see the Emancipation Proclamation in its broader context and significance. Without the vantage point provided by time, they could hardly be expected to have the objectivity and perspective that the span of one hundred years provides. But without their accounts the historian would be in no position to tell the story.
    While historians have dealt with the Proclamation as a phase or an aspect of the Civil War, they have given scant attention to the evolution of the document in the mind of Lincoln, the circumstances and conditions thatled to its writing, its impact on the course of the war at home and abroad, and its significance for later generations. A few have devoted considerable attention to the Proclamation. In his The Great Proclamation Henry Steele Commager has written a delightful, brief account for children. Benjamin Quarles covers the matter in his Lincoln and the Negro but his interest properly extends far beyond the Proclamation. Charles Eberstadt has written a valuable article, “The Emancipation Proclamation,” that deals largely with the texts of thenumerous manuscripts and printed drafts of the document.
    The ramifications as well as the implications of the Emancipation Proclamation seem endless, and many of them have doubtless escaped me. But I have sought to deal here with the principal outlines of the history of the document and to indicate its general significance to contemporary as well as to later generations. As a war measure its significance is, perhaps, fairly well known. As a moral force during and after the war, its importance is, to some students of the period, elusive. As a great American document of freedom it has been greatly neglected. In these and other ways I have sought to place it in its setting and give it its proper evaluation.
    John Hope Franklin in “Reconstruction after the Civil War”
  • Despite the large number of books and articles touching on the subject, there is still no full-length study of runaway slaves. In fact, much of the scholarship about slave resistance continues to be dominated by the conceptual framework and the focus presented by Herbert Aptheker more than a half-century ago: “The Machinery Runaway Slaves JPG of Control,” “Early Plots and Rebellions,” “The Turner Cataclysm and Some Repercussions,” and “The Civil War Years.” Perhaps no book has “exercised such dominion over a subject of prime importance,” Genovese writes, as American Negro Slave Revolts. Peter Kolchin recently observed, however, that Aptheker probably exaggerated the extent of slave unrest. He lamented that there is still no adequate study of slave resistance or slave flight.
    We have undertaken an extensive examination of “slave flight” between 1790 and 1860. It reveals, among other things, some problems of management of the South’s “peculiar institution.” It shows how a significant number of slaves challenged the system and how the great majority of them struggled to attain their freedom even if they failed.
    The price they paid for their unwillingness to submit was obviously enormous. This study reveals how slave owners marshaled considerable effort to prevent the practice of running away, meted out punishments to slaves who disregarded the rules, and established laws and patrols to control the movement of slaves. It also exposes the violence and cruelty that were inherent in the slave system. Indeed, it shows, perhaps better than any other approach, how slaves resisted with various forms of violence and how slave owners responded, at times brutally, to demonstrate their authority over their human chattel.
    Even today important aspects of the history of slavery remain shrouded in myth and legend. Many people still believe that slaves were generally content, that racial violence on the plantation was an aberration, and that the few who ran away struck out for the Promised Land in the North or Canada. We have carefully scrutinized those who challenged the system; when, where, and how they ran away; how long they remained out; how they survived away from the plantation; and how and when they were brought back and punished. We examine the motives of absentees, or those who left the farm or plantation for a few days or weeks; the incentives of outlyers, or those who hid out in the woods for months, sometimes years; and the activities of maroons, who established camps in remote swamps and bayous. We also examine how “term slaves,” or those to be emancipated at a future date, responded to their status and how free blacks assisted their brethren and on occasion themselves became runaways.
    Of equal importance, we seek to analyze the motives and responses of the slaveholding class and other whites. How did owners react to such intransigence in their midst? How did they attempt to halt the flow of runaways? What laws did they seek to enact? What punishments did they administer? How successfully did they curtail such dissidence? Indeed, it is less important to discover what happened to individual slaves than to understand the relationship between the owners and the runaways who challenged the system, a relationship that reveals perhaps as well as any perspective the true nature of the South’s peculiar institution.
    John Hope Franklin in “Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation”

John Hope Franklin in Memoriam

  • “Because of the life John Hope Franklin lived, the public service he rendered, and the scholarship that was the mark of his distinguished career, we all have a richer understanding of who we are as Americans and our journey as a people. Dr. Franklin will be deeply missed. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to his loved ones, as our nation mourns his loss.” — President Barack Obama
  • “John Hope Franklin was one of the most important American historians of the 20th century and one of the people I most admired. I was honored he agreed to be the head of the President’s Initiative on Race. He led his committee all over America to listen to people of all races, faiths, cultures, and classes. And he produced a remarkable report on the ways in which we remain divided along color lines and what we can do about it. During the process, we became friends and I learned a lot from him about history, politics, and life. He graced our country with his life, his scholarship, and his citizenship. Hillary and I will miss him very much. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends.” — Former President Bill Clinton
  • Today we mourn the passing of one of our nation’s most distinguished scholars, historian John Hope Franklin. His academic and civic contributions helped integrate the African-American narrative into American history – reflecting one of our nation’s most cherished goals of creating a stronger and more united America. The author of the landmark study of African Americans, From Slavery to Freedom, Professor Franklin chaired the history departments at Brooklyn College and the University of Chicago, before becoming James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke University. The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies and the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke remain as permanent monuments to his contributions in academia and public policy. John Hope Franklin successfully bridged the gap between theory and practice. That was never more evident than his scholarly work on President Bill Clinton’s Task Force on Race – for which he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, his invaluable work on the history of African Americans, and his seminal research used in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education. Let us honor the lasting legacy of John Hope Franklin by maintaining the vibrancy of our nation through our commitment to progress and equality for all.” — Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement on the passing of renowned historian John Hope Franklin.
  • “The preeminent voice and witness for America’s sojourn from slavery to freedom has been silenced physically. But his writings, research, interpretation and legacy will live forever. I talked with him as a student and walked the University of Chicago campus with him. He was who I went to first for advice and counsel. All of his students felt that we were his prize possession. He mad us feel that way. In the family of American historians he sits in a high seat and occupies a high place.” — Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition
  • “His work helped make possible an expansion of freedom and justice that has continued from Brown v. Board … to last fall’s election. We are all diminished by his loss.” — Drew Gilpin Faust
  • “He was working in a profession that more or less banned him at the outset and ended up its leading practitioner. And yet, he always managed to keep his grace and his sense of humor.” — Tim Tyson, a history professor at Duke
  • “I think about a phrase my father uses a gentleman and a scholar. He was both of those things. His honesty and his integrity and his restraint were coupled with a passionate devotion to his craft and to his country. He had a fierce sense of commitment to public scholarship, the kind of scholarship that matters.” — Tim Tyson, Duke University history professor and author
  • “John Hope Franklin lived for nearly a century and helped define that century. A towering historian, he led the recognition that African-American history and American history are one. With his grasp of the past, he spent a lifetime building a future of inclusiveness, fairness and equality. Duke has lost a great citizen and a great friend.” — Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead
  • “John Hope Franklin personified the dignity, empowerment and faith of a generation of African-Americans who persisted, and succeeded, in making their country live up to its promise as a land of equal opportunity. He never permitted anyone to take away his dignity or sense of self. … He was a wonderful mentor, a dear friend and a colleague who loved to celebrate the achievements of his fellow scholars. He will be sorely missed.” — William Chafe, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History, Duke University
  • “One of the great stories of his life is his dignity in the face of the kind of rampant racism that existed. When he first did research at Duke in the 1940s, he could use the manuscript collection, but he could not eat his lunch or use the bathroom because it was segregated. And he never lost his sense of empowerment in the face of that kind of treatment.” — Bill Chafe, past president of Organization of American Historians and a history professor at Duke
  • “By always telling the truth to America and the world about history, he steered our conscience in such a way that constantly made it uncomfortable to accept the status quo. He reminded us that we must do more than merely apologize for the pain of the past, but we also must make amends.” — William Barber, state chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
  • “John Hope Franklin was a tremendous leader, historian and friend to North Carolina and to the nation. He personified giving and his work to advance the understanding of African-American contributions was unmatched by any other. He will be sadly missed.” — North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue
  • “With the passing of John Hope Franklin, North Carolina has lost a great scholar and a moral compass for all of us. He inspired with his words and with his teaching, and he set an unsurpassed example of courage, leadership and commitment. From John Hope Franklin we learned about history, but we also learned the way to chart a new path of justice and opportunity for our state and our nation.” — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton
  • “Dr. Franklin was a worldwide figure, a seminal author and a man of immeasurable insight. We were privileged in North Carolina for so long to have near immediate access to such a rich mind. We will all miss his lessons and we mourn for his loss.” — North Carolina House Speaker Joe Hackney
  • “I worked with John Hope Franklin and was inspired by him. His values were infectious. Through his example and his writings, he helped me to see more clearly the struggles of African-Americans and the continuing obligation we all have to bring about true equal opportunity for all Americans. He was a great, great man.” — Erskine Bowles, University of North Carolina system President
  • “The world has lost a brilliant scholar. A proud Oklahoman, John Hope Franklin was among the greatest historians of our time. His seminal work, From Slavery to Freedom, is one of the great books of the 20th century, but John Hope Franklin’s entire life was dedicated to the pursuit of truth. I was, and am, a devoted admirer of his work. This remarkable, legendary man will be sorely missed, but his contributions to our understanding of history will last forever.” — Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry
  • “Dr. Franklin’s voice will certainly not be silenced by his passing. His legacy is one that will live on through his passion for educating the generations of Americans who have sought his wisdom.” — Julius Pegues, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation
  • “I cannot think of anyone whose scholarly work and passion has enlightened America with more impact on issues related to equity, excellence and diversity. The legacy he leaves is immeasurable.” — Charlie Nelms, chancellor of North Carolina Central University
  • “Those of us lucky enough to have shared his University of Chicago years recall his boundless energy, his fairness and probity, and his good humor as he was simultaneously leading a department, traveling the world, running agencies, serving on commissions, giving countless lectures, and offering counsel. John Hope enjoyed people, and people enjoyed John Hope. Everything he did, from his cooking to his orchid growing, was extraordinary. Lucky indeed it was to know him and be put in touch with the energies and spirit of a great man.” — Neil Harris, the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago
  • “John Hope Franklin was an iconic historian who achieved the pinnacle of success in his professional life and whose work will live on for many years to come. His distinguished career as a public servant and scholar are an inspiration to so many. Dr. Franklin shattered barriers that seem unimaginable in todays world, and he did so with elegance and perseverance. North Carolina was fortunate to count this fine individual among its residents. Our nation lost one of the most brilliant minds of a generation in Dr. Franklin, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time.” — Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) and Representative David Price (NC-4) today announcing similar resolutions in their respective chambers honoring North Carolina historian John Hope Franklin
  • “Dr. Franklins scholarship, from St. Augustines and North Carolina College in the 1930s and 40s to his distinguished careers at Chicago and Duke, showed that African-American history is inseparable from any telling of the American story. We honor his tremendous contributions to American history, but his legacy is not only the study of the past. The greater understanding he fostered lights a path for present and future citizens to live together in a more unified nation. Lisa and I join North Carolina and the nation in grieving his loss. From his beloved orchids to his wise counsel, he shared his friendship generously and will be greatly missed.” — Representative David Price (NC-4)
  • “As a premiere historian, John Hope Franklin made immeasurable contributions by educating us on the integral role that Africans and African-Americans played in American history. As an activist, John Hope Franklin was an active mentor and educator of the leaders of the civil rights movement as well as an unapologetic advocate for full and equal citizenship. As a friend, he was a mentor and truly wonderful spirit and inspiration to me and my wife. I am deeply saddened by the loss of such a monumental figure. But I am also consoled by the fact that he lived and used every minute of his life for the most outstanding, decent and noble purposes.” — Rep. Mel Watt (NC-12)
  • “John Hope Franklin was a great educator, historian and humanitarian. He dedicated his entire life to trying to bring people together to make the world a better place.” Rep. Bob Etheridge (NC-2).
  • “John Hope Franklin changed the way we look at our history. American history is not just the story of European settlers and their descendents. Franklin made sure that the story of American history included the contributions and experiences of all Americans.” — Representative Brad Miller (NC-13)
  • “John Hope Franklins lifetime of work was crucial to America coming to the understanding that history would be incomplete without African Americans, and that America could only become whole by confronting the lingering ghosts of slavery and segregation.” — Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-1)
  • “I am saddened by the death of Dr. John Hope Franklin, yet I know future generations will celebrate the accomplishments of his life. He was an American treasure.” — Rep. Larry Kissell (NC-8)

About John Hope Franklin’s Scholarship

  • “A pioneer scholar; a splendid humanist and a shining model to generations of students, scholars, and activists.” — David Levering Lewis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, 1994
  • “There had really been nothing like the book that John Hope Franklin wrote in 1942, “From Slavery to Freedom.” Before that book appeared, there had been efforts to sum up the experience, the odyssey, of people of color in North America. Du Bois of course, W.E.B. Du Bois had made an impressive effort as had several others. But Franklin’s synoptic history, beginning in 1619, and as it was amended as the years passed – I think perhaps, we’re in the eight or ninth edition up to the day before yesterday – gave the full experience in its many dimensions – but handily so. Accessibly written, deeply sourced – indeed the documents at the end of “From Slavery to Freedom” gave graduate students perhaps all they needed to launch their own researches. It was a book that made black studies, as it was called in its initial period, or African American history – now called diasporic studies – gave it its launch pad. And so he really was seminal from that perspective of enabling a sub- field, an ignored field, to become indeed one of the primary pursuits of (unintelligible) research. — Professor DAVID LEVERING LEWIS (New York University; Pulitzer Prize winner)
  • I absolutely remember it because it was the second thickest book on my parents’ den shelves. The other one was the Bible. But I remember growing up and seeing that book there and eventually leafing through it myself, and the first edition, hard-bound is a think book, and I just remember being impressed that, as my father told me, who was a fan of historians, that one man wrote that book, one negro man, which was the day, the word of the time. And I have to believe that my just astounding understanding of what it meant for him to regard John Hope Franklin with that honored place on the family den bookshelf meant a great deal to me and my own scholarly endeavors. So I discovered the book before I discovered the man, and when I came to Duke University, my parents would always say that she’s at John Hope Franklin’s university, and that was enough for me to have earned some honor in the eye of my parents. — Professor KARLA HOLLOWAY (Co-founder; John Hope Franklin Center)on NPR
  • Well, I visited John Hope Franklin at Brooklyn College the year he became the chair of the history department there, and this was such a notable event in race relations and in scholarship that I think it was announced on the front page of the New York Times. I knew of him because we shared a professor, a history professor, at Fisk University, one who had influenced my life and the course which it followed, and I knew that John Hope Franklin had become a historian in large part because of the influence of this remarkable history professor. And so to meet him, the flesh-and-blood man, I entered into his office as though into something of a sanctuary. Well, he soon dispelled that kind of reverential atmosphere that was in my mind, and as Karla says, he was a wonderful combination of gravitas and levity. Those two words really are antonyms, and yet they do express his personality, which was one that always addressed major issues in a kind of demotic way. One understood why they were important. You not only understood the issue, but you understood why the issue had to matter. John was perhaps a precursor of this much bandied-about term, public intellectual. Before that tripped off everybody’s tongue to describe lots of people, he had already ventured from the narrow…ivory tower, and into marching from Selma to Montgomery with Martin Luther King. And before that, of course, leading a group of historians to ascertain what was in the minds of the congressional authors of the constitutional amendments, 14th and 15th, in order to strengthen the argument of the NAACP before the Supreme Court. And of course with the conversation on race enterprise that President Clinton… I think that you have to remember each and every one of them because he was a complicated and a – a citizen of the world. He made sure that his intelligence and interest reached far beyond the local to the global, and yet he was loved. That’s what I’ll remember about him. — Professor DAVID LEVERING LEWIS (New York University; Pulitzer Prize winner)
  • When one reads From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, by JohnHope Franklin, the immediate impression, and for me, appreciation, is that here is a scholar with honesty and purpose who is, in effect standing in loco parentis of the crucial facts about the African Americans’ past, present and future effect on the American system. As in his other writings, whether it is The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860; Race and History; Selected Essays — 1938-1988; Racial Equality in America; Reconstruction After the Civil War; African Americans and The Living Constitution; his biography of George Washington Williams; or other selections from his fertile mind and productive pen, the comprehensive investigation of the African in America, from the gray and pale days of slavery to the still-cloudy days of near-freedom is presented with such vitality and scholarly authority that those who dare play fast and loose with the facts are compelled to take notice; and more often than not, to return to their so urces for further discussion and interpretation. — Professor Percy R. Luney, Jr. North Carolina Central University School of Law September 19, 1997
  • “Those African-Americans who teach in typically underfinanced black colleges today confront the same heavy teaching loads that Franklin bore, all the while insisting on continuing his research and scholarship.” — Mary Frances Berry reflected on Mr. Franklin’s career
  • “My fondest dream would be to create a work of scholarship in the field of African American literature as germinal, as salient, as compelling, and as timeless as From Slavery to Freedom.” — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University about “From Slavery to Freedom”
  • “John Hope Franklin is a true role model. He embodies the native optimism, i.e., that one can go from slavery to freedom, from ignorance to intelligence, can experience cruelty, yet manifest kindness. In Mirror to America, each citizen can see herself and himself, reflected in the life of this great American.” — Maya Angelou
  • “Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin is an astonishing beautiful, deeply intelligent record of an extraordinary life. Required reading lest we forget what is possible in a race-based society.” — Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature
  • “With his remarkable sense of humanity, renowned historian John Hope Franklin shares his life journey – an odyssey marked by scholarship, public service, and his passionate commitment to improve the condition of African Americans and their relations with their fellow citizens. Through candid stories of Franklin’s relentless pursuit of equality, Mirror to America calls upon all Americans to look at our nation’s past so that we may destroy the color line that continues to divide our country, and progress together into the future.” — President William Jefferson Clinton
  • “This is the most important autobiography of the year! John Hope Franklin is a national treasure. Mirror to America is cause for a national celebration. For me, and countless others, Dr. Franklin is a mentor and role-model without peer, a man whose clear-eyed look into our past improved America’s future. Mirror to America will lift the spirit and steel our resolve for the work ahead.” — Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Senior Manager and Director Lazard LTD and author of Vernon Can Read
  • “John Hope Franklin’s story is a triumphant one, at once a chronicle of America’s progress in civil rights over the past ninety years and a stirring reminder of the determination still needed to confront the country’s remaining barriers to racial equality. He has inspired his students for decades; now, with Mirror to America, he offers inspiration to us all.” — David N. Dinkins, 106th Mayor, City of New York
  • “John Hope Franklin’s Mirror to America is a singular document, a great historian’s autobiography that will serve as an indispensable history of our times. Read and reflect, indeed!” — David Levering Lewis, Pulizer Prize winner, Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History, NYU
  • “In Search of the Promised Land is a unique and exciting addition to the literature on slavery and nineteenth-century history. It shows the complexity of slave life and challenges existing historical interpretations without completely overturning the studies of the last thirty years. . . . I love the story itself–what a story!” — James Fuller, University of Indianapolis
  • “The book’s focus on the Thomas-Rapier family provides for one of the more vivid presentations of antebellum race relations I have seen. So much of scholarship on slave life tends to lose sight of individuals who had to confront life in a slave society. This book brings individuals back into the picture.” — Dickson D. Bruce, University of Irvine California
  • “No one has yet explored the fugitives’ world and its meaning for the slave experience more deeply and with greater sophistication than [the authors]….[This book] greatly enhances our understanding of the system of slavery….” — Los Angeles Times Book Review
  • “Using documentation from broadsheets to diaries, the authors provide incredible details of who the runaways were, their motivations and destinations, and how their efforts failed or succeeded. Franklin and Schweninger provide very personal accounts, giving names and personalities to an aspect of U.S. slavery that is seldom portrayed and refuting the mythology of the contented slave.” — Booklist

Basic Facts

John Hope Franklin JPGTeaching & Professional Positions:

Fisk University, Nashville, TN, instructor, 1936-37;
St. Augustine’s College, Raleigh, NC, instructor, 1938-43;
North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University), Durham, NC, instructor in history, 1943-47;
Howard University, Washington, DC, professor of history, 1947-56;
Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY, professor of history and chair of department, 1956-64;
Fulbright professor, Australia, 1960;
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, professor of history, 1964-82, chair of history department, 1967-70;
John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor, 1969-82, professor emeritus, 1982–Duke University, Durham, NC, James B. Duke Professor of History, 1982-85, professor emeritus, 1985–.

Also, Fulbright distinguished lecturer, Zimbabwe, 1986;
Visiting professor at University of California, Harvard University, University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, University of Hawaii, Australia National University, Salzburg (Austria) Seminar, and other institutions;
Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions, Cambridge University, 1962-63.
Board of Foreign Scholarships, member, 1962-69, chair, 1966-69;
National Council on Humanities, member, 1976-79.

Member of board of trustees, Fisk University, 1947-84, Chicago Symphony, 1976-80, National Humanities Center, 1980-91, and De Sable Museum, Chicago University, 1970–;
Member of board of directors, Salzburg Seminar, Museum of Science and Industry, 1968-80.

Advisory board chair, President William Jefferson Clinton’s Special Presidential Commission for One America: The President’s Initiative on Race.
Member of the board of the United States National Slavery Museum, Fredericksburg, VA.

Area of Research:

African American history, Southern history, Race Relations in America


Fisk University, A.B., 1935;
Harvard University, A.M., 1936, Ph.D., 1941.

Major Publications:

  • The Free Negro in North Carolina, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1943, reprinted with a new foreword and bibliographic afterword by the author, 1995.
  • (With Alfred A. Moss, Jr.) From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 1947, reprinted as From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, 8th edition, 2000.
  • The Militant South, 1800-1860, Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA), 1956, revised edition, 1970, reprinted, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2002.
  • Reconstruction after the Civil War, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1962, 2nd edition, 1995.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1963, reprinted, Harlan Davidson (Wheeling, IL), 1995.
  • (With John W. Caughey and Ernest R. May) Land of the Free: A History of the United States, Benziger (Mission Hills, CA), 1965, teacher’s edition, 1971.
  • (With the editors of Time-Life Books) An Illustrated History of Black Americans, Time-Life (New York, NY), 1970.
  • Racial Equality in America, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.
  • A Southern Odyssey: Travelers in the Antebellum North, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1976.
  • George Washington Williams: A Biography, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1985, reprinted with a new preface, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1998.
  • Race and History: Selected Essays, 1938-1988, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1990.
  • The Color Line: Legacy for the Twenty-first Century, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1993.
  • (With William M. Banks) Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1996.
  • (With Loren Schweninger) Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
  • (With Loren Schweninger) In Search of the Promised Land: A Slave Family in the Old South, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.
  • Mirror to America: The Autobiography of John Hope Franklin, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.

Editor / Joint Editor:

  • The Civil War Diary of J.T. Ayers, Illinois State Historical Society (Springfield, IL), 1947, reprinted, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1999.
  • Albion Tourgee, A Fool’s Errand, Belknap Press (Cambridge, MA), 1961.
  • T.W. Higginson, Army Life in a Black Regiment, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1962.
  • Three Negro Classics, Avon (New York, NY), 1965.
  • (With Isadore Starr) The Negro in Twentieth-Century America: A Reader on the Struggle for Civil Rights, Vintage (New York, NY), 1967.
  • Color and Race, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1968.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, The Suppression of the African Slave Trade, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1969.
  • John R. Lynch, Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John R. Lynch, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1970.
  • (With August Meier) Black Leaders of the Twentieth Century, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1982.
  • (With Genna Rae McNeil) African Americans and the Living Constitution, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1995.
  • (With John Whittington Franklin) My Life and an Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1997.

Coeditor of American history series for Crowell and AHM Publishing, 1964;
general editor of “Zenith Book” series on secondary education, Doubleday, 1965;
general editor of “Negro American Biographies and Autobiographies” series, University of Chicago Press, 1969;
coeditor of “American History Series,” Harlan Davidson, 1985.

Contributor to Books:

Problems in American History, edited by Arthur S. Link and Richard Leopold, 1952, 2nd revised edition, 1966;
The Negro Thirty Years Afterward, edited by Rayford W. Logan, 1955;
Issues in University Education, edited by Charles Frankel, 1959; Lincoln for the Ages, edited by Ralph Newman, 1960;
The Southerner as American, edited by Charles G. Sellars, Jr., 1960;
Soon One Morning, edited by Herbert Hill, 1963;
The Atlantic Future, edited by H.V. Hodson, 1964;
The South in Continuity and Change, edited by John C. McKinney and Edgar T. Thompson, 1965;
New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, edited by Harold Hyman, 1966;
An American Primer, edited by Daniel J. Boorstin, 1968;
The Comparative Approach to American History, edited by C. Vann Woodward, 1968;
William Wells Brown: Author and Reformer, edited by William Edward Farrison, 1969;
Henry Ossawa Tanner, American Artist, edited by Marcia M. Mathews, 1969;
Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, edited by Alfreda M. Duster, 1970;
Chant of Saints, edited by Michael S. Harper, 1979;
The Voices of Negro Protest in America, edited by William H. Burns, 1980;
A Melting Pot or a Nation of Minorities, edited by Robert L. Payton, 1986;
This Road to Freedom, edited by Eric C. Lincoln, 1990;
American Studies in Black and White: Selected Essays, 1949-1989, edited by Sidney Kaplan and Allan Austin, 1991;
a To Be Free, edited by Herbert Aptheker, 1992.

Author of forewords to history books by others, including Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, 1982; Timuel D. Black, Jr., Bridges of Memory: Chicago’s First Wave of Black Migration, 2003; Judge Robert L. Carter, A Matter of Law: A Memoir of Struggle in the Cause of Equal Rights, 2005; and Harold Holzer, Edna Greene Medford, and Frank J. Williams, The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views, 2006.

Also author of pamphlets for U.S. Information Service and Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; contributor of articles to numerous journals and periodicals, including Daedalus.


Edward Austin fellowships, 1937-39;
presidents’ fellowships, Brown University, 1952-53;
Guggenheim fellowships, 1950-51, 1973- 74;
Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences fellowships, 1973-74;
Jules F. Landry Award, 1975, for A Southern Odyssey: Travelers in the Antebellum
Named to Oklahoma Hall of Fame, 1978;
Clarence L. Holte Literary Award, 1986, for George Washington Williams: A Biography;
Cleanth Brooks Medal, Fellowship of Southern Writers, 1989;
Gold Medal, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1990;
Caldwell Medal, North Carolina Council on Humanities, 1992 and 1993;
Charles Frankel Medal, 1993;
Bruce Catton Prize from the Society of American Historians and Sidney Hook Award from Phi Beta Kappa, both 1994;
NAACP Spingarn Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, W.E.B. Du Bois Award, Alpha Phi Alpha Award of Merit, and Organization of American Historians Award, all 1995;
American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 1997, for Black Intellectuals: Race and Responsibility in American Life; named to Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame, 1997;
Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, 1997;
John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity, 2006.

Recipient of honorary degrees from more than 135 colleges and universities, including: LL.D. from Morgan State University, 1960, Lincoln University, 1961, Virginia State College, 1961, Hamline University, 1965, Lincoln College, 1965, Fisk University, 1965, Columbia University, 1969, University of Notre Dame, 1970, and Harvard University, 1981;
A.M. from Cambridge University, 1962;
L.H.D. from Long Island University, 1964, University of Massachusetts, 1964, and Yale University, 1977;
and Litt.D. from Princeton University, 1972.
Black Issues in Higher Education established the John Hope Franklin Awards for Excellence in Higher Education; the John Hope Franklin Institute was established at Duke University.

Additional Info:

American Historical Association (member of executive council, 1959-62; president, 1978-79), Organization of American Historians (president, 1974-75), Association for Study of Negro Life and History, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP; member of board of directors, Legal Defense and Education Fund), American Studies Association, American Association of University Professors, American Philosophical Society (Jefferson Medal, 1993), Southern Historical Association (life member; president, 1970-71), Phi Beta Kappa (senate, 1966-82, president, 1973-76), Phi Alpha Theta.

Posted on Sunday, March 29, 2009 at 10:35 PM

President Obama Chooses Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his Nominee for the Supreme Court


(Image from NYT)


In Focus: Stats

  • According to the Senate historian’s office, 28 of 158 nominations have been rejected, withdrawn or simply not acted upon since the court was founded in 1789.
  • US top court pick may lure Hispanic votes-analysts: Choice could consolidate Obama appeal with Hispanics, Opposition to Sotomayor could alienate Hispanic voters…. – Reuters, 5-26-09


The Headlines…

  • Senators to meet Obama’s nominee: Senators this week will begin to take the measure of Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. The confirmation hearing for the court’s first Hispanic nominee is not expected until July. But on Tuesday, escorted by home state Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), she will meet key players, including Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)…. – AJC, 5-31-09
  • Senators Preview Stances on Sotomayor: Senators hit the talk shows Sunday in an informal opening act to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, battling over whether she would bring a nuanced judgment seasoned by a complex life or would let her personal views trump the law. The formal hearings won’t begin for several weeks, and Republicans on Sunday suggested they wouldn’t seek to block her confirmation. But senators from both parties, and especially those from the Judiciary Committee, are already seeking to shape the debate and Ms. Sotomayor’s image…. – WSJ, 5-31-09
  • Sotomayor’s Focus on Race Issues May Be Hurdle: The selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court has opened a new battle in the fight over affirmative action and other race-conscious remedies for patterns of inequality, with each side invoking the election of the first black president in support of its cause…. – NYT, 5-29-09
  • Sotomayor’s Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament – NYT, 5-28-09
  • How, why Obama picked Sotomayor: President Barack Obama called Judge Sonia Sotomayor at 9 p.m. on Memorial Day to say she was his pick for the Supreme Court. Obama showed he was willing to pick a fight with his choice — Republicans do not consider her a “consensus” nominee and had signaled that they considered her the most liberal of the four finalists. He played smart base politics with the historic selection of a Hispanic (a first) and a woman. And he fulfilled his pledge to pick someone with a common touch by nominating someone who was raised in a Bronx housing project, and lost her father at age 9…. – Politico, 5-27-09
  • Sotomayor, a Trailblazer and a Dreamer: She was “a child with dreams,” as she once said, the little girl who learned at 8 that she had diabetes, who lost her father when she was 9, who devoured Nancy Drew books and spent Saturday nights playing bingo, marking the cards with chickpeas, in the squat red brick housing projects of the East Bronx. She was the history major and Puerto Rican student activist at Princeton who spent her first year at that bastion of the Ivy League “too intimidated to ask questions.” She was the tough-minded New York City prosecutor, and later the corporate lawyer with the dazzling international clients. She was the federal judge who “saved baseball” by siding with the players’ union during a strike…. – NYT, 5-27-09
  • Sotomayor’s take-no-guff demeanor could alter court dynamics: Judge Sonia Sotomayor can be blunt, aggressive and impatient. So get ready for another public debate, and probably some insinuations, about her judicial temperament….
    “It’s her style,” said New York -based lawyer Julia Heit , who counts herself among Sotomayor’s fans and who’s practiced in Sotomayor’s 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for three decades. “She wants answers. She wants the attorneys who appear before her to be prepared. And she’s demanding, as she well should be. “As an aside, I should say life will be easier when I don’t have to confront her.”… – McClatchy Newspapers, 5-27-09
  • Bronx bursting with pride over Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor: Local officials say the judge gives the New York City borough a new ambassador to improve its image problems…. – LAT, 5-27-09
  • No filibuster, but Sotomayor battle still loom: Republicans see little chance of blocking Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, a key GOP senator conceded Wednesday. But senators and advocacy groups are still girding for this summer’s battle — partly with an eye toward raising money and perhaps preparing for Barack Obama’s next nominee…. – AP, 5-27-09
  • Historic nomination: Hispanic Sotomayor as justice: Reaching for history, President Barack Obama on Tuesday chose federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court, championing her as a compassionate, seasoned jurist whose against-the-odds life journey affirms the American dream. Republicans who will decide whether to make a fight of her confirmation said they want thorough hearings…. – AP, 5-26-09
  • Obama Chooses Sotomayor for Supreme Court Nominee – NYT, 5-26-09
  • Sotomayor’s Rulings Are Exhaustive but Often Narrow: Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial opinions are marked by diligence, depth and unflashy competence. If they are not always a pleasure to read, they are usually models of modern judicial craftsmanship, which prizes careful attention to the facts in the record and a methodical application of layers of legal principles…. – NYT, 5-26-09
  • Biased or brilliant? Scrutiny of Sotomayor begins Obama’s high-court pick is no ‘stealth candidate.’ She has made some 450 judicial decisions. What’s more, she has not been shy about expressing her opinions publicly: The nomination of federal appeals-court judge Sonia Sotomayor to a seat on the US Supreme Court sets the stage for a national debate over the appropriate role of a high-court justice and whether Judge Sotomayor is the best person for the job. But the debate may ultimately be far less aggressive than many conservative stalwarts would like. Short of a revelation of personal scandal, Sotomayor is almost certain to be confirmed with a solid Democratic majority in the Senate. And an aggressive campaign against her by Republicans could harm the party, already reeling from a poor performance last November and a decline in support among Hispanics…. – CS Monitor, 5-26-09
  • Sotomayor’s Baseball Ruling Lingers, 14 Years Later: When he introduced Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday as his nominee for the Supreme Court, President Obama cited only one of her cases to make his argument that she replace Justice David H. Souter — and it wasn’t her opinion in Ricci v. DeStefano, a race-discrimination lawsuit. Instead, it was the temporary injunction she issued to end the baseball strike in 1995. “Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball,” said Obama, who offered another paragraph of praise for her before saying she was raised “not far from Yankee Stadium.”…. – NYT, 5-26-09
  • Sotomayor would be sixth Catholic justice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor has much to distinguish her, but one element of her biography stands out in the world of those interested in religion and the public square: she is Catholic, and, if approved as a Supreme Court justice, she will be the sixth Catholic on the nine-member court. That is a remarkable accomplishment for American Catholics, who make up 23 percent of the nation’s population, and will now potentially hold 67 percent of the high court’s seats. Two of the justices are Jewish; the resignation of Justice David Souter, who is an Episcopalian, will leave, amazingly given the history of this nation, just one Protestant on the Supreme Court, 89-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens…. – Boston Globe, 5-26-09
  • L.A. Latinos savor Supreme Court choice: It’s about time, some say, as President Obama nominates federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She would be the court’s first Latina…. – LAT, 5-26-09
  • Court Nomination Creates a Puff of Pride, and Some Concerns, Among Hispanics: In restaurants, homes and offices across the country, Hispanics responded to Judge Sotomayor’s selection with a puff of pride, some gratitude and considerable discussion. In interviews in Miami, Los Angeles and New York, many said this kind of recognition from Washington — Democratic or Republican — was long overdue given the growing size of the Hispanic voting bloc…. – NYT, 5-26-09


The President and Judge Sotomayor

Political Quotes

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls for Thorough and Timely Confirmation for Judge Sonia Sotomayor: This week, I nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring after nearly two decades on the Supreme Court. After reviewing many terrific candidates, I am certain that she is the right choice. In fact, there has not been a nominee in several generations who has brought the depth of judicial experience to this job that she offers…. – White House, 5-30-09
  • Gingrich Calls Sotomayor “Racist”: “Imagine a judicial nominee said ‘my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman,'” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., blogged today. “Wouldn’t they have to withdraw? New racism is no better than old racism. A white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.” The conservatives are decrying a comment made by Judge Sotomayor in 2001, addressing former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s famous quote that “a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.” “I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement,” Sotomayor said. “First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” “Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society,” she said…. – ABC News, 5-27-09
  • No filibuster, but Sotomayor battle still loom: Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he didn’t foresee a filibuster, essentially the only way Republicans could try to stop Sotomayor since Democrats control the Senate. Still, he made it clear that Republicans were ready to raise pointed questions about whether Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominee to the high court, would let her personal life color her legal opinions — and whether that’s appropriate for a Supreme Court justice.
    “We have an absolute constitutional duty to make sure that any nominee, no matter what their background and what kind of life story they have, that we examine that so the American people can know that the person we give a lifetime appointment to … will be faithful to the law and not allow their personal views to influence decision-making,” Sessions said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.” – AP, 5-27-09
  • The President’s Nominee: Judge Sonia Sotomayor – WH Blog, 5-26-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN NOMINATING JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR TO THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: Of the many responsibilities granted to a President by our Constitution, few are more serious or more consequential than selecting a Supreme Court justice. The members of our highest court are granted life tenure, often serving long after the Presidents who appointed them. And they are charged with the vital task of applying principles put to paper more than 20 [sic] centuries ago to some of the most difficult questions of our time.
    So I don’t take this decision lightly. I’ve made it only after deep reflection and careful deliberation. While there are many qualities that I admire in judges across the spectrum of judicial philosophy, and that I seek in my own nominee…..
    After completing this exhaustive process, I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York. (Applause.)
    Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice….. – White House, 5-26-09
  • JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Thank you, Mr. President, for the most humbling honor of my life. You have nominated me to serve on the country’s highest court, and I am deeply moved…..
    It is a daunting feeling to be here. Eleven years ago, during my confirmation process for appointment to the Second Circuit, I was given a private tour of the White House. It was an overwhelming experience for a kid from the South Bronx. Yet never in my wildest childhood imaginings did I ever envision that moment, let alone did I ever dream that I would live this moment.
    Mr. President, I greatly appreciate the honor you are giving me, and I look forward to working with the Senate in the confirmation process. I hope that as the Senate and the American people learn more about me they will see that I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Today is one of those experiences.
    Thank you again, sir. (Applause.) – White House, 5-26-09
  • Obama makes Sotomayor his first Supreme Court nominee: President Barack Obama nominated Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, Reuters reports. “I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice, Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York,” Obama said in a White House event announcing his decision…. – National Post, 5-26-09
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev: “As majority leader, I will do all I can to ensure Judge Sonia Sotomayor receives a fair and respectful hearing and the Senate’s quick confirmation.”
  • Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: “Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly. But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law evenhandedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.”
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee: “Judge Sotomayor has a long and distinguished career on the federal bench. She has been nominated by both Democratic and Republican presidents, and she was twice confirmed by the Senate with strong, bipartisan support.”
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican: “We must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one’s own personal preferences or political views.”
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., member of the Judiciary Committee: “This is an historic choice, and much more. Judge Sotomayor meets three very important standards in filling this Supreme Court vacancy — excellence, moderation and diversity.”
  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, member of the Judiciary Committee: “She must prove her commitment to impartially deciding cases based on the law, rather than based on her own personal politics, feelings and preferences.”
  • Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., member of the Judiciary Committee: “Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court.”
  • Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, member of the Judiciary Committee: “The Judiciary Committee should take time to ensure that the nominee will be true to the Constitution and apply the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences.”
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: “With eight men, one woman and no Hispanics currently sitting on the court, President Obama listened to voices like former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in recognizing that diversity on the bench is essential.”
  • John Yoo, former Justice Department lawyer who wrote memos during the Bush administration on the legality of harsh interrogation techniques: “Sotomayor’s record on the bench, at first glance, appears undistinguished. She will not bring to the table the firepower that many liberal academics are asking for.”
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: “I congratulate Judge Sonia Sotomayor on her nomination by the president to be an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. I look forward to examining her record thoroughly during the Senate confirmation process.”
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., member of the Judiciary Committee: “I am impressed that Judge Sotomayor is someone who knows the Constitution and the law, but who also knows America.”
  • Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine: “I commend President Obama for nominating a well-qualified woman.” Delegate Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico.: “Puerto Ricans, both on the island and in the 50 states, take great pride in today’s historic appointment. The story of Sonia Sotomayor is truly an inspiration.” —
  • Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network: “She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court.”
  • Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens: “The Supreme Court should reflect the diverse population of the U.S. to ensure the highest court understands the unique circumstances of all Americans.”
  • Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele: “Republicans will reserve judgment on Sonia Sotomayor until there has been a thorough and thoughtful examination of her legal views.”
  • Larry Klayman, founder, chairman and general counsel of Freedom Watch: “While I would have liked to see a more conservative libertarian type on the high court, President Obama’s selection of New York federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor was a very prudent and wise decision from a far left liberal like Obama.” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous: “It brings us one step closer to the inclusive democracy that is the hallmark and promise of our great nation. Judge Sotomayor has the track record, the intellectual fortitude and the life experiences that will serve our nation well.”
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., member of the Judiciary Committee: “The president has chosen a very solid and tested woman as his nominee for the United States Supreme Court.”
  • Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.: “Judge Sotomayor’s remarkable life story is an inspiring example of the American dream, and she has a highly distinguished legal background. She’ll bring intelligence, insight, and experience to the vital work of protecting the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans.”
  • Raul Danny Vargas, national chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly: “Her compelling personal story of overcoming adversity to achieve success through hard work and education are to be celebrated. We look forward to a fair and thorough confirmation process, a courtesy some Democrats did not afford to some conservative Hispanic judicial nominees during the Bush administration.”
  • Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.: “I supported Judge Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998 and from all accounts, she is a highly qualified and very experienced judge.”
  • Rush Limbaugh: “A majority of Republicans are going to be scared to death to oppose her … because the Dems are going to use … race, identity politics, minority status, feminism, to criticize me and any other Republican that dares oppose her.”


Historians’ Comments

  • Alan Abramowitz “US top court pick may lure Hispanic votes”: Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. population and 9 percent of the electorate and they voted around 68 percent for Obama in 2008, said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. “Appointing a Hispanic woman … makes a lot of sense politically” in terms of consolidating Hispanic votes, said Abramowitz. – Reuters, 5-26-09
  • Dennis J. Hutchinson “Sotomayor Would Make It 6 Catholics on the Court”: Experts have been split on what the Catholic majority has meant so far. They point out that Catholics on the bench historically have spanned the spectrum from liberal to conservative. Dennis J. Hutchinson, a court historian at the University of Chicago, noted in 2005 that one of the most liberal Supreme Court justices of the 20th century, William J. Brennan, was a Catholic, and so is one of the most conservative, Scalia. The religious affiliation of the justices is not a burning issue because “we’ve learned that Catholics can be conservative or liberal, and that in terms of judges, ideology trumps any sort of presumption about church doctrine — and that’s true whether the justice is a Protestant, a Catholic or a Jew,” he said. – WaPo, 5-26-09
  • David Garrow “Speculation abounds in upcoming high court vacancy”: “How long the hearings last really depends on who the nominee is,” said David Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Supreme Court expert. “If he or she falls into what I call the ‘Breyer category,’ where nobody could find anything objectionable to say about this guy, hearings will be a breeze. If he falls into perhaps the ‘Bork category,’ anything goes.”… – CNN, 5-19-09

May 25, 2009: President Obama, Dick Cheney & Guantanamo


The President gives the Weekly Address paying tribute to America’s veterans

White House Photo, 5/22/09, Samantha Appleton

Weekly Address 5/23/09 Memorial Day

The President pays tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – and their families.

Watch the Video

The President on American security and values


In Focus: Stats

  • Your Government & New Media – WH Blog, 5-21-09
  • Poll gives Va. dark horse Deeds a boost Democratic bid is wide open: State Senator R. Creigh Deeds was the only one of three candidates vying for the party’s nomination to show a jump in the latest poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling. The survey shows support for Mr. Deeds at 20 percent – up 6 percent from a similar poll taken two weeks ago. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe continues to lead the race with 29 percent support – one point down from the previous poll. Former Delegate Brian J. Moran remained at 20 percent support, with undecided voters making up 31 percent…. – Washington Times, 5-22-09
  • Poll shows Obama getting little support in Oklahoma: President Barack Obama’s approval rating in Oklahoma is only 38 percent, according to a new poll that shows that even a third of the state’s Democrats aren’t happy with the new president. The poll, released Thursday by Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm, reflects little change in the state’s sentiment toward Obama since the election in November. Nationally, Obama had his worst showing in Oklahoma, getting just 34 percent of the vote and losing all 77 counties to Republican Sen. John McCain…. – Tulsa World, 5-21-09
  • Roll Call: House rejects probe of Pelosi’s claims: The 252-172 roll call Thursday by which the House rejected a measure to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that the CIA misled her on the use of torture. A “yes” vote is a vote against an investigation. Voting yes were 250 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Voting no were 0 Democrats and 172 Republicans…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • House panel advances global warming bill: Legislation imposing the first nationwide limits on the pollution blamed for global warming advanced in the House late Thursday, clearing a key committee despite strong Republican opposition. The Energy and Commerce Committee approved the sweeping climate bill 33-25 after repeatedly turning back GOP attempts to kill or weaken the measure during four days of debate…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • The Death of the Republican Party May Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Some in the media believe the Republican Party is washed up and dying. Leslie Savan wrote in The Nation earlier this month: “What sort of psychological bent would lead people to want to be part of a dead-end political party like the GOP has become?”
    But, a new Gallup poll from May 7 – 10 shows it’s not quite that bad for the GOP. Thirty-two percent of participants in the survey identified themselves as Republicans, 32 percent as Democrats, and 34 percent Independents. And if you include Independent “leaners,” Republicans and Democrats are also tied at 45 percent between May 7 – 10. Fox News, 5-20-09
  • Poll: Nearly half of Nevadans would oust Sen. Reid: Along with the 45 percent who said they’d oust the four-term Democrat, 17 percent of the 625 voters contacted statewide for the Las Vegas Review-Journal poll said they would consider another candidate. Thirty-five percent of the poll respondents said they would re-elect him…. – Mercury News, 5-19-08
  • Poll: Americans want moderate judge as next justice: In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, however, majorities said it is “not important at all” that Obama nominate a woman, an African American, or a Hispanic. A plurality, 32 percent, said it’s not important for the nominee to have experience in elected office.
    But 67 percent of respondents said it’s important that the nominee has experience as a judge.
    In terms of political ideology, 37 percent said they believed Obama should nominate a moderate, while 27 percent said someone who was very or somewhat liberal, and 35 percent said a nominee who was very or somewhat conservative. Also, 68 percent said they do not want to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the right to abortions in the first three months of pregnancy…. – Boston Globe, 5-18-09
  • Did Nancy Pelosi lie? New poll shows Americans are divided: 43 percent of those polled believe that it;s “at least somewhat likely” the CIA misled Pelosi while 41 percent believe it’s not likely. The partisan gap is what’s telling. Sixty-two percent of Democrats are willing to accept what she said while an identical 62 percent of Republicans don;t buy it.
    Those not affiliated with a party are more likely not to support Pelosi’s statement by a 48 percent to 38 percent margin…. – CS Monitor, 5-18-09


President Obama signs credit card reform legislation
(President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of lawmakers applaud after the President signed the  Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act in the Rose Garden of the White House  Friday, May 22, 2009.  Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The Headlines…

  • Memorial Day roll call honors 148,000 veterans: The names are whisked away by the hot, gusting wind as soon as they are spoken, forgotten in the stream of the next name and the next name and the next name…. The story of America could be told through these names, tales of bravery and hesitation, of dreams achieved or deferred and of battles won and lost. Taken alone, they are just words, identities stripped of place and time, stripped of rank and deeds and meaning. But they are not taken alone. They are taken together — 148,000 names, representing the entire veteran population of Riverside National Cemetery, a roll call of the dead read aloud over 10 days by more than 300 volunteers…. – AP, 5-23-09
  • Dick Cheney: Washington trembles at the return of ‘Darth Vader’: Dick Cheney was a formidable backroom operator during his eight years as vice-president in the Bush administration. Having abandoned his short-lived retirement in Wyoming, he is now leading the Republican charge against Obama from the front…. – Guardian UK, 5-24-09
  • Obama Signs Credit-Card Overhaul Legislation Into Law: President Barack Obama put his signature on legislation Friday clamping down on credit-card companies’ ability to boost interest rates and slap higher fees on consumers, a measure long-sought by the White House but reviled by the banking sector.
    “We’re not going to give people a free pass, and we expect consumers to live within their means and pay what they owe, but we also expect financial institutions to act with the same sense of responsibility that the American people aspire to in their own lives,” Obama said at a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden…. – WSJ, 5-22-09
  • Cheney Seeks Book Deal on Bush Years and More: With his sustained blitz of television appearances and speeches, former Vice President Dick Cheney has established himself as perhaps the leading Republican voice against President Obama. Not a bad time, then, to be in the market for a multimillion-dollar book contract. Mr. Cheney is actively shopping a memoir about his life in politics and service in four presidential administrations, a work that would add to what is already an unusually dense collection of post-Bush-presidency memoirs that will offer a collective rebuttal to the many harshly critical works released while the writers were in office and beyond…. – NYT, 5-22-09
  • GOP effort to discredit Pelosi sees modest success: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has avoided serious damage from the relentless Republican effort to discredit her, though there’s some evidence that the GOP is making small inroads. Republicans have been battering the California Democrat over her assertion that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether terrorism suspects had been tortured…. – Miami Herald, 5-22-09
  • President’s Detention Plan Tests American Legal Tradition: President Obama’s proposal for a new legal system in which terrorism suspects could be held in “prolonged detention” inside the United States without trial would be a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free…. – NYT, 5-22-09
  • House Climate Change Bill Clears Key Hurdle: The nation’s first federal climate change cleared a key hurdle last night by making it out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a 33-25 vote. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill because of its two authors, now heads to the full House and could see a vote as early as late June, according to reports. But the massive bill faces more revisions as it makes its way through additional committees and also faces opposition in the Senate…. – Reuters, 5-22-09
  • House panels will make haste on climate bill, Hoyer says: Expect another fast-paced month of committee action on a sweeping global warming and energy bill ahead of possible floor debate in late June or early July, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today.
    “I think the speaker and I will both be urging the committee chairs to consider these quickly,” the Maryland Democrat said in an interview, referring to eight panels with jurisdiction on a bill approved last night by the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Frankly, they’ve been considering them for some time now. It’s not like it’s a great surprise.” For most committees, the work will be swift, Hoyer said. “Their level of concern,” he said, “is not high.”… – NYT, 5-22-09
  • Naval graduates include Sen. McCain’s son, Jack: Far from the madding crowds of last year’s campaign trail, Barack Obama quietly greeted the newly graduated midshipman and son of the man he defeated for the presidency. The moment had to be a bit cathartic for both John Sidney “Jack” McCain IV and Obama, whose fitness to be commander in chief was questioned just months ago by young Jack’s father, Sen. John McCain…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • To cover both wars, Senate passes $91.3B bill: The Senate is backing President Barack Obama’s efforts to ramp up the war in Afghanistan, granting his request for $91.3 billion for military and diplomatic operations there and in Iraq. The spending bill, approved on an 86-3 vote Thursday night, goes to congressional negotiators to work out a compromise with a similar measure the House passed. Lawmakers expected to present a bill for Obama’s signature next month…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • Bush’s Gitmo Vindication Obama still hasn’t said where the worst terrorists will go: President Obama delivered a major speech yesterday on how he intends to prosecute the war on terror (or whatever it’s now called), and in particular his desire to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. As rhetoric, his remarks were at pains to declare a bold new moral direction. On substance, however, the speech and other events this week look more like a vindication of the past seven years. The President’s speech came after both houses of Congress had denied his funding requests to shut down Guantanamo and relocate some of the most dangerous prisoners to the U.S. The 90-6 vote in the Senate was especially notable because all but a half-dozen Democrats opposed their own President, on that high-minded principle known as not-in- my-backyard…. – WSJ, 5-22-09
  • Obama backs Gitmo plan, Cheney defends Bush policy: President Barack Obama fought Thursday to retake command of the emotional debate over closing Guantanamo, denouncing “fear-mongering” by political opponents and insisting that maximum-security prisons in the U.S. can safely house dangerous terror suspects transferred from Cuba. In a unique bit of Washington theater, former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered his own address just one minute later, defending the Bush administration’s creation of the prison camp as vigorously as Obama denounced it….. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Obama: 50 Gitmo detainees cleared for transfer: Forty-eight terror suspects currently held at Guantanamo Bay are waiting to be released to other nations, the Obama administration said Thursday. The detainees are among 50 detainees whose cases President Barack Obama said Thursday have already been reviewed. The detainees would be the first to be released to other nations under the Obama administration’s effort to empty the Cuba-based prison without bringing all its inmates to the United States…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Palin picks memoir collaborator: Sarah Palin has picked a collaborator for her memoir. A spokeswoman for SarahPAC, the Alaska governor’s political action committee, says that Palin has selected Lynn Vincent, an author and features editor for World magazine, a conservative Christian publication. Palin’s book, currently untitled, is scheduled for release next year by HarperCollins…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Obama vs. Cheney: Just the facts: President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney laid out a variety of arguments Thursday in staking out two widely divergent views of national security in the age of terror…. – Politico, 5-21-09
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Two tough speeches conveying two radically different views of America’s fight against terrorism and the nation’s values unfolded Thursday in separate halls, minutes apart…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • GOP’s best hope: Obama overreaches or underachieves: If history’s any guide, the Republican Party’s best hope for winning back power is a public backlash against Barack Obama. That’s how Republicans came back from the edge of a political abyss in 1966, as voters started to turn against Lyndon Johnson two years after his landslide election. That’s what helped unify them in the late 1970s, when a wholesale rejection of Jimmy Carter set the stage for Ronald Reagan’s sweeping victory of 1980. It worked again in 1994, when the public turned thumbs down on the first two years of Bill Clinton’s presidency and turned the Congress over to Republicans for the first time in four decades. Whether the American people will turn against Obama is an open question. Even if they do, it could take years, well beyond the 2010 midterm elections or Obama’s likely run for re-election in 2012…. – Miami Herald, 5-21-09
  • 14 hours later, House Democrats hold the line on climate bill: House Democrats defeated a series of Republican “benchmark” amendments aimed at halting a future U.S. global warming law during a 14-hour, politically charged Energy and Commerce Committee markup yesterday. The GOP amendments took on a familiar theme by proposing the law’s sunset should the measure lead to significant job losses, higher gas prices and electricity rates, or a lack of corresponding action from China and India…. – NYT, 5-20-09
  • Obama Speech to Address Gitmo Worries: President Barack Obama will attempt to explain in a speech Thursday a series of decisions on the handling of detainees that has given ammunition to political opponents and raised concerns among Democrats that the issue could prove damaging to the young administration…. – WSJ, 5-20-09
  • GOP drops effort to rename Democrats ‘Socialist’: Republicans on Wednesday abandoned an effort to label their opponents the “Democrat Socialist Party,” ending a fight within the GOP ranks that reflected the divide between those who want a more centrist message and those seeking a more aggressive, conservative voice…. – AP, 5-20-09
  • Senate OKs bill to rein in credit card industry: The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to rein in credit card rate increases and excessive fees, hoping to give voters some breathing room amid a recession that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans jobless or facing foreclosure. “This is a victory for every American consumer who has ever suffered at the hands of a credit card company,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Banking Committee. The bill passed the Senate 90-5…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Senators reject closing Gitmo prison without plan: President Barack Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison suffered a blow Tuesday when his allies in the Senate said they would refuse to finance the move until the administration delivers a satisfactory plan for what to do with the detainees there…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Obama’s new rules will transform US auto fleet: Some soccer moms will have to give up hulking SUVs. Carpenters will still haul materials around in pickup trucks, but they will cost more. Nearly everybody else will drive smaller cars, and more of them will run on electricity. The higher mileage and emissions standards set by the Obama administration on Tuesday, which begin to take effect in 2012 and are to be achieved by 2016, will transform the American car and truck fleet. The new rules would bring new cars and trucks sold in the United States to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon, about 10 mpg more than today’s standards. Passenger cars will be required to get 39 mpg, light trucks 30 mpg…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Sen. Reid botches 3 subjects at news conference: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became the latest Democrat to stray into rhetorical trouble Tuesday, botching statements on three subjects in one news conference — including the fragile health of the chamber’s most senior members…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • FEC dismisses complaint over Palin clothing: The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint over the $150,000-plus designer wardrobe the Republican Party bought to outfit vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the good-government group that filed the complaint, argued that candidates aren’t supposed to use donor money for personal expenses such as clothes. The FEC ruled Tuesday that the ban doesn’t apply to party money, however…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • U.S. pressing Israel for gestures to PA before June 4: The United States expects Israel to make concrete concessions to the Palestinians before U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Cairo on June 4, an American official said during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week. Israel’s cabinet is due to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip this Sunday, and one concession the U.S. would like to see is for Israel to decide at this meeting to ease its restrictions on imports and exports of goods to Gaza. It also wants Israel to ease restrictions on movement in the West Bank…. – Haaretz, 5-19-09
  • Obama prods Netanyahu, Iran in Mideast foray: President Barack Obama on Monday opened his deepest foray into the Middle East quagmire, telling Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu he must stop Jewish settlements and should grasp a “historic opportunity” to make peace with the Palestinians. Obama also had pointed words for Iran on a second major Mideast dispute, warning the Iranians they had until year’s end to get serious about talks with the world community on curbing their nuclear ambitions. “We’re not going to have talks forever,” the president said. Obama and Netanyahu spoke highly of their hopes for progress in the Mideast after a lengthy private meeting in the Israeli’s first visit to the White House since Obama became president and Netanyahu began his second stint as prime minister. Yet the new president was firm in insisting the Israelis move toward peace with the Palestinians, and Netanyahu stuck to his stance that Israel cannot negotiate with people who deny its right to exist…. – “We should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction and whether the parties involved are making progress and that there’s a good-faith effort to resolve differences,” the president said. “We have seen progress stalled on this front, and I suggested to the prime minister that he has a historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure,” Obama said. “That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they have previously agreed to.” “There is a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements; that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward,” Obama said, referring to past negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. AP, 5-18-09
  • Obama Tells Netanyahu He Has an Iran Timetable: President Obama said Monday that he expected to know by the end of the year whether Iran was making “a good-faith effort to resolve differences” in talks aimed at ending its nuclear program, signaling to Israel as well as Iran that his willingness to engage in diplomacy over the issue has its limits…. – NYT, 5-18-09
  • Vatican: Obama seeks “common ground” on abortion: The Vatican said Monday that President Barack Obama was clearly looking for some common ground with his speech at the University of Notre Dame about abortion. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said Obama’s speech at the leading Catholic university on Sunday confirmed what he had said at a recent news conference — that signing the so-called Freedom of Choice Act in the U.S. Congress wasn’t his highest legislative priority. The bill would protect a woman’s right to have a child or end a pregnancy. Obama’s stance on the issue is that he supports abortion rights but says the procedure should be rare…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Obama to link auto emissions and mileage standards: President Barack Obama, seeking to end a stand-off between states and the auto industry, plans to issue new national emission limits and mileage requirements for cars and trucks. Obama plans to announce on Tuesday that he will couple pollution reduction from vehicle tailpipes with increased efficiency on the road. It would be the first time that limits on greenhouse gases were linked with federal standards for passenger cars and light trucks…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Bill Clinton to be named special UN envoy to Haiti: Former President Bill Clinton will be named special U.N. envoy to this impoverished Caribbean nation that has been mired in political and social turmoil for decades, his spokesman said Monday. An official announcement is expected from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday, Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna told The Associated Press…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Dodd to face Democratic challenger in 2010: Embattled Sen. Christopher Dodd is getting a Democratic challenger. Connecticut businessman and former Air Force officer Merrick Alpert plans to launch a 2010 primary campaign against Dodd, who faces his toughest re-election in five terms. The official announcement is expected Tuesday…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Pelosi got warning from administration on CIA memo: The Central Intelligence Agency gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., advance warning before CIA chief Leon Panetta sent a memo to employees at the spy agency that countered Pelosi’s claim that the agency lied to Congress about waterboarding. A CIA official, but not Panetta, made the call to Pelosi “His office gave a heads-up,” a Democratic aide said Monday…. – Washington Examiner, 5-18-09
  • Biden speaks at Wake Forest – does not disclose nuclear launch codes: Good news for Vice President Biden’s office! The Veep successfully delivered the commencement address at Wake Forest University without disclosing top secret information. The problem is, he may have done that a few weeks ago. Newsweek is reporting that Biden may have revealed where former Vice President Cheney’s undisclosed location was. After the 9/11 attacks, Cheney’s whereabouts were frequently unknown. And that was on purpose. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer coined the phrase “undisclosed location” and it stuck. And no one, save a few with the highest of clearances, knew where it was located…. – CS Monitor, 5-18-09


The President gives the Weekly Address paying tribute to America’s veterans

Political Quotes

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls on All Americans to Honor the Service of the Troops and Their Families: On this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama calls on the American people to join him in paying tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – and their families…. – White House, 5-23-09Weekly Address: Sacrifice
  • Obama sees court pick as smart with common touch: On the verge of choosing his first Supreme Court nominee, President Barack Obama has already provided a profile of the person he is likely to pick: an intellectual heavyweight with a “common touch,” someone whose brand of justice means seeing life from the perspective of the powerless. Obama is expected to announce his nominee this week, as early as Tuesday…
    “You have to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you,” Obama said in an interview carried Saturday on C-SPAN television. “But you have to be able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living.”… – AP, 5-23-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF THE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTABILITY, RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLOSURE ACT: …And that’s why, because of this new law, statements will be required to tell credit card holders how long it will take to pay off a balance and what it will cost in interest if they only make the minimum monthly payments. We also put a stop to retroactive rate hikes that appear on a bill suddenly with no rhyme or reason…. – White House, 5-22-09A New Era for Credit Cards
  • Obama Is Embraced at Annapolis: “As long as I am your commander in chief,” Mr. Obama said, “I will only send you into harm;s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done.”…..
    “These Americans have embraced the virtues that we need most right now: self-discipline over self-interest; work over comfort; and character over celebrity,” the president said. “After an era when so many institutions and individuals have acted with such greed and recklessness, it’s no wonder that our military remains the most trusted institution in our nation.” – NYT, 5-22-09
  • Obama vows not to send people to war without cause: “I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy, the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done,” the president told more than 1,000 graduates during a sun-splashed ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium….
    “In short, we will maintain America’s military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen,” Obama said, as more than 30,000 watched from the stands….
    “The extraordinary precision and professionalism displayed that day was made possible, in no small measure, by the training, the discipline and the leadership skills that so many of those officers learned at the United States Naval Academy,” Obama said in his first public comments on the matter…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF THE WEAPONS SYSTEMS ACQUISITION REFORM ACT: The bill I’m signing today, known as the Weapons System Acquisition Reforms Act, represents an important next step in this procurement reform process. It reforms a system where taxpayers are charged too much for weapons systems that too often arrive late — a system that suffers from spending on unproven technologies, outdated weapons, and a general lack of oversight…. – White House, 5-22-09Reform for Our Troops
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON NATIONAL SECURITY: In the midst of all these challenges, however, my single most important responsibility as President is to keep the American people safe. It’s the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning. It’s the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night.
    And this responsibility is only magnified in an era when an extremist ideology threatens our people, and technology gives a handful of terrorists the potential to do us great harm. We are less than eight years removed from the deadliest attack on American soil in our history. We know that al Qaeda is actively planning to attack us again. We know that this threat will be with us for a long time, and that we must use all elements of our power to defeat it…. – White House, 5-21-09Security & Values
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Obama: “I released the memos because the existence of that approach to interrogation was already widely known. The Bush administration had acknowledged its existence. And I had already banned those methods. The argument that, somehow, by releasing those memos, we are providing terrorists with information about how they will be interrogated makes no sense. We will not be interrogating terrorists using that approach. That approach is now prohibited.”….
    “The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable — a framework that failed to rely on our legal traditions and time-tested institutions, that failed to use our values as a compass.”….
    “I can stand here today as president of the United States and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Make no mistake. If we fail to turn the page on the approach that was taken over the past several years, then I will not be able to say that as president. And if we cannot stand for our core values, then we are not keeping faith with the documents that are enshrined in this hall (the National Archives).”…
    “Now let me be clear: We are indeed at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates. … Al-Qaida terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture, like other prisoners of war, must be prevented from attacking us again.”…
    “Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that too often our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists and citizens — fell silent.” – AP, 5-21-09
  • Remarks by Richard B. Cheney: On May 21, 2009, former vice president Richard B. Cheney, now a member of AEI’s Board of Trustees, spoke at AEI on the serious and ongoing threat terrorism poses to the United States. He was introduced by AEI president Arthur C. Brooks…. – AEI, 5-21-09
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Cheney: “Releasing the interrogation memos was flatly contrary to the national security interests of the United States. The harm done only begins with top-secret information now in the hands of terrorists who have just received a lengthy insert for their training manual.”….
    “We did not invent that authority. It’s drawn from Article Two of the Constitution, and it was given specificity by Congress after 9/11 in a joint resolution authorizing all necessary and appropriate force to protect the American people.”…
    “When just a single clue that goes unlearned or one lead that goes unpursued can bring on catastrophe, it’s no time for splitting differences. There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people hang in the balance.”…
    “Apparently using the term ‘war’ where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth we’re advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as ‘overseas contingency operations.’ … And when you hear that there are no more enemy combatants, as there were back in the days of that scary war on terror, at first that sounds like progress. The only problem is that the phrase is gone, but the same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers are still there. And finding some less judgmental or more pleasant-sounding name for terrorists doesn’t change what they are or what they would do if we let them loose.”…
    “To the very end of our administration, we kept al-Qaida terrorists busy with other problems. We focused on getting their secrets, instead of sharing ours with them. And on our watch, they never hit this country again. … It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.” – AP, 5-21-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE SIGNING OF THE HELPING FAMILIES SAVE THEIR HOMES ACT AND THE FRAUD ENFORCEMENT AND RECOVERY ACT: Well, standing up for the American people is exactly what we’re doing here today with two bills that I’m about to sign — The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, and The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act. These landmark pieces of legislation will protect hardworking Americans, crack down on those who seek to take advantage of them, and ensure that the problems that led us to this crisis never happen again. – White House, 5-20-09
  • A Culture Change on Climate Change: “For what everyone here believes, even as views differ on many important issues, is that the status quo is no longer acceptable.” – WH Blog, 5-19-09
  • Obama brings foes together for auto deal: “In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible,” Obama said Tuesday in announcing the deal, the usually pokerfaced president reveling in his own achievement. “It represents not only a change in policy in Washington but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington.”… – AP, 5-19-09
  • Steele: GOP must confront Obama’s celebrity appeal: “He’s young. He’s cool. He’s hip … he’s got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he’s going to be popular,” Steele told state party chairmen Tuesday. But “this is not American Idol. This is serious … and we are going to take them on.” “The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over,” he said. “We have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future.” – AP, 5-19-09


The President with former Secretaries of State
(President Barack Obama meets with, from left: former Defense Secretary William Perry;  former Georgia Sen.  Sam Nunn; former Secretary of State George P. Shultz; and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger  in the Oval Office Tuesday, May 19, 2009.  Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Why Guantanamo has become Obama’s problem”: As Princeton scholar Julian E. Zelizer points out, when it comes to national security, Obama seems to lose the confidence he so evidently has on other major issues…. – Xinhua, 5-22-09
  • Barack Obama gives the national security speech Democrats were waiting for: President Barack Obama delivered the national security speech Thursday that Democrats have been waiting for. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Democrats have stumbled in offering a response to the Republican approach to the war on terrorism. When former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks on national security — as he did again Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute — most Democrats continue to shudder. Republicans have argued that they are the party that will be tough on terrorists and that their policies offer the only way to keep Americans safe…. – Politico, 5-21-09
  • Lou Zickar: Commentary: Republicans must move to center: In his CNN.com column last week, Ed Rollins said of the Republican Party, “We may be down for awhile, but what we won’t become is a ‘Democratic Party lite’! We are a party that wants smaller government and lower taxes. Obama and the Democrats do not. We are a party that wants to encourage small business.”….
    The success of these efforts provides the GOP with a road map on how to rebuild their party today. In this, Rollins is right — Republicans should not abandon their core philosophy of a strong defense, low taxes and smaller federal government. But they do need to figure out how to make this philosophy relevant to the lives of more Americans. And for this, they would be wise to do what the Democrats did in 1992 and 2006.
    They need to turn toward the center. Among other things, this means coming to grips with the role of government in our lives. For nearly 30 years, the party’s position in this regard has been clear and absolute — government should be smaller. But Katrina and Iraq and Walter Reed brought to light a simple truth — government needs to be more efficient, too.
    Unfortunately, smart government is not in the Republican Party’s rhetorical toolbox. It also runs counter to everything many on the far right represent. Yet it’s going to be one of the defining issues of the next few years as taxpayers begin to demand greater accountability and transparency in how their federal tax dollars are being spent.
    Simply arguing that we need to establish pro-growth tax policies and leave it at that is not enough anymore. Republicans also need to acknowledge government has a role to play, and it is the responsibility of all elected lawmakers to get it right. Taking this kind of step would not only move the GOP closer to the political center, but would also be another step in the party’s journey back from political oblivion. CNN, 5-22-09
  • Julian Zelizer: Commentary: Democrats play defense on security: President Obama has been struggling to get things right on national security. The president has not displayed the same kind of poise and confidence as he has with domestic issues.
    In contrast to the economic stimulus and health care reform, there have been a number of missteps, reversals and intra-party tensions over national security since Obama took office.
    Obama, who in February 2008 said the trials of Guantanamo detainees were “too important to be held in a flawed military commission system,” now says that he will continue to use that system, though in slightly modified fashion. When Obama announced that he would not release photographs of mistreated detainees, many of his supporters could not help but be disappointed….
    We have a growing military engagement in Afghanistan, the possibility of greater involvement in Pakistan, and the announcement that Obama plans to leave between 30,000 and 50,000 troops in Iraq after the “withdrawal” next year. To be sure, Obama has sent Clinton to embark on a more ambitious diplomatic agenda, but we have only seen the outlines of what they hope to achieve. The administration must start explaining what the primary objectives of its foreign policy will be.
    The more thought that goes into what we are doing before a crisis hits, the better prepared we are to deal with a crisis should it occur.
    But Democrats have a political incentive to be proactive as well. Democrats have shown in the previous two elections that Republicans don’t have an electoral monopoly on national security debates. But unless they provide a bold and coherent vision of their alternative, Democrats will continue to play defense. – CNN, 5-20-09
  • John Steele Gordon: Why Government Can’t Run a Business: The Obama administration is bent on becoming a major player in — if not taking over entirely — America’s health-care, automobile and banking industries. Before that happens, it might be a good idea to look at the government’s track record in running economic enterprises. It is terrible.
    In 1913, for instance, thinking it was being overcharged by the steel companies for armor plate for warships, the federal government decided to build its own plant. It estimated that a plant with a 10,000-ton annual capacity could produce armor plate for only 70% of what the steel companies charged….. – WSJ (5-20-09)

(President Barack Obama pets the family dog, Bo, during a brief break from meetings on the South Lawn of the White House May 12, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

History Buzz May 25, 2009: Simon Schama & “The American Future A History”




  • Caroline E. Janney: Historian remembers Memorial Day holiday’s beginnings: “Credit really goes to thousands of Southern white women who were honoring Confederate soldiers a year after the Civil War ended,” says Caroline E. Janney, an assistant professor of history. “The women led these celebrations because if Confederate men would have organized memorials in 1866, just after the war ended, their actions would have been considered treason.” “Instead, women planned each event, and the men were figuratively hiding behind the skirts of these women. What many people didn’t realize is that these women, who are often portrayed as politically indifferent, were keeping politics in mind while planning these events.” – KPCnews.com, 5-21-09



  • Antony Beevor: Historian has been accused of trying to get publicity for his new book, D-Day: The Battle for Normandy Allies bombing on D-Day ‘close to war crime’, claims historian The Allied bombing of the French city of Caen on D-Day was “close to a war crime”, according to leading historian Antony Beevor – Telegraph UK, 5-24-09
  • Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: Creates History Commission – WSJ, 5-21-09
  • Professor Marco Maiorino, a Vatican historian of papal diplomacy: Vatican discloses Henry VIII’s annulment appeal “The schism came later,” he said. “They were loyal to the sovereign, but at this point the spiritual supremacy of Rome was not in question.” – Times UK Online, 5-22-09
  • Oklahoma History Center to close two days of week – Source: http://www.newsok.com (5-21-09)
  • National Security Archive Testifies to House Oversight Committee About Challenges Facing National Archives: At a hearing today focusing on the National Archives and Records Administration and the selection of a new Archivist, National Security Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs said: “[The new Archivist] should have a vision for an Archives 2.0.”… – Source: Press Release (5-21-09)
  • James Lowen, James McPherson: Scholars Ask Obama Not to Send a Wreath to Confederate Memorial – Source: Press Release by James Loewen (5-19-09)
  • Frederick Clarkson: Will Obama Honor the Confederacy This Year?: Presidents since Woodrow Wilson have annually sent a commemorative wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Up until the presidency of George H.W. Bush, the wreath was sent on or near the birthday of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis. Since then, the wreath has been sent on Memorial Day. One might think that this is a practice birthed in a generosity of spirit and healing of the war that had so deeply divided the nation. Unfortunately the truth is that the monument commemorates not the dead so much as the cause of the confederacy, and stands to this day as a rallying point for white supremacy. This is why scholars Edward Sebestaco-editor of “Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction,” University of Texas Press, and James Loewen, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Vermont, joined by some 65 others (including me) sent a letter to president Obama asking him to end the practice…. – Daily Kos, 5-22-09


  • Daniel Pipes: A History of Muslim Terrorism against Jews in the United States: The arrest yesterday of four would-be jihadis before they could attack two synagogues in New York City brings to mind a long list of terrorist assaults in the United States by Muslims on Jews. These began in 1977 and have continued regularly since, as suggested by the following list of major incidents (ignoring lesser ones that did damage only to property, such a series of attacks on Chicago-area synagogues)… – Source: Daniel Pipes website (5-21-09)
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Democrats play defense on security – Source: CNN (5-20-09)
  • John Steele Gordon: Why Government Can’t Run a Business – Source: WSJ (5-20-09)


  • Simon Schama: Mirror on America THE AMERICAN FUTURE A HistoryNYT, 5-22-09
  • Simon Schama: THE AMERICAN FUTURE A History, First Chapter – NYT, 5-22-09
  • Simon Schama: Looking to America’s past to find a path for the future THE AMERICAN FUTURE A HistoryBoston Globe, 5-24-09
  • Simon Schama: Schama Looks At History For ‘American Future’ THE AMERICAN FUTURE A HistoryNPR, 5-20-09
  • Benny Morris: No Common Ground ONE STATE, TWO STATES Resolving the Israel/Palestine ConflictNYT, 5-24-09
  • Benny Morris: ONE STATE, TWO STATES Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict, First Chapter – NYT, 5-24-09
  • T.J. Stiles: The Man Who Owned America THE FIRST TYCOON The Epic Life of Cornelius VanderbiltWaPo, 5-24-09
  • T.J. Stiles: THE FIRST TYCOON The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Excerpt – WaPo, 5-24-09
  • Edith B. Gelles: Abigail & John Portrait of a Marriage: Gelles’ “Abigail & John” does something different, bringing the two strands together in a dual biography that shows how their lives connected, diverged and reconnected over time…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 5-24-09
  • Dr. Richard Hull: Historian Publishes latest book on Jews in African history Jews and Judaism in African HistoryStraus News, 5-22-09
  • Paramour of Kennedy Is Writing a Book – Mimi Beardsley Alford, a retired New York church administrator who had an affair with John F. Kennedy while she was an intern in the White House, is breaking a silence of more than 40 years to tell her story in a memoir to be published by Random House. NYT, 5-22-09
  • Eugene D. Genovese: In a new book, Genovese describes a devoted and intellectually stimulating partnership with his late wife, also a historian of note Miss Betsey: A Memoir of MarriageSource: Chronicle of Higher Ed (5-22-09)
  • Ronald C. White Jr.: BOOKS: A. Lincoln Valdosta Daily Times, 5-18-09
  • Elliott West: ‘As big as the land’ UA professor writes book on Nez Perce war of 1877 The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce StoryNorthwest Arkansas Times, 5-10-09


  • John Allswang “California voters exercise their power — and that’s the problem Residents relish their role in the lawmaking process, but they share the blame for the state’s severe dysfunction”: Together, voters’ piecemeal decisions since the 1970s have effectively “emasculated the Legislature,” said John Allswang, a retired Cal State L.A. history professor. “They’re looking for cheap answers — throw the guys out of power and put somebody else in, or just blame the politicians and pretend you don’t have to raise taxes when you need money,” he said. “This is what the public wants, and they deceive themselves constantly. They’re not realistic.”… – LAT, 5-22-09


  • Rodney Davis: In Civil War, Woman Fought Like A Man For Freedom – NPR, 5-23-09
  • Mary Witkowski: In the Region, Connecticut A Crumbling Piece of History: Historians are concerned about the fate of structures on Main Street in Bridgeport that are said to be the only remnants of an antebellum community of free blacks and runaway slaves. – NYT, 5-24-09
  • Max Boot, Paul Collier, Simon Schama: Civil Wars: The Fights That Do Not Want to End – NYT, 5-24-09
  • Annette Gordon-Reed for the US Supreme Court?: Is New York Law School’s Annette Gordon-Reed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning law professor/historian, on President Obama’s Supreme Court “short list”?… Probably not. But they appear on the short lists of more than a dozen constitutional law and Supreme Court scholars asked by The National Law Journal to step into Obama’s shoes to pick a nominee to succeed retiring Justice David Souter…. Source: National Law Journal (5-18-09)


  • Robert Hinton: The Story Of The Plantation That Moved Away, Midway Plantation – NPR, 5-23-09
  • Interview: Simon Schama celebrates John Donne: The historian Simon Schama talks about why the death of arts programming is a national disaster…. – Telegraph UK, 5-22-09
  • Romila Thapar: Kluge Prizewinner Discusses Perceptions of India’s Past – Source: Pillarisetti Sudhir at the AHA Blog (5-19-09)
  • James M. Banner Jr. and John R. Gillis: New book asks historians how they became historians Becoming Historians Editor responded to questions about the book – Source: Inside Higher Ed (5-18-09)
  • James Cuno: Treaty on antiquities hinders access for museums, says past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors – Source: Science News (3-28-09)


  • Historian Jack Greene Honored by National Humanities Center: Jack P. Greene, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus in the Humanities in the Department of History at Johns Hopkins, has been selected as one of 33 fellows at the National Humanities Center for the 2009-2010 academic year. – The JHU Gazette, 5-18-09


  • The Mormon History Association’s annual conference: MHA opening session: A religious backdrop to the Civil War – Mormon Times, 5-22-09
  • Ken Burns tells Boston College grads to revisit history: “History is not a fixed thing, a collection of precise dates, facts, and events that add up to a quantifiable, certain, confidently known truth,” Burns said. “It is an inscrutable and mysterious and malleable thing. Each generation rediscovers and reexamines that part of its past that gives its present – and, most important, its future – new meaning and new possibilities.”… – Source: Boston Globe (5-19-09)


  • June 11-14, 2009: The ninth annual “Reacting to the Past” Institute at Barnard College (New York), Annual summer history institute at Barnard College – Source: Press Release (4-21-09)
  • August 1, 2009: An Evening with Ken Burns: Kens Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of Burns’ films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” This evening will afford Chautauqua an opportunity to hear one of the most influential documentary makers of all time. Chautauqua Institutition. For more info 716-357-6200. – Jamestown Post-Journal, 5-21-09


  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule
  • History Channel: “MonsterQuest” Marathon – Sunday, May 24, 2009 at 8-11pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “MonsterQuest” Marathon – Monday, May 25, 2009 at 2-8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Decoding The Past: Mayan Doomsday Prophecy” – Monday, May 25, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Link” – Monday, May 25, 2009 at 9pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Life After People” Marathon – Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 2-7pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Angels & Demons Decoded” – Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Life After People: Bound and Buried” – Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 10pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “MonsterQuest” Marathon – Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 2-7pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Beyond The Da Vinci Code” – Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Angels & Demons Decoded” – Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 4pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Behind The Da Vinci Code” – Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 6pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Battles BC” Marathon – Friday, May 22, 2009 at 2-7pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Link ” – Friday, May 29, 2009 at 9pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Ice Road Truckers” Marathon – Saturday, May 23, 2009 at 12-11pm ET/PT



  • Geoffrey Blainey, Sea of Dangers: Captain Cook and His Rivals in the South Pacific, May 25, 2009
  • Richard Ben-Veniste: Emperor’s New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate To 9/11, May 26, 2009
  • Robert Jacobs: Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts, June 1, 2009
  • Vincent J. Cannato: American Passage: The History of Ellis Island, June 9, 2009
  • Larry Tye: Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, June 9, 2009
  • Matthew Aid: The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, June 9, 2009
  • Douglas Brinkley, Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, 1858-1919, June 30, 2009
  • Caroline Moorehead: Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era, June 30, 2009
  • William A. DeGregorio: The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, Seventh Edition, August 15, 2009
  • Douglas Hunter: Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage That Redrew the Map of the New World, September 1, 2009


  • David Herbert Donald: Famed Lincoln Scholar David Herbert Donald Dies: “He was not only one of the best historians of our era but he was also one of the classiest and most generous scholars I have ever met,” said Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals, a best-selling Lincoln biography. – NPR, 5-19-09
  • David Herbert Donald: Writer on Lincoln, Dies at 88 – NYT, 5-19-09
  • David Herbert Donald in Memoriam, 1920-2009 – HNN

David Herbert Donald in Memoriam, 1920-2009

David Herbert Donald

On Sunday, May 17, 2009 renowned Lincoln historian David Herbert Donald died at 88. The following is a profile I edited that was first published in 2006.

What They’re Famous For

David Herbert Donald is the Charles Warren Professor of American History and of American Civilization Emeritus at Harvard University. A student of the famed Lincoln and Civil War scholar James Garfield Randall, Donald has trained many of today’s leading historians, and ranks as one of America’s leading authorities on the Civil War era. He is the author of Lincoln (1995), David Herbert Donald JPGwhich won the prestigious Lincoln Prize and was on the New York Times bestseller list for fourteen weeks. Lincoln is considered the definitive one volume biography for our time. He has won the Pulitzer Prize twice, for Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (1960), and for Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe (1987). Donald has been invited to the White House by almost every president from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, giving lectures or attending receptions.

Professor Donald is considered the leading authority on Abraham Lincoln and has advised on numerous projects relating to the 16th President. He was the principal historical adviser and commentator for the 1992 documentary series “Lincoln” and for the 2000 television series “A House Divided: Abraham and Mary Lincoln.” Additionally he served as a historical consultant for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Donald has moved on from studying Lincoln, and is embarking on writing a biography of John Quincy Adams. As he recently stated in an interview for the Boston Globe: “I’ve said farewell to Lincoln so many times, but this time I think it will really happen. I’ll miss writing about Lincoln, but on the other hand, I’ve sort of been there, done that. Perhaps I was getting repetitious anyway.”

Personal Anecdote

In 1947 I received my first teaching appointment. It was at Columbia University in the School of General Studies, where most of the students were veterans whose education had been interrupted by World War II. Many were much older than I, and all knew much more of the world than I, who grew up on a farm in Mississippi. I felt lucky if I could keep one day ahead of my students, and I lived in constant fear that I would be exposed as an ignoramus. I tried to compensate by working very hard on my lectures, ransacking the Columbia libraries and staying up night after night till long past midnight.

Toward the end of the first semester our syllabus called for a lecture on the celebrated Scopes trial (1925), where Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan fiercely argued opposing sides in their debate over evolution. I had read biographies of both men, as well as several accounts of the trial itself, and I tried to present, as fairly as I could, their arguments as well as the rulings of the judge. I thought I was doing a pretty good job when a middle-aged man in the back row raised his hand and said in a gruff voice, “Well, Dr. Donald, that’s all well and good, but it isn’t really the way things happened.” David Herbert Donald JPGHis name was McEvoy, and he had been a reporter for one of the New York papers at the trial. Speaking without interruption for about ten minutes, he proceeded to give us a first-hand account of what went on in that court room.

Initially taken aback, I looked around the classroom and saw that the other students were following Mr. McEvoy avidly, and when he had finished his account, they began peppering him with questions about the trial. Presently they turned to me to learn what I thought its significance was. The discussion continued long after the class bell rang, as the students and I walked across the campus, arguing about the meaning of Darwinism. For the first time I began to realize that this was what education is supposed to be–a reciprocal process in which one both teaches and learns.

That is a lesson I have kept with me ever since. On whatever level I have taught, whether a freshman seminar or a graduate course, I have found that I can best teach students if I also am willing to learn from them. Whether my courses were offered at Columbia, Princeton, Smith, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, or Harvard, my students and I have worked together in this joint enterprise of learning. That is why I loved teaching. And that is why, I think, so many of my former students have gone on to achieve great distinction in their chosen fields.


By David Herbert Donald

  • The Lincolns’ celebration were short-lived. Shortly before the party their son Willie had fallen ill with “bilious fever” – probably typhoid fever, caused by pollution in the White House water system. Deeply anxious, his parents considered canceling the grand reception, but the family doctor assured them that the boy was in no immediate danger. Even so, both the President and his wife quietly slipped upstairs during the party to be at their son’s bedside. During the next two weeks Tad came down with the same illness while Willie grew worse and worse.Sitting up with his sick children night after night, Lincoln was unable to transact business, and he seemed to stumble through his duties. There were fluctuations in Willie’s illness, but during the two weeks after the grand party he grew weaker and weaker, and Lincoln began to despair of his recovery. On February 20 the end came. Stepping into his office, Lincoln said in a voice chocked with emotion: “Well, Nicolay, my boy is gone-he is actually gone!” Then he burst into tears and left to give what comfort he could to Tad.Lincoln JPGBoth parents were devastated by grief. When Lincoln looked on the face of his dead son, he could only say brokenly, “He was too good for this earth…but then we loved him so.” It seemed appropriate that Willie’s funeral, which was held in the White House, was accompanied by one of the heaviest wind and rain storms ever to visit Washington. Long after the burial the President repeatedly shut himself in a room so that he could weep alone. At nights he had happy dreams of being with Willie, only to wake to the sad recognition of death. On a trip to Fort Monroe, long after Willie was buried, Lincoln read passages from Macbeth and King Lear to an aide, and then from King John he recited Constances lament for her son:

    And, father cardinal, I have heard you say
    That we shall see and know our friends in heaven:
    If that be true, I shall see my boy again.
    His voice trembled, and he wept. — David Herbert Donald in “Lincoln”

  • I hesitated for a long time before deciding to write a biography of Abraham Lincoln. There were already thousands of books on the subject, and many of them were excellent… I wanted to write a narrative account of Lincoln’s life, one almost novelistic in form, though every statement would be buttressed by fact. My intention was to tell the story of Lincoln’s life as he saw it, making use only of the information and ideas that were available to him at the time. My purpose was to explain rather than to judge.In telling the story from Lincoln’s perspective, I became increasingly impressed by Lincoln’s fatalism. Lincoln believed, along with Shakespeare, that “there’s a divinity that shapes our ends,/Rough-hew them as we will.” Again and again, he felt that his major decisions were forced upon him. Late in the Civil War, he explained to a Kentucky friend: “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” This does not mean, of course, that Abraham Lincoln was inactive or inert, nor does it imply that he was incapable of taking decisive action. But this view — which is something that began to emerge from his own words, and not a thesis that I originally started out with — emphasizes the importance of Lincoln’s deeply held religious beliefs and his reliance on a Higher Power. — David Herbert Donald reflecting on “Lincoln” (Simon & Schuster, Author essay)

  • Even in the mechanics of writing I find myself influenced by this distinctively American — perhaps Southern American — way of telling a story. I compose at the keyboard of my computer, pausing as I complete each sentence to read it aloud, making sure that both the sound and the sense convey the meaning that I want. If I have failed, I delete the offending sentence and start again. Sometimes I may sound out a dozen versions of a phrase or sentence before I get it just right. Occasionally this practice has led to amusing results. Once, when I was in my study writing my biography of Thomas Wolfe, two friendly carpenters were making repairs in an adjacent room. Presently they took a coffee-break in the back yard, just out of my sight but not quite out of my hearing.
    Asked the older carpenter in a worried tone: “Do you think he’s all right?”
    “I guess so,” replied the younger, “but he does sit at that machine for hours and hours talking to himself.”
    I may not be “all right” — but I like to think that my story-telling carries on a great tradition. And it is a distinctively American tradition. — David Herbert Donald “On Being an American Historian”
  • About David Herbert Donald

  • “Lincoln immediately takes its place among the best of the genre, and it is unlikely that it will be surpassed in elegance, incisiveness and originality in this century. . . . A book of investigative tenacity, interpretive boldness and almost acrobatic balance.” — Harold Holzer reviewing “Lincoln”
  • This is a masterwork. It stands alone among 135 years of Lincoln biographies… The popular magazine “Civil War Times” has devoted its December issue to the war president. It indulged in a difficult game by asking its own contributors to select and rank the 10 best books among the 7,000 or so written. Donald’s biography came in second – after Lincoln’s own writings. There has been no major biography quite like this: It is chiefly written from Lincoln’s perspective. Information and ideas available to him, rather than to later historians, form its principal source – together with Lincoln’s own words, and those of his contemporaries…Lincoln remains a touchstone for Americans, their best face to the world. What the finest of historians tells us about him influences the country’s future. None should take the responsibility lightly. David Herbert Donald does not. Literate Americans, and people around the world who would understand what Lincoln called this “almost chosen people,” owe it to themselves to read this remarkable, provocative book. Gabor Boritt, Gettysburg College reviewing “Lincoln”
  • Donald has steered clear of legends and delivered a one-volume study of Lincoln’s life that will augment and replace the previous modern standards by Benjamin Thomas (1953) and Stephen Oates (1977). Donald’s biography is foremost the product of painstaking research and a lifetime of reading in the Lincoln archives and literature. It is a definitive version of Lincoln’s personal story. Donald has effectively used Lincoln’s own language–the famous speeches and state papers, public letters and the inexhaustible trove of the President’s own jokes and tales–to develop the story. Donald’s Lincoln is a humanized, demystified figure: cautious, brilliant and lucky, the pilot who kept trying to steer the ship to the middle of the river while imagining the gradual, if inevitable, abolition of slavery.” David W. Blight, Yale University reviewing “Lincoln”
  • “Readers interested in American history know that David Donald’s books and essays are an extraordinary literary achievement. Those of us fortunate enough to have been his students can attest that he was an equally extraordinary teacher. He was a captivating lecturer, a stimulating discussion leader, and a meticulous director of research and writing projects. Most important, he was a generous and sensitive mentor, and his contributions to the personal development of his students have extended far beyond the many scholarly careers he helped to launch.” — Thomas J. Brown, Associate Professor of History, University of South Carolina and former student.
  • From the way that he conducts himself in a classroom to the extraordinary elegance of his own prose or his mode of delivering trenchant criticism, in either his precise handwriting or his distinctive accent, David Donald is a truly exceptional teacher, scholar, and writer. I witnessed him give the most remarkable performance I have ever seen in a classroom, one that elicited spontaneous applause mid-lecture from a rapt audience of jaded undergraduates. Likewise, the concluding pages of his Sumner and Lincoln biographies rank among the most eloquent and poignant historical writing I have ever read. And I expect that to this day his students from his earliest days at Smith and Columbia to his final students at Harvard still emulate Donald in ways that many may not even fully recognize. — Fitzhugh Brundage, Professor of History, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and former student
  • “Professor Donald held lecture halls full of undergraduates spellbound; he writes books that humble other scholars. He tried to pass his skills on to his graduate students, insisting that we learn both to think and to work. He gave us the room to develop our own ideas then demanded meticulous research and careful writing. Overwhelmingly generous and remarkably patient, he read drafts, engaged material, and suggested improvements. And he had only the highest hopes for us. After a student raved about one of his books, he was embarrassed, but polite. ‘Why, thank you,’ he said. ‘Now go out and write a better one.'” — Heather Cox Richardson, Associate Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst and former student
  • “David Donald is simply a virtuoso. He is the ideal scholar-teacher and a walking advertisement for academia’s traditional mentoring system. His rigorous research, insightful analysis, and graceful writing set standards we, his students, could only dream of achieving — but did our best to reach — while his eloquent lectures, stimulating seminars, and thorough line-by-line analyses taught us well — while teaching us how to teach. Professor Donald turned me into a thief. I regularly find myself stealing his lines, echoing his analysis, appearing smart based on his smarts. This is most apparent to me when I hear my students “stealing” from me what I “stole” from him — this echo chamber, with each successive generation adding its own accent or twist, is education at its best.” — Gil Troy, Professor of History, McGill University and former student
  • Basic Facts

    Teaching Positions:

    Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Charles Warren Professor of American History, 1973-91, chair of graduate program in American civilization, 1979-85, professor emeritus, 1991–.
    Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, professor of history, 1962-73, Harry C. Black Professor of American History, 1963-73, director of the Institute of Southern History, 1966-72.
    Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, professor of history, 1959-62.
    Smith College, Northampton, MA, associate professor of history, 1949-51.
    Columbia University, New York, NY, instructor, 1947-49, assistant professor, 1951-52, associate professor, 1952-57, professor of history, 1957-59.
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, research assistant, 1943-46; research associate, 1946-47.
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, teaching fellow, 1942. David Herbert Donald JPG

    Visiting associate professor of history, Amherst College, 1950; Fulbright lecturer in American history, University College of North Wales, 1953-54; member, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, 1957-58; Harmsworth Professor of American History, Oxford University, 1959-60; John P. Young lecturer, Memphis State University, 1963; Walter Lynwood Fleming lecturer, Louisiana State University, 1965; visiting professor, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1969-70; Benjamin Rush Lecturer, American Psychiatric Association, 1972; Commonwealth Lecturer, University College, University of London, 1975; Samuel Paley lecturer, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, 1991.

    Area of Research: 19th Century US History, Civil War Era, Abraham Lincoln.

    Education: Holmes Junior College, Millsaps College, 1941; M.A., Ph.D., University of Illinois, 1942, 1946.

    Major Publications:

  • Lincoln’s Herndon, introduction by Carl Sandburg, (Knopf, 1948), reprinted with a new introduction by Donald, (Da Capo Press, 1988).
  • (Author of text) Divided We Fought: A Pictorial History of the War, 1861-1865, (Macmillan, 1952).
  • Lincoln Reconsidered: Essays on the Civil War, (Knopf, 1956), (2nd enlarged edition, Random House, 1961), (reprinted, Vintage Books, 1989).
  • An Excess of Democracy: The American Civil War and the Social Process, (Clarendon Press, 1960).
  • Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, (Knopf, 1960), (collector’s edition, Easton Press, 1987).
  • (With James G. Randall) The Divided Union, (Little, Brown, 1961).
  • (With James G. Randall) The Civil War and Reconstruction, (2nd edition, Heath, 1961), (revised and enlarged edition, 1969), (revised edition with Jean H. Baker and Michael F. Holt, Norton, 2001).
  • The Politics of Reconstruction, 1863-1867, (Louisiana State University Press, 1965), (reprinted, Harvard University Press, 1984).
  • The Nation in Crisis, 1861-1877, (Appleton, 1969).
  • Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man, (Knopf, 1970), (unabridged edition, published with Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, published as Charles Sumner, with new introduction by Donald, (Da Capo Press, 1996).
  • Gone for a Soldier, (Little, Brown, 1975).
  • Liberty and Union, (Little, Brown, 1978).
  • Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe, (Little, Brown, 1987).
  • Lincoln, (Simon & Schuster, 1995).
  • Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Domestic Life, (White House Historical Association, 1999).
  • “We Are Lincoln Men”: Abraham Lincoln and His Friends, (Simon & Schuster, 2004).
  • Contributor to historical journals. General editor, “The Making of America” series and “Documentary History of American Life” series.
  • Editor, Contributor, Joint Author:

  • (Editor, with wife, Aida Donald) Diary of Charles Francis Adams, two volumes, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1964.
  • (With others) Grant, Lee, Lincoln, and the Radicals, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1964.
  • (Editor) Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase, Longmans, Green (New York, NY), 1954.
  • (Author of introduction) George Cary Eggleston, A Rebel’s Recollections, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1959.
  • (Editor) Why the North Won the Civil War, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1960, revised and expanded edition, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
  • (With others) The Great Republic: A History of the American People, Heath (Boston, MA), 1977, 4th edition, 1992.
  • (With others) With My Face to the Enemy: Perspectives on the Civil War, edited by Robert Cowley, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
  • (With Harold Holzer) Lincoln in the Times : The Life of Abraham Lincoln, as Originally Reported in The New York Times, (St. Martin’s Press, 2005)
  • Awards:

    David Herbert Donald Prize for “Excellence in Lincoln Studies,” Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, 2005.
    Pulitzer Prize in biography, 1961, for Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, and 1988, for Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe; Guggenheim fellowship, 1964-65, and 1985-86.
    Lincoln was winner of the 1996 Lincoln Prize, the Lincoln/Barondess Award from the Civil War Round Table of New York, the Christopher Award, a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award for nonfiction, the American Library Association for distinguished nonfiction, the New England Booksellers award for the best nonfiction book of the year, and the Jefferson Davis Award of the Museum of the Confederacy. (all in 1996)
    Honorary M.A. degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University, a L.H.D. degree from Millsaps College (1976), the degree of Litt.D. from the College of Charleston, South Carolina (1985), the Doctor of History degree from Lincoln University, L.H.D. degree from the University of Calgary (2001), and the L.H.D. degree from Illinois College (2002) . In 1989 he was the recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 1992 he received the L.H.D. degree from that university. In May 2003 received the L.H.D. degree from Middlebury College.
    Mr. Donald has held two fellowships from the John Si Nevins/Freeman Award, Chicago Civil War Roundtable, 1999.
    Benjamin L. C. Wailes Award, Mississippi Historical Society, 1994.
    C. Hugh Holman Prize, Modern Language Association, 1988.
    National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellow, 1971-72.
    American Council of Learned Societies fellowship, 1969-70.
    George A. and Eliza G. Howard Fellowship, 1957-58.
    Social Science Research Council fellowship, 1945-46.

    Additional Info:

    Donald served the American Historical Association on the Committee on the Harmsworth Professorship, the Committee on Research Needs of the Profession, the Nominating Committee, the Committee on the Albert J. Beveridge and Dunning Prizes, and the Board of Editors of The American Historical Review. He was in 1962-1964 an elected member of the Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians, and in 1964 served on the Committee on the Future of the Association.
    In the Southern Historical Association he has served on the Committee on Membership, the Committee on the Program, the Committee on Nominations, the Committee on the Ramsdell Award, and the Executive Council. In 1969 he was elected Vice President of the Southern Historical Association, and in 1970 he became the President of that group.
    In 2001-2002 he was a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of the National Museum of American History.
    In January 1990 President George Bush invited him to deliver the first lecture, on Abraham Lincoln, in the “Presidential Lectures on the Presidency” at the White House.
    Donald was the principal historical adviser and commentator for the 1992 documentary series “Lincoln” and for the 2000 television series “A House Divided: Abraham and Mary Lincoln.” He has made numerous television appearances, including; PBS’ “Newshour with Jim Lehrer” and C-Span’s “Booknotes,” and has written articles for the popular media including the New York Times and Washington Post. Donald also served as a historical consultant for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

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