History Buzz October 25, 2010: Carol Sheriff & the Virginia Civil War Textbook Controversy

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Her blog is History Musings



  • Local schools use history book with error about black soldiers: “Our Virginia: Past and Present” is published by Five Ponds Press in Weston, Conn.
    An elementary-school textbook that asserts many black soldiers fought for the South during the Civil War is circulating in some area schools. That claim has been widely discredited, according to historians. Moreover, they say, it is often made by groups looking to rewrite history. The book is being used by fourth-graders in Norfolk and fourth- and fifth-graders in Chesapeake. In Suffolk, it is not the official textbook, but it is used as a resource for fourth grade. Virginia Beach schools also use it as an optional resource for fifth grade, and Tuesday the School Board considered adopting it as a primary text. Now the board is backing away…. – The Virginian-Pilot, 10-21-10
  • Professor’s discovery leads to national story on Virginia textbook: When Carol Sheriff looked through her daughter’s social studies textbook, the William & Mary history professor had no idea she would soon find herself a central player in a national story.
    A section of the fourth-grade textbook on the Civil War claimed that two battalions of African American soldiers fought under Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.
    Sheriff, who teaches about the Civil War at the College and has authored a book on the subject, knew the passage in the textbook to be factually inaccurate. Historians, Sheriff said, universally agree African Americans did not fight in any organized way for the South. In fact, the Confederacy made it illegal until the last year of the war – and well after Jackson’s death, she said. Even then, there is no record of battalions of African Americans serving in battle, according to the professor…. – William & Mary,
  • Interview with Carol Sheriff, Class of 2013 Professor of History: What mistake/gaffe did you find in “Our Virginia: Past and Present”? How did you stumble upon it?
    The textbook says, “Thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” It is true that there were instances of African Americans taking up arms for the Confederacy. Precisely how many fought is not a question that can be easily answered, because these African Americans were usually body servants who had accompanied their masters to the front and who, in the heat of battle and on an ad hoc basis, picked up arms to protect their masters and themselves. But it is simply not true that Stonewall Jackson commanded two black battalions. Jackson died in 1863, and the Confederacy did not authorize the use of black soldiers until the waning months of the war, in early 1865. Before any of the black soldiers recruited under such terms could see battle action, the Confederacy had surrendered. I came upon the mistake when my daughter, who is in fourth grade, brought home her new social studies textbook…. – Virginia Gazette, 10-22-10
  • Ervin Jordan: Virginia textbook claims “false”: As Kevin Sieff reported in The Washington Post on Wednesday, historians are wondering how a fourth-grade textbook in Virginia was approved despite including the spurious claim that “Thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” Asked about her sources, the textbook’s author, Joy Masoff — whose other books include “Fire!” and “Oh Yikes! History’s Grossest, Wackiest Moments” — cited Ervin Jordan, a University of Virginia historian who is the author of “Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia.” Like other noted historians, Mr. Jordan told The Post that while there is documentary evidence that some African- Americans fought for the Confederacy, “There’s no way of knowing that there were thousands…. And the claim about Jackson is totally false.”… – NYT (10-20-10)
  • Textbook clash in Virginia over Civil War: Live Chat with Carol Sherriff: A textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War — a claim rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play down slavery’s role as a cause of the conflict. The issue first came to light after College of William and Mary historian Carol Sheriff opened her daughter’s copy of “Old Virginia: Past and Present” and saw the reference to black Confederate soldiers. “It’s disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship,” said Sheriff. Sheriff was online Wednesday, Oct. 20, at Noon ET to discuss the controversy…. – WaPo (10-20-10)
  • Virginia 4th-grade textbook criticized by historians over claims on black Confederate soldiers: A textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War — a claim rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play down slavery’s role as a cause of the conflict.
    The passage appears in “Our Virginia: Past and Present,” which was distributed in the state’s public elementary schools for the first time last month. The author, Joy Masoff, who is not a trained historian but has written several books, said she found the information about black Confederate soldiers primarily through Internet research, which turned up work by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans….
    The issues first came to light after College of William & Mary historian Carol Sheriff opened her daughter’s copy of “Our Virginia” and saw the reference to black Confederate soldiers.
    “It’s disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship,” Sheriff said. “It concerns me not just as a professional historian but as a parent.”…
    “It’s more than just an arcane, off-the-wall problem,” said David Blight, a professor at Yale University. “This isn’t just about the legitimacy of the Confederacy, it’s about the legitimacy of the emancipation itself.”
    Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson of Princeton University said, “These Confederate heritage groups have been making this claim for years as a way of purging their cause of its association with slavery.”… – WaPo (10-19-10)


  • Pro-Israel historian barred from Irish Middle East debate: Asked and then unasked: Geoffrey Alderman Professor Geoffrey Alderman is to lodge a formal protest against Queen’s University, Belfast after the withdrawal of an invitation to be a speaker at a Middle East debate on Monday night. The staunchly pro-Israel JC columnist and historian, who is a guest professor at Ariel College on Israel’s West Bank, had been invited to join the panel at a discussion on “Conflict in the Middle East” as part of the Belfast Festival. But last Friday festival director Graeme Farrow told Professor Alderman that the invitation had been a “mistake” as he had not consulted the other panellists about it…. – The JC.com, 10-21-10
  • China scholars enter Okinawa fray: …More than a few Chinese scholars are beginning to claim Okinawa as Chinese land by writing numerous academic papers in Chinese journals, though they are still in a minority among historians. Xu Yong, noted professor of history at the Beijing University, is among scholars whose work presents the Chinese case. Xu was a member of the Japan-China Joint History Research Committee, set up in 2006 under an agreement between then-prime minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Hu Jintao. This was an attempt to salvage bilateral relations that dived during the time of Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, and his regular visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine memorializing Japan’s war dead (including Class A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo)…. – Asia Times (10-23-10)
  • Brooklyn College historian resigns from search panel after referring to it as “lily-white”: A Brooklyn College history professor who panned members of an influential faculty committee as “lily white” has resigned after being elected to the panel, The Post has learned. Associate professor Jocelyn Wills sent an e-mail to colleagues voting for members of four faculty-search committees to recruit new deans to the college. She criticized the administrative appointees on the panel as racially wrong.
    “Please spread the word among your colleagues and friends on Faculty Council, that we need to correct the lily-white imbalances of the Dean’s search committees, all four of them,” Wills wrote. She then urged votes for four black and Latino faculty members…. – NY Post (10-17-10)


  • Justin Snider: Diane Ravitch questions lasting impact of “Waiting for Superman”: In a segment called “Waiting for Superman: Fact or Fiction?” on the BAM! Radio Network, education historian Diane Ravitch and four members of the media (including yours truly) discussed Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, Waiting for ‘Superman’. Our host, Errol St. Clair Smith, wanted to know whether we thought the film would lead to productive discussions about how to reform public education in this country. Is there an emerging consensus in education reform today? If so, Diane Ravitch suggested it’s not a good one. She said that the reforms now being undertaken by the Obama administration aren’t terribly different from reforms that date back to the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Ravitch, who’s been a fierce critic of Waiting for ‘Superman’, says the film pushes the “conservative, right-wing [education] agenda” of the Obama administration…. – The Huffington Post (10-19-10)
  • Professor Phyllis Chesler: Anti-Semitism Cannot be Equated with Islamophobia: Even as Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounces the failure of “multiculturalism” in Germany, the English-language German newspaper reporter, Marc Young, writing for the English-language German news at The Local, proclaims that “bigotry towards Muslims is the new anti-Semitism.”
    As the author of a book with the title The New Anti-Semitism (with an edition in German), allow me to remind Mr. Young that one of the things that is “new” about this most ancient of hatreds is that it is pandemic in the Islamic world and in Muslim communities in the West and that the multicultural relativists in the world’s universities, media, and political leadership, are collaborating with it in the name of “political correctness.”
    Thus, what both Young and those who run the state-subsidized Center for Research on Anti-Semitism at the University of Berlin have learned from the Nazi Holocaust is that Europeans should not discriminate against Muslims as they once did against Jews…. – Arutz Sheva, 10-19-10
  • Andrew McCarthy invokes Bernard Lewis in the National Review: Who says Islam is a totalitarian doctrine? Well, Geert Wilders does, of course. As the editors point out in Monday’s superb National Review Online editorial, the Dutch parliamentarian has even had the temerity to compare Islam with Nazism. Strong stuff indeed, and for speaking it, Wilders has earned the disdain not just of the usual Muslim Brotherhood satellite organizations but even of many on the political right….
    I wonder what he’d make of Bernard Lewis’s take on this subject. Professor Lewis is the distinguished scholar widely and aptly admired, including by Wilders’s detractors, as the West’s preeminent authority on Islam. At Pajamas Media, Andrew Bostom has unearthed a 1954 International Affairs essay in which Professor Lewis quite matter-of-factly compared Islam with Communism. The essay, in fact, was called, “Communism and Islam.”… – National Review (10-19-10)


  • JONATHAN ALTER: The State of Liberalism: It’s a sign of how poorly liberals market themselves and their ideas that the word “liberal” is still in disrepute despite the election of the most genuinely liberal president that the political culture of this country will probably allow. “Progressive” is now the self-description of choice for liberals, though it’s musty and evasive. The basic equation remains: virtually all Republican politicians call themselves conservative; few Democratic politicians call themselves liberal. Even retired Classic Coke liberals like Walter F. Mondale are skittish about their creed. “I never signed up for any ideology,” he writes in his memoirs…. – NYT, 10-24-10
  • CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL: The State of Conservatism: American conservatives, most notably the activists who support various Tea Party groups, have a great variety of anxieties and grievances just now. But what unites them all, at least rhetorically, is the sense that something has gone wrong constitutionally, shutting them out of decisions that rightfully belong to them as citizens. This is why many talk about “taking our country back.”… – NYT, 10-24-10
  • Hunting for the Dawn of Writing, When Prehistory Became History: One of the stars of the Oriental Institute’s new show, “Visible Language: Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond,” is a clay tablet that dates from around 3200 B.C. On it, written in cuneiform, the script language of ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia, is a list of professions, described in small, repetitive impressed characters that look more like wedge-shape footprints than what we recognize as writing. A Sumerian clay tablet from around 3200 B.C. is inscribed in wedgelike cuneiform with a list of professions. In fact “it is among the earliest examples of writings that we know of so far,” according to the institute’s director, Gil J. Stein, and it provides insights into the life of one of the world’s oldest cultures. The new exhibition by the institute, part of the University of Chicago, is the first in the United States in 26 years to focus on comparative writing. It relies on advances in archaeologists’ knowledge to shed new light on the invention of scripted language and its subsequent evolution…. – NYT, 10-20-10
  • Condoleezza Rice’s family memoir, reviewed by Patricia Sullivan: EXTRAORDINARY, ORDINARY PEOPLE A Memoir of Family Readers looking for insights into Rice’s thinking and actions as national security adviser and secretary of state under George W. Bush will not find them in “Extraordinary, Ordinary People.” The subtitle, “A Memoir of Family,” describes the focus and scope of this engaging book. While the last third provides a cursory account of the academic and professional trajectory that culminates with Rice’s appointment in the Bush administration, the book, at its core, is a coming-of-age story during the final years of segregation and its aftermath. Rice’s account of her parents and her family life in Alabama and later in Denver complicates what many think they know about one of the most prominent women in recent history and provides a compelling portrait of the life of a middle-class Southern black family during these transitional decades. WaPo, 10-24-10
  • Ron Chernow’s “Washington,” reviewed by T.J. Stiles: WASHINGTON A Life Ron Chernow describes this dental hell in “Washington,” and rarely have missing bicuspids been used to such effect. Here we see the strengths of this biography: the interweaving of the inner and outer man; a sensitivity to the impact of a seemingly minor matter; the juxtaposition of a civic saint with the trade in human flesh (or calcium, in this case). But the very intimacy of the story hints at this book’s limitations. Like Washington’s teeth, his life as told here is less than fully rooted in its surroundings…. – WaPo, 10-24-10
  • Review of “Empire of Dreams,” Scott Eyman’s biography of Cecil B. DeMille: EMPIRE OF DREAMS The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille DeMille (1881-1959) poured his considerable gusto into learning the art of motion pictures, and how to make them bigger and better than anyone else at the time. He displayed immediate command of the cinematic language, especially in vigorous pacing and flamboyant scope. He helped expand the possibilities of the medium and push the boundaries of what the moviegoing experience could be, and he was Hollywood’s master of spectacle and bombast for four decades. “Empire of Dreams,” Scott Eyman’s biography of DeMille and the first written with complete access to the filmmaker’s archives, provides a compelling window into the rise of Hollywood as a movie capital…. – WaPO, 10-24-10
  • GIL TROY on Gal Beckerman: The struggle to save Soviet Jews – Book Review quixotic protests for freedom eventually triumphed: When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry When the Soviet secret police detained the dissident Anatoly Scharansky, one of his KGB interrogators mocked the movement to free Soviet Jewry as limited to students and housewives. Scharansky -today Natan Sharansky -a chess master constantly outwitting his tormentors, feigned surprise. The KGB provided photos of rallies. Scharansky demanded more evidence, thereby getting the KGB to update him about the grassroots protests that saved his life.
    Soviet dissidents like Scharansky, along with the students and housewives the KGB disdained, star in Gal Beckerman’s compelling new book When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry. Beckerman, a young journalist, shows how scattered American and Soviet-Jewish protests in the 1950s and 1960s gradually gained momentum, until Soviet Jews’ fate became a central U.S. political issue, a diplomatic Cold War hot potato, and the symbol of “all that was repressive and evil about Soviet society.”… – Montreal Gazette, 10-23-10
  • Sean Wilentz: the great magpie of American song Historian Sean Wilentz examines Bob Dylan’s deep roots: Bob Dylan in America “A musical modernist with strong roots in traditional forms … beholden to no particular performance or recording style,” excelling “in numerous genres, including amalgamated genres of his own devising.” Clearly, Sean Wilentz, Princeton history professor and resident historian at Bob Dylan’s official website, has his subject nailed in the pages of his new book, right? Well, yes, although the words above refer not to Dylan, but to the mid-20th century bluesman and self-styled “songster” Blind Willie McTell, a musician pulled out of obscurity when Dylan made him the title figure of an epic dystopian ballad. Identifying the impulse behind that song -no mere tribute, it’s an acknowledgment of deep affinity across time and cultures -typifies the kind of sleuthing Wilentz is up to. “There isn’t an inch of American song that (Dylan) cannot call his own,” Wilentz claims, and by the end of this free- ranging study, even confirmed Dylan skeptics may be convinced…. – Montreal Gazette, 10-23-10
  • In a Digital Age, Students Still Cling to Paper Textbooks: They text their friends all day long. At night, they do research for their term papers on laptops and commune with their parents on Skype. But as they walk the paths of Hamilton College, a poster-perfect liberal arts school in this upstate village, students are still hauling around bulky, old-fashioned textbooks — and loving it. “The screen won’t go blank,” said Faton Begolli, a sophomore from Boston. “There can’t be a virus. It wouldn’t be the same without books. They’ve defined ‘academia’ for a thousand years.” Though the world of print is receding before a tide of digital books, blogs and other Web sites, a generation of college students weaned on technology appears to be holding fast to traditional textbooks. That loyalty comes at a price. Textbooks are expensive — a year’s worth can cost $700 to $900 — and students’ frustrations with the expense, as well as the emergence of new technology, have produced a confounding array of options for obtaining them…. – NYT, 10-20-10
  • Sara L. Sale: Book stops here: Local author writes biography of Bess Truman: Local author has shed new light on Harry Truman’s wife Bess, who despite her traditional conventions in public was, like Harry, one for whom the buck stopped in private. Neosho native Sara L. Sale became interested in Harry Truman in Jack Johnson’s history class at Neosho High School. She went on to become a historian and college professor who specialized in the Truman Era. Most recently, she taught at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College.
    Having ordered a few titles from the “Modern First Ladies” series published by University of Kansas Press, Sale noticed no one had written about Bess Truman. She contacted the director, and by 2007 had an advance contract for “Bess Wallace Truman: Harry’s White House ‘Boss.’” It was published in hardcover this week…. – The Joplin Globe, 10-24-10
  • Wills Writes Collection of Well-Crafted Essays ‘Outside Looking In’ is collection of well-crafted essays by Pulitzer winner Gary Wills: “Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer” (Viking, $25.95), by Garry Wills: Having dared to try to explain Jesus, the Gettysburg Address and John Wayne in previous books, is Garry Wills slacking off a bit by gazing inward? Not if examining one’s own life is a writer’s greatest test. Wills meets the challenge with his usual literary aplomb. This collection of well-crafted essays, in which he revisits people he has encountered and events he has witnessed as a journalist, professor and historian, might be the only later-in-life memoir we will see from the busy Pulitzer Prize winner…. – AP, 10-13-10


  • Film historian David Kiehn discovers truth about iconic SF film: An iconic silent film starring San Francisco made its debut on “60 Minutes.” “A Trip Down Market Street” has riveting black and white scenes of life in the city before the Big One in 1906. Back then, Market street was little more than a dusty road filled with horse drawn carriages, men in hats and women in Victorian gowns bustling about. One for the archives, right? Not quite. According to the Library of Congress, the film was shot in September 1905. But film historian, David Kiehn, who oversees the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, noticed some inconsistencies when he began to research the film…. – Yahoo News (10-19-10)
  • Wash. U historian estimates “50,000 to 60,000″ Muslims live in STL: …Forty years ago, Asif came to St. Louis. Then, there was one Nation of Islam mosque, traditionally attended by black American Muslims, in the city. Now, the St. Louis area has at least nine Muslim community centers, which include masjids, also called mosques, for worship, classroom space for instruction and meeting space for social gatherings. Those centers are in Manchester, Overland, Glen Carbon, Ill., and Belleville, Ill., among others. Hasic says people tend to attend the mosques closest to where they live. Hasic, president of the Islamic Community Center, estimates that about 100,000, Muslims live in the area, about half of them Bosnian, like him. They also come from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and from America…. – St. Louis Beacon (10-11-10)


  • Garry Wills’ Adventures As An ‘Outsider Looking In’: Journalist and historian Garry Wills is a professor emeritus at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He says he’s currently reading John Spike’s Young Michelangelo and Garry Trudeau’s 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective. “Most of the good things that have happened in my life happened because of books,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning author, journalist and historian Garry Wills — and that includes meeting his wife. They met on a plane — he was a passenger, she was a flight attendant. She took one look at his book and told him that he was too young to be reading French philosopher Henri Bergson.
    “I was a bookworm from the very beginning and to this day,” Wills tells NPR’s Robert Siegel. “There’s practically no minute of the day that I don’t have a book in hand.” Wills has written many books of his own — about Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln, the Declaration of Independence, Christianity and more. His latest work is a memoir called Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer…. – NPR, 10-19-10
  • Chris Hedges: Staughton and Alice Lynd: Heroes for the Beaten, Foreclosed on, Imprisoned Masses: Staughton Lynd could have built an enviable career as an academic but for his conscience. His conscience led him as a young undergraduate disgusted by the elitism around him to drop out of Harvard, and tortured him when he returned to finish his degree. It plagued him after he received his doctorate from Columbia and saw him head to the segregated South to join his friend Howard Zinn in teaching history at the historically black Spelman College. It propelled him to become the director of Freedom Schools in the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964. It prodded him a year later to chair the first march against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C., and join Tom Hayden and Herbert Aptheker on a trip to Hanoi…. – Truthdig (10-18-10)


  • Peniel E. Joseph on whether black face is “ever okay”: While Peniel E. Joseph, award-winning author and Professor of History at Tufts University, doesn’t believe Will.i.am intended to put on a minstrel show, he does point out that the Grammy winner, “is emblematic of a new generation that doesn’t feel as connected to historic symbols of racism and don’t really have an understanding of the history. There is this resurgence of white supremacy groups and economic anxiety, and these are all connected whether Will.i.am sees it or not,” he says…. – Black Book Mag (10-19-10)
  • Democrats Are at Odds on Relevance of Keynes, Say Historians: “Not until World War II, with the need for revenue so large and the unity around winning the war so strong, was that ambivalence pushed aside,” said Gary Gerstle, a historian at Vanderbilt University….“The president has this year been proposing historically bipartisan policies that would help stand up the private sector and accelerate our recovery,” said Austan D. Goolsbee, who succeeded Ms. Romer as chairman of the council. “I hope that at some point opposition, for the sake of opposition, is going to lessen.”

    But that seems unlikely, as long as the recovery plods along slowly. “It would be a mistake to attribute the distancing from Obama’s stimulus entirely to political caution or opportunism,” said Robert S. Weisbrot, a historian at Colby College. “As much as those factors may be important, it is dismaying how little evidence there is to show for it. Maybe we need even more, but surely $800 billion should have counted for something.”… – NYT (10-18-10)

  • Sean Wilentz cited in op-eds in NYT, WaPo – NYT (10-18-10)


  • Publisher to Remove Black Confederate Textbook Reference: James Loewen on NPR [3 minutes 35 seconds, audio]: James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong and co- editor of The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The Great Truth about the Lost Cause, appeared on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on Oct. 22 to discuss the controversy over the claims about black Confederate soldiers in Our Virginia: Past and Present, a textbook distributed to Virginia fourth graders…. – National Public Radio (10-22-10)
  • Q&A With Sean Wilentz on Time.com: Princeton professor Sean Wilentz has forgone his usual subjects — the political historian and occasional journalist has written books such as The Age of Reagan and The Rise of American Democracy — to focus instead on something entirely different: Bob Dylan. His new book, Bob Dylan in America tackles the legendary musician with the same amount of meticulous attention to detail as one might expect from one of Wilentz’s uber-historical tracts. He traces Dylan’s influences across wide swaths of 20th-century history and culture — from the socialist movement of the 1930s to Bing Crosby’s Christmas carols — to explore his place in America, and America’s place in his music…. – Time.com (10-21-10)
  • ‘The Lost Soul of Higher Education’: IHE interviews Ellen Schrecker: To begin an article by saying that American higher education is in a state of crisis would be — at least to most readers of this site — so familiar as to border on tautology. “Well, sure,” the reader can be imagined thinking. “But is she referring to the years of economic turmoil and drastic budget cuts? The adjunctification of the faculty? The neglect of the liberal arts and humanities? The watering down of academic standards?” In this case, the answer would be, “Yes, for a start.” And the author of that answer would be Ellen Schrecker, whose recent book The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University (The New Press) counts all of the above among a host of critical issues confronting academe. The book grew out of an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education in which Schrecker, a professor of history at Yeshiva University, wrote that the “assault on the academy” by conservative critics such as David Horowitz poses a greater threat to academic freedom than did McCarthyism in the 1950s…. – Inside Higher Ed (10-20-10)
  • James Thurber: Top Historian Views 111th Congress as One of The Most Productive: In this Part One of a two-part ‘Power Breakfast’… assessing the productivity – and/or lack thereof – of the 111th Congress. The director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, American University Professor James Thurber, takes the long view. He views the session’s economic stimulus package, health care overhaul and financial regulatory reform legislation to be some of most monumental accomplishments since LBJ or FDR…. – Capitol News Connection, 10-19-10


  • Loyal Jones: ‘The grandfather of Appalachian studies’ receives honor Founder of Berea’s Appalachian studies center is honored for his work”: Loyal Jones grew up in a tenant-farming family, growing corn and hay in western North Carolina, near the Georgia and Tennessee state lines. He went to Hayesville High School and the Baptist church in town. But he also got interested in another area institution, the John C. Campbell Folk School, which brought in traditions from outside western North Carolina but also aimed to emphasize and deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of their own culture…. – Lexington Herald-Leader, 10-24-10
  • Pelosi Appoints Dr. Matthew Wasniewski as New House Historian: Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today the appointment of Dr. Matthew Wasniewski as the new Historian of the House of Representatives. Dr. Wasniewski, who currently serves as the historian in the House Clerk’s Office of History and Preservation, received the unanimous recommendation of the House Historian Search Committee appointed by Speaker Pelosi with the input of House Republican Leader John Boehner who concurred on the appointment…. – PR Newswire (10-20-10)


  • Prominent University of Chicago historian will deliver annual W. Bruce Lincoln Lecture: Historian Ramón Gutiérrez — an award-winning author and director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago — will visit Northern Illinois University later this month to deliver the seventh annual W. Bruce Lincoln Lecture. The lecture, titled “Thinking About Race in a Post-Racial America: From Plessy v. Ferguson to Barack Obama,” will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, in the Altgeld Hall Auditorium. The event is free and open to all. It is sponsored by the NIU History Department and the W. Bruce Lincoln Endowment…. – NIU, 10-15-10
  • THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKES ITS MOST IMPORTANT COLLECTIONS RELATING TO SLAVERY AVAILABLE ONLINE: Rich trove of material becomes easily accessible at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollection The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollections, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department….
  • Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” is the only comprehensive website on the famous Reagan-era government scandal, which stemmed from the U.S. government’s policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government. These events have led to questions about the appropriateness of covert operations, congressional oversight, and even the presidential power to pardon…. – irancontra.org
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.


  • Reed Opera House’s 140th birthday celebration: The Reed Opera House celebrated its 140th birthday at a reception in the Trinity Ballroom on Oct. 13. Everyone was buzzing about the attendance of opera house founder Gen. Cyrus Reed’s great-grandson Professor Roger Paget, a professor at Lewis and Clark College. Owner Roger Yost proudly shared the history of the property and reminded me that the Reed was the center of Salem’s social life during its first three decades.
    The building was graced by many famous people such as Susan B. Anthony, Samuel Clemens and John Philip Sousa. Reed’s Opera House opened its doors on Sept. 27, 1870, for the inaugural ball of Gov. LaFayette Grover. Since I was a girl, the Reed Opera House was a unique shopping and event destination. Later, it had undergone some hard times. Today, with Yost’s investment, the 66,000-square-foot structure has been restored, and it is full of retail space and the popular Trinity Ballroom.
    This event was a historian’s dream, with Paget and John Ritter, a professor at Linfield, as the featured speakers. Suzie Bicknell of Go Downtown Salem! was there to lend support…. – Statesman Journal, 10-24-10
  • Historian, professor Holton lectures on Abigail Adams: Abigail Adams was not just a First Lady, but was also an early feminist, learned audience members at Woody Holton’s lecture on Sunday afternoon. The lecture, which took place in the Brown-Alley room, was sponsored by the Friends of Boatwright Memorial Library in honor of “Abigail Adams,” the new book by the historian and associate professor of history and American studies.
    Holton told the audience of about 50 people that he had a very canned lecture prepared, which he had already given about 60 times, and so was going to speak about something different, which was Abigail’s relationship with the other women in her life…. – U Richmond Collegian, 10-6-10




  • David Eisenhower: Going Home To Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, (Hardcover), October 26, 2010
  • Joseph J. Ellis: First Family: Abigail and John Adams, (Hardcover), October 26, 2010
  • Robert Leckie: Challenge for the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The Turning Point of the War, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Hazel Rowley: Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage (First Edition), (Hardcover), October 26, 2010
  • Robert M. Poole: On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Helen J. Burn: Betsy Bonaparte, (Hardcover), November 1, 2010
  • Noah Feldman: Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices, (Hardcover), November 2010
  • Gerald Blaine: The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Greg Farrell: Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Charles Rappleye: Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Karl Rove: Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, (Paperback), November 2, 2010
  • Charles HRH The Prince of Wales: Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Simon Winchester: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Steven E. Woodworth: Manifest Destinies: America’s Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Manning Marable: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Adam Richman: America the Edible: A Hungry History From Sea to Dining Sea, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Rodney Stark: God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, (Paperback), November 9, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • G. J. Barker-Benfield: Abigail and John Adams: The Americanization of Sensibility, (Hardcover), November 15, 2010
  • Laura Hillenbrand: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, (Hardcover), November 16, 2010
  • Mike Huckabee: A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories that Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit, (Hardcover), November 16, 2010
  • Gary Ecelbarger: The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Linda Porter: Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII (First Edition), (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Alison Weir: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, (Paperback), December 28, 2010
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), January 25, 2011


  • Robert Katz, writer about the Holocaust, dies: Robert Katz, an Italy-based American author, journalist and screenwriter who wrote extensively about the World War II fate of Jews in Rome, has died. His wife told The Associated Press that Katz, who had lived in Tuscany for many years, died Thursday of complications from cancer surgery. He was 77…. – Jewish Telegraph Agency (10-21-10)

History Buzz August 16-30, 2010: Hurricane Katrina 5 Years Later


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Her blog is History Musings



  • Douglas Brinkley: What Happened To Our National Conversation On Race And Poverty?: Later Brian Williams asked historian Douglas Brinkley “what happened to that national conversation we were all supposed to have about what was exposed by Katrina?” Brinkley says we “got amnesia” and “forget quickly.” One might suggest the country would be less apt to get “amnesia” and “forget” if powerful media folks like NBC and it’s uber popular anchors were more apt to shine a consistent light on the problem in the intervening years between big anniversaries. One might also suggest that we are in fact embroiled in a national conversation about race, it just simply does not look like what anyone imagined or hoped it would five years ago…. – mediaite.com, 8-29-10
  • Edward Kohn: Before Katrina, There Was New York’s 1896 Heat Wave What the government can learn from perhaps America’s most forgotten natural disaster: Long before Americans could retreat into air conditioning to escape the worst of the summer, a 10-day heat wave claimed the lives of about 1,300 New Yorkers in “the deadliest, urban heat disaster in American history,” writes historian Edward Kohn. The year was 1896, when poor laborers living in crowded tenements had few options for relief from the heat. In Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt, Kohn recounts how Roosevelt, then New York City police commissioner, came to the aid of the working masses. Kohn, an assistant professor of American history at Bilkent University in Turkey, recently spoke with U.S. News. Excerpts…. – US News, 8-27-10


  • Carlos E. Cortes: ‘Dora The Explorer’ may change a whole generation: So producers turned to such experts as historian Carlos E. Cortes, author of “The Children Are Watching” and “The Making — and Remaking — of a Multiculturalist.” “He was absolutely instrumental in helping us find the best way to put Dora forward in terms of culture,” said Gifford. Cortes advised that Dora should always be inclusive, so producers decided not to give her a particular country of origin.
    “I am delighted with the way ‘Dora’ has come out, particularly the impact it seems to be having in young people,” said Cortes, professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Riverside. “The Latino kids take pride having Dora as a lead character and non-Latino kids can embrace someone different.”… – AP, 8-27-10
  • Harold Seymour, Dorothy Jane Mills: Author Credit for Widow of Baseball Historian: In baseball terms you might describe it as a walk-off hit deep into extra innings. Dorothy Jane Mills, the widow of the revered baseball historian Harold Seymour, has been belatedly recognized by Oxford University Press as co-author, along with Mr. Seymour, of three landmark scholarly works on the history of baseball, Publishers Weekly reported. Tim Bent, Oxford’s executive editor, said that Ms. Mills, 81, formerly Dorothy Z. Seymour, would be given formal credit and that her name would now accompany her late husband’s on the covers and title pages of “Baseball: The Early Years” (1960); “Baseball: The Golden Age,” (1971); and “Baseball: The People’s Game” (1991)…. = NYT (8-22-10)
  • New OAH Membership Dues Structure Adopted: In conjunction with the recently adopted strategic plan, the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians has enacted a simplified dues structure for individual members. After studying the dues structures of other learned societies, the Board concluded that the organization needed fewer membership categories. The new structure is not only simpler, but creates a lower-priced membership category for professional historians who are in the first three years of their careers. In addition, the revised structure will reduce paperwork in the OAH office, and it will allow staff to concentrate on improving member service, develop new member benefits, and better promote the organization…. – OAH (8-12-10)
  • Darrell Lewis: Historian writes about Leichhardt findings: A historian studying the life of Ludwig Leichhardt has begun collating findings about the famous explorer. National Museum of Australia spokesman Dr Darrell Lewis has been tracking Leichhardt’s trail through Queensland and central Australia. Leichhardt and his expedition party disappeared in 1848 and Dr Lewis has been looking for trees marked with an “L” to trace the journey…. – abc.net.au (8-17-10)
  • Katherine Rowe, Dan Cohen: Scholars Test Web Alternative to Peer Review: For professors, publishing in elite journals is an unavoidable part of university life. The grueling process of subjecting work to the up-or-down judgment of credentialed scholarly peers has been a cornerstone of academic culture since at least the mid-20th century. Now some humanities scholars have begun to challenge the monopoly that peer review has on admission to career- making journals and, as a consequence, to the charmed circle of tenured academe. They argue that in an era of digital media there is a better way to assess the quality of work. Instead of relying on a few experts selected by leading publications, they advocate using the Internet to expose scholarly thinking to the swift collective judgment of a much broader interested audience…. – NYT (8-23-10)
  • Historians Join Effort To Preserve Federal K-12 History Education Funding: In July, the National Coalition for History (NCH), and ten other NCH members joined forces with over 20 educational organizations representing other K-12 academic disciplines in issuing a statement to Congress and the Administration calling for the continued robust funding of core academic subjects including history. This includes maintenance of discrete budget lines—such as the Teaching American History grants—for each discipline…. – Lee White at the National Coalition for History (8-6-10)


  • John B. Judis: Defending ‘The Unnecessary Fall of Barack Obama’: In the week since my story on “the unnecessary fall of Barack Obama” came out, I have been accused of being “hysterical” and “ahistorical,” of glorifying Ronald Reagan, of “moving away from” my “previously clear-eyed stance on the primary source of Obama’s troubles,” and of relying on the same “white-working-class Theory of Everything” I have been “peddling … ever since summer 2008.” And that’s just in public. Privately, the criticism has been far more withering and has included words far too incendiary to print in a family magazine. But I’ve spent a lot of time considering some of the (quite thought-provoking and reasonable) counter-arguments to my piece, and I’d like to take the opportunity to respond to them here…. – The New Republic (8-25-10)
  • John B. Judis: The Unnecessary Fall of Barack Obama: On April 14, 2009, as Barack Obama’s standing in the polls was beginning to slip, and as Tea Party demonstrators were amassing in Washington for tax day protests, the president gave a lengthy address at Georgetown University explaining the “five pillars” of his economic policies. The speech was intended to promote a memorable slogan for Obama’s program that would evoke comparisons with Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal, Franklin Rooseveltind’s New Deal, and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society…. – The New Republic (8-12-10)
  • Alan Brinkley: ‘Mad Men’: A Conversation (Season 4, Episode 5): Much of episode 5 was about competition — a particularly deceitful kind of competition that manipulated what was supposed to be a strictly regimented process of finding an advertiser for Honda. After Roger’s implausible explosion of anti-Japanese bigotry (20 years after the end of World War II), Don tricks his competitors to violate the rules of the competition — leaving Don (and Cooper, Sterling, Draper, Pryce) one of the only competitors still standing. Don recognizes the damage done to their bid by Roger’s explosion, but he also knows that the Japanese will respond to presenting himself as the honorable man as opposed to the cheating of his rivals, which Don had tricked them into doing. (In the end, Draper’s deceit is outdone by the Japanese, who apparently never had any intention of changing agencies.) This was a clever plot line, despite Roger’s ugliness, and it revives our image of Don as the man who can always find a way out of a dilemma — a talent he seemed to have lost in the last few episodes…. – WSJ, 8-23-10
  • Daniel J. Flynn: An FBI History of Howard Zinn: In the late 1940s and early 1950s, as Joseph Stalin entered the final years of his reign of terror in the Soviet Union, twentysomething Howard Zinn served as a foot soldier in the Communist Party of the United States of America—this according to recently declassified FBI files. Zinn, the Marxist historian and progressive hero who died in January, may also have lied to the FBI about his Communist Party membership. Is it at all surprising that someone who got history so wrong stood on the wrong side of history?…. – City Journal (8-19-10)


  • Of Thee He Sings Historian Sean Wilentz claims Bob Dylan as one of his own: Sean Wilentz, a Princeton history professor and author of Bob Dylan in America, has agreed to lead a tour of Dylan’s Greenwich Village, a place he knows better than any other. We visit the singer’s former apartment on West 4th Street, above what’s now a sex shop; the clubs he played along Macdougal Street; the building where he first encountered Allen Ginsberg. “This whole neighborhood has such a long history that there is a sense—for some of us, anyway—of revenants, of ghosts,” says Wilentz, better-heeled than your average tour guide, in Brooks Brothers and custom-made shoes. “Dylan talks about walking around here and thinking that it really is 1880. I don’t mean to be mystical or spooky, but if you know what’s going on, you can’t help but feel it.” Although Wilentz has done plenty of journalism, the Dylan book is a departure from his hardbound oeuvre, which includes a 1,100-page tome on American democracy and biographies of Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan. Bob Dylan in America may be an unusually rigorous Dylan book, but “it was easier to do than the others,” he says, “because in effect I’ve been doing the research all my life.”… – NY Mag, 8-22-10
  • Alex Heard: Where Hatred Ruled: THE EYES OF WILLIE MCGEE A Tragedy of Race, Sex, and Secrets in the Jim Crow South First, the facts. Willie McGee, an African-American driver of a ­grocery-delivery truck, was accused of raping a white woman, Willette Hawkins, in November 1945 in Laurel, Miss. After deliberating for less than three minutes, an all-white jury sentenced him to death, and the “small-town crime,” as Alex Heard writes, “became famous around the world.” Bella Abzug, long before she became a congress­woman, served as McGee’s defense lawyer during the appeals process, working on a case that today evokes the story line of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Albert Einstein, Norman Mailer and Paul Robeson supported McGee, and left-wing journalists ranted about the trial in The Daily Worker. In contrast to their reports, “The Eyes of Willie McGee” does not crackle with rage, despite its horrific ending: on May 8, 1951, McGee was electrocuted in the local courthouse, leaving an odor of burned flesh in the room…. – NYT, 8-29-10
  • Richard Rhodes: Nuclear Family: THE TWILIGHT OF THE BOMBS Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons …So ends the first paragraph of the first book in Richard Rhodes’s four-volume epic. In that book, “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988, Rhodes explained how exactly the United States came to build atomic weapons. His next volume, “Dark Sun,” traced the early years of the cold war. “Arsenals of Folly” told the story of its end. And now “The Twilight of the Bombs” describes the fate of nuclear weapons since the Soviet Union ­collapsed…. – NYT, 8-29-10
  • Alex Butterworth’s “The World That Never Was,” a history of anarchism: THE WORLD THAT NEVER WAS A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents Arguably, no single act produces a more immediate and lasting effect on history than a political assassination. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, such deeds were frequently the work of the anarchist movement, which rose from the anger and frustration of the working class. However, as British historian Alex Butterworth demonstrates in “The World That Never Was,” too seldom was it acknowledged that these killers were also moved by the highest ideals and dreams of utopia…. – WaPo, 8-27-10
  • Carolyn Warner: Review of “The Words of Extraordinary Women,” a book of quotations: THE WORDS OF EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN Selected and Introduced Perhaps Shirley Temple Black said it best: “Nothing crushes freedom as substantially as a tank.”
    Or maybe Lady Bird Johnson said it best: “The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.”
    So many women have said it so well on so many subjects — politics, the arts, humor, success, family, faith, education — that businesswoman Carolyn Warner has collected their pithy thoughts and compiled them in a slim, useful volume, “The Words of Extraordinary Women.” Useful because as Warner, founder of Corporate Education Consulting, says, the right quotation can nail home your point in just about any setting…. – WaPo, 8-27-10
  • Kevin Starr: The Building of a Symbol: How It Got There, and Why It’s Orange: GOLDEN GATE The Life and Times of America’s Greatest Bridge …Despite the many existing odes to the Golden Gate Bridge, Kevin Starr seems particularly well equipped to write a biography of that famous orange bridge. The author of more than half a dozen histories of California, Mr. Starr — a professor of history at the University of Southern California and state librarian of California emeritus — has written frequently about the myths and metaphors that festoon the Golden State, and he seems to instinctively understand the place that the Golden Gate Bridge has come to occupy in the national imagination as a symbol of American enterprise and the gateway to the Pacific…. – NYT, 8-24-10
  • TOM SEGEV on Jonathan Schneer: ‘View With Favor’: THE BALFOUR DECLARATION The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict In this comprehensive study, richly documented by diplomatic correspondence, Jonathan Schneer concludes that the famous declaration seems to have just missed the sidetrack of history: in contrast to a common myth, Britain’s support for Zionism was not the result of an inevitable process. In fact, as Schneer reveals, shortly after Balfour’s promise to the Jews, the British government offered the Ottoman Empire the opportunity to keep Palestine and to continue to fly the Turkish flag over it. Schneer, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of History, Technology and Society, is a talented writer…. – NYT, 8-22-10
  • Richard Rhodes: The unmaking of the atomic bomb: THE TWILIGHT OF THE BOMBS Recent Challenges, New Dangers, and the Prospects for a World Without Nuclear Weapons No one writes better about nuclear history than Rhodes does, ably combining a scholar’s attention to detail with a novelist’s devotion to character and pacing. He began his exploration in 1987 with “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He also earned praise for “Dark Sun,” the story of the hydrogen bomb’s creation. “Arsenals of Folly” tackled the beginning of U.S. and Soviet cooperation to end the arms race.
    In “The Twilight of the Bombs,” Rhodes documents events from the end of the Cold War to 2003 that, he believes, point toward the feasibility of eradicating nuclear weapons. He chronicles the underpublicized drama of the era: the efforts to contain the spread of nuclear weapons after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the nuclear disarmament of South Africa, the fallout from India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear tests, and the negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions. In Rhodes’s telling, big personalities clash and cooperate, jokes and epiphanies punctuate the debate, and offbeat details energize the narrative…. – WaPo, 8-20-10
  • Ilyon Woo’s ‘The Great Divorce: A 19th-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight’: THE GREAT DIVORCE A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times The title of historian Ilyon Woo’s provocative book certainly sparks curiosity and debate. Which of our many American divorces merits the epithet “great”? In this case, it’s the legislative decree won in New York by Eunice Chapman in 1818, a victory for maternal custody rights in an era when children legally belonged to their fathers. And what about the challenging subtitle?.. – WaPo, 8-20-10
  • Lucy Worsley’s “The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue at Kensington Palace” As inspiration for this account of life in the 18th-century Georgian court, Lucy Worsley takes the “portraits of forty-five royal servants that look down upon palace visitors from the walls and ceiling of the King’s Grand Staircase” in Kensington Palace, best known today as the final residence of Princess Diana. This palace was “the one royal home that George I and his son [George II] really transformed and made their own,” a place where the servants “witnessed romance and violence, intrigue and infighting, and almost unimaginable acts of hatred and cruelty between members of the same family.”… – WaPo, 8-20-10
  • Diane Ravitch reviews Three books about education reformWaPo, 8-20-10
  • Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus: Why Johnny’s College Isn’t What It Used to Be: HIGHER EDUCATION? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — and What We Can Do About It Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus have written a lucid, passionate and wide-ranging book on the state of American higher education and what they perceive as its increasing betrayal of its primary mission — for them, the teaching of undergraduates. That both are academics — one a well-known professor (Mr. Hacker) and the other consigned to the adjunct, or what they call “contingent,” faculty (Ms. Dreifus, who is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times) — provides them with memorable, often acerbic anecdotes that neatly offset their citations of statistics and (it must be said) their sometimes rather sweeping generalizations… – NYT, 8-19-10
  • Andrew Pettegree: Start the Presses: THE BOOK IN THE RENAISSANCE “The humanist mythology of print.” With this phrase the British scholar Andrew Pettegree indicates the cultural story his book amends, and to some extent transforms. In an understated, judicious manner, he offers a radically new understanding of printing in the years of its birth and youth. Print, in Pettegree’s account, was never as dignified or lofty a medium as that “humanist mythology” of disseminated classics would suggest…. – NYT, 8-15-10
  • Richard Toye: The Two Churchills: CHURCHILL’S EMPIRE The World That Made Him and the World He Made Winston Churchill is remembered for leading Britain through her finest hour — but what if he also led the country through her most shameful one? What if, in addition to rousing a nation to save the world from the Nazis, he fought for a raw white supremacy and a concentration camp network of his own? This question burns through Richard Toye’s superb, unsettling new history, “Churchill’s Empire” — and is even seeping into the Oval Office…. – NYT, 8-15-10Excerpt


  • Bryan McNerney: Historian uses ancient maps to block ramblers: Bryan McNerney, who presented several successful history series on ITV, has been accused of blocking a footpath through the grounds of his country home. But the 57-year-old insists that a mistake by a map maker half a century ago wrongly showed the right of way through the property – ironically called “Garden of Eden”…. – Telegraph (UK) (8-24-10)
  • Old Irish bones may yield murderous secrets in Pa.: Young and strapping, the 57 Irish immigrants began grueling work in the summer of 1832 on the Philadelphia and Columbia railroad. Within weeks, all were dead of cholera. Or were they murdered? Two skulls unearthed at a probable mass grave near Philadelphia this month showed signs of violence, including a possible bullet hole. Another pair of skulls found earlier at the woodsy site also displayed traumas, seeming to confirm the suspicions of two historians leading the archaeological dig…. – Washington Times (8-16-10)


  • Forever Young: Staughton Lynd at 80: Suddenly Staughton Lynd is all the rage. Again. In the last 18 months, Lynd has published two new books, a third that’s a reprint of an earlier work, plus a memoir co-authored with his wife Alice. In addition, a portrait of his life as an activist through 1970 by Carl Mirra of Adelphi University has been published, with another book about his work after 1970 by Mark Weber of Kent State University due soon…. – Center for Labor Renewal (8-25-10)


  • Jonathan Sarna: Black and Jewish, and Seeing No Contradiction: “Everyone agrees that the numbers have grown, and they should be noticed,” said Jonathan D. Sarna of Brandeis University, a pre-eminent historian of American Jewry. “Once, there was a sense that ‘so-and-so looked Jewish.’ Today, because of conversion and intermarriage and patrilineal descent, that’s less and less true. The average synagogue looks more like America. “Even in an Orthodox synagogue, there’s likely to be a few people who look different,” Professor Sarna said, “and everybody assumes that will grow.”… – NYT, 8-28-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Pressure mounts for ‘Sheriff’ Elizabeth Warren: “The administration is hesitating because they’re faced with the traditional problem that Obama has faced,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. If the White House passes Warren over, Zelizer says, they disappoint liberals whose support has been key throughout the administration. If Warren gets the nod, the White House must deal with “political difficulties on Capitol Hill where centrists have quite a lot of power and Republicans are becoming quite obstinate,” Zelizer said. – CNN.com (8-26-10)
  • David A. Moss: Income inequality may contribute to financial crises, says Harvard economic historian: David A. Moss, an economic and policy historian at the Harvard Business School, has spent years studying income inequality. While he has long believed that the growing disparity between the rich and poor was harmful to the people on the bottom, he says he hadn’t seen the risks to the world of finance, where many of the richest earn their great fortunes. Now, as he studies the financial crisis of 2008, Mr. Moss says that even Wall Street may have something serious to fear from inequality — namely, another crisis….
    “I could hardly believe how tight the fit was — it was a stunning correlation,” he said. “And it began to raise the question of whether there are causal links between financial deregulation, economic inequality and instability in the financial sector. Are all of these things connected?”… – NYT (8-21-10)
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama Just Like Jimmy Carter: Is Barack Obama really like Jimmy Carter? Julian Zelizer, author of the forthcoming Jimmy Carter, part of Henry Holt & Co.’s American Presidents series, thinks so. Both are smart, both promised reform, and both, he adds, “entered office at a time Republicans were in bad condition as a result of previous presidents … and found it difficult to capitalize on this situation.” Other similarities: “There was a sense, that became worse over time, that Carter was cold and distant, and not very personable,” Zelizer told our Suzi Parker. Also, the right succeeded in demonizing Carter’s successes. And Obama should heed this Carter lesson: “Being straight with voters and telling them the reality of a situation is fine, but voters also need to know how you will make things better.” – US News, 8-18-10
  • David Kennedy: Happy 75th Birthday, Social Security: Social Security was a centerpiece of FDR’s New Deal reforms that helped this country recover from the Great Depression. These programs provided Americans a measure of dignity and hope and lasting security against the vicissitudes of the market and life. FDR therefore accomplished what the venerable New Deal historian David Kennedy says is the challenge now facing President Obama—a rescue from the current economic crisis which will also make us “more resilient to face those future crises that inevitably await us.”…. – The Nation, 8-13-10


  • Red Menace: David Gentilcore Talks the Tasty History of the Tomato: In his new book, “Pomodoro! A History of the Tomato in Italy,” Gentilcore traces the tomato from its origins in the New World, where it was domesticated by the Maya, then cultivated by the Aztecs. It likely entered Europe via Spain, after conquistador Hernan Cortes’s conquest of Mexico. When it arrived on the scene in Italy, it was strictly a curiosity for those who studied plants — not something anyone faint of heart would consider eating. In 1628, Paduan physician Giovanni Domenico Sala called tomatoes “strange and horrible things” in a discussion that included the consumption of locusts, crickets, and worms. When people ate tomatoes, it was as a novelty. “People were curious about new foods, the way gourmets are today with new combinations and new uses of high technology in preparation,” Gentilcore said. Yesterday’s tomato is today’s molecular gastronomy…. Boston Globe (8-15-10)
  • William Jelani Cobb: The Root Interview: William Jelani Cobb on Obama and Black Leadership: William Jelani Cobb: Initially they made it more difficult because I’m accustomed to writing about things that are more static. This was an attempt to place the election into a context in terms of history, and in some ways in terms of irony. But this was also a rapidly changing subject. The result was that I wrote about three-quarters of the book and then threw it all out and started again from scratch. It was much more difficult to decide what story I wanted to tell…. – The Root (8-19-10)
  • Obama’s Teachable Mosque Moment: FrontPage Interviews Victor Davis Hanson: Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern…. – FrontPageMag (8-23-10)
  • Talking About Brazil with Lilia Schwarcz: On a recent trip to Brazil, I struck up a conversation with Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, one of Brazil’s finest historians and anthropologists. The talk turned to the two subjects she has studied most—racism and national identity…. – NYRBlog (8-17-10)
  • Q. & A.: Sean Wilentz on Bob Dylan: The historian Sean Wilentz, the author of “The Rise of American Democracy” and “The Age of Reagan,” has a long-standing interest in the songs of Bob Dylan, going back to his childhood in Greenwich Village. His father and uncle ran the Eighth Street Bookshop, an important gathering place for the Beats and other downtown literary spirits; it was in his uncle’s apartment, above the store, that Dylan first met Allen Ginsberg. Wilentz has synthesized his memories, musical impressions, and historical analysis in a striking new book entitled “Bob Dylan in America,” which Doubleday will publish next month; newyorker.com runs an excerpt this week. As a sometime Dylan obsessive—in 1999 I wrote a long piece about Dylan, which will reappear in my forthcoming book “Listen to This”—I approached Wilentz with some questions about his latest work…. – New Yorker (8-16-10)


  • Kenneth M. LudmererWash U professor receives honor: Kenneth M. Ludmerer, MD, has been named the Mabel Dorn Reeder Distinguished Professor in the History of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Ludmerer, a renowned medical historian and educator, is professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and professor of history in the College of Arts & Sciences…. – Globe Democrat, 8-25-10
  • Elaine Chalus: Bath historian finds diaries of woman who nursed Nelson: A Bath historian is hoping to give an admiral’s wife – who tended to a wounded Lord Nelson – “her rightful place in history”. Dr Elaine Chalus has won a major research grant of more than £100,000 to investigate diaries kept by Elizabeth Wynne…. – BBC News (8-24-10)



  • September 17-18, 2010 at Notre Dame University: Conference aims to bring medieval, early modern and Latin American historians together: An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Notre Dame this fall is making a final call for papers to explore the issue surrounding similarities between late-medieval Iberia and its colonies in the New World. “From Iberian Kingdoms to Atlantic Empires: Spain, Portugal, and the New World, 1250-1700” is being hosted by the university’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and will take place on September 17-18, 2010. Medieval News, 4-29-10
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.




  • Christopher Tomlins, Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865 (Paperback and Hardcover), September 1, 2010
  • Holger Hoock: Empires of the Imagination: Politics, War, and the Arts in the British World, 1750-1850, (Hardcover), September 1, 2010
  • Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen, (Hardcover), September 7, 2010
  • James L. Swanson: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse, (Hardcover), September 28, 2010
  • Timothy Snyder: The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (First Trade Paper Edition), (Paperback), September 28, 2010
  • Ron Chernow: Washington: A Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • George William Van Cleve: A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, (Hardcover), October 1, 2010.
  • John Keegan: The American Civil War: A Military History, (Paperback), October 5, 2010
  • Bill Bryson: At Home: A Short History of Private Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • Robert M. Poole: On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Robert Leckie: Challenge for the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The Turning Point of the War, (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Manning Marable: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • G. J. Barker-Benfield: Abigail and John Adams: The Americanization of Sensibility, (Hardcover), November 15, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010


  • David Weber, Southwest Expert, Dies at 69: David J. Weber, whose groundbreaking works on the American Southwest under Spain and Mexico opened new territory for historians, died on Aug. 20 in Gallup, N.M. He was 69 and lived in Dallas and Ramah, N.M. The cause was complications from multiple myeloma, said his wife, Carol…. – NYT (8-27-10)
  • David Weber, Vice-president of the AHA’s Professional Division, Dies at 69: David J. Weber, historian of the Borderlands, the American West, and Latin America and vice-president of the American Historical Association’s Professional Division, died on Friday, August 20, after a long struggle with multiple myeloma…. – Debbie Ann Doyle at the AHA Blog (8-23-10)
  • Bernard Knox, distinguished classicist, dies at 95: Bernard M. W. Knox, an authority on the works of Sophocles, a prolific scholar and the founding director of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, died July 22 at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 95. The cause was a heart attack, said his son, MacGregor…. – NYT (8-17-10)
  • Professor Ray Beachey, 94, of Makerere University: Professor Ray Beachey, who died on July 10 aged 94, encouraged the hopes of a generation of East African leaders as head of History at Makerere University in Uganda during the 1950s and early 1960s…. – Telegraph (UK) (8-13-10)

History Buzz June 29, 2009: Historian’s Remember Michael Jackson’s Historical Impact




  • Rock, Pop Historian John Covach Assesses Michael Jackson’s Impact: “Michael Jackson is arguably the most important figure in 1980s popular music…. Younger fans of pop music may have to be reminded how incredibly powerful Michael Jackson’s music was in the 1980s. More than that, Jackson defined “cool” during those years. The single glove, his patented moonwalk step, that slightly rebellious yet gentle demeanor—all this youthful charm slipped away over time, as it does for all of us. But at the height of his powers, Michael Jackson was one of the world’s great entertainers and a pivotal figure in the history of American music. That’s how he should be remembered.” – Rochester University, 6-25-09
  • John Covach “Outpouring over Michael Jackson unlike anything since Princess Di”: “One reason Michael Jackson’s death is having such a wide impact is because his music had such a wide, and even sustained impact,” says John Covach, a music historian at the University of Rochester. “Few artists have so completely saturated the market as Jackson did during the 1980s. It’s comparable to the Beatles in the 60s or Elvis in the 50s. When an artist or performer is so well known and loved, the reaction to his or her passing is bound to be strong and widespread.” “One important difference between Jackson’s career and those of many others is that he was a child star who became an adult star – a very difficult transition to pull off,” says Professor Covach. “Even those who were too young to be fans of Jackson when he was a child have seen the clips of him performing with a mastery far beyond his years. The adult Michael Jackson that fans loved in the 1980s thus already had a bit of history – people felt like they knew him already.” – CS Monitor, 6-29-09



  • Niall Ferguson: Economic historian partnering on sequel to best selling strategy game ‘Making History’ – Gamezone.com (6-25-09)
  • Ed Ayers teaching high school teachers about the South: While summer is often believed to be a time of rest and relaxation for K-12 teachers, more than two dozen high school teachers from 20 states will spend next week as students of “The South in American History,” a course taught by University of Richmond president Edward L. Ayers. The course is part of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History…. – Press Release–University of Richmond (6-26-09)
  • American Historical Association: AHA protests Russian attempt to suppress history – AHA website, (6-17-09)
  • National Coalition for History: “Ask Congress to Increase Funding for the Office of Museum Services” Lee White at the website of the National Coalition for History (NCH) (6-24-09)


  • Sean Wilentz takes on the new Lincoln establishment: Sean Wilentz in a long article reviewing books about Lincoln – The New Republic, 7-15-09


  • Gavin Weightman: The Modernizers THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTIONARIES The Making of the Modern World 1776-1914 NYT, 6-28-09
  • Gavin Weightman: THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTIONARIES The Making of the Modern World 1776-1914, Ecerpt- NYT, 6-28-09
  • Christopher Bigsby: Liked but Not Well Liked ARTHUR MILLER 1915-1962 NYT, 6-28-09
  • Christopher Bigsby: ARTHUR MILLER 1915-1962, First Chapter – NYT, 6-28-09
  • Stephan Talty: HISTORY A Silent Killer THE ILLUSTRIOUS DEAD The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon’s Greatest Army WaPo, 6-28-09
  • Jackson Lears: Bursting into the Modern Age REBIRTH OF A NATION The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 WaPo, 6-28-09
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: New Book by UCSB History Scholar Examines Wal-Mart as a Business Model The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business (Metropolitan Books) – News announcement at the website of USC (6-24-09)


  • Jeremi Suri “UW-Madison Makes An Unlikely Ally: The Military”: “It really is a group effort to reach out to the military in a way we never have before, at least not in the last 20 to 30 years,” UW-Madison history professor Jeremi Suri said. “We’ve actually in the last few months, out of circumstance, made enormous headway. … We’re getting beyond this really silly notion people have that we’re antimilitary.” – AP, 6-28-09
  • David Eisenbach and David J. Garrow “Why the Gay Rights Movement Has No National Leader”: “The issues of gay rights are mainly state issues, so the focus for activism is going to be on the local level,” said David Eisenbach, a lecturer in history at Columbia University and the author of “Gay Power: An American Revolution.”
    “They see dispersal as a great thing, that it’s better not to have a concentration or too much attention overinvested in one individual,” said David J. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who has written about the civil rights and women’s rights movements. “The speed and breadth of change has been just breathtaking,” he added. “But it’s happened without a Martin Luther King.” – NYT, 6-21-09


  • Kira Gale: Lewis and Clark in murder mystery 200 years after their final expedition: Meriwether Lewis, one half of the Lewis and Clark explorer duo who first reached the Pacific by land, may have been murdered, say descendants who want his body exhumed.
    Historian Kira Gale, co-author of a new book The Death of Meriwether Lewis, with Professor James Starrs, a forensic pathologist at George Washington University, said: “It’s a tangled web of politics, conspiracies and expansionism.” – Telegraph, UK, 6-29-09
  • Historians’ Advice for Dick Cheney on Writing His Memoirs: Former Vice President Dick Cheney has just signed a deal for his memoirs, reportedly worth around $2 million. President Bush, Laura Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice and Henry Paulson are also busy writing their takes on their roles in history. The political memoir, either as a summation of the author’s importance or payback to antagonists, has long been seen as a transition back to private life. – NYT (6-27-09)
  • Meet Britain’s young new historians: …They have been an actor, an artist and a TV presenter, are aged between 25 and 35 and they all have book contracts. One wrote his account of the year 1381 in a corner of the trendy London members’ club, Soho House, during leave from his day job at a men’s magazine. And rather than being looked down upon by the old guard, they are highly regarded by the academic establishment: David Starkey is considered a mentor by two of them; Simon Sebag Montefiore by others…. – Oliver Marre in the Guardian (6-28-09)


  • Wright’s Legacy at Dartmouth College: “No one in my family had gone to college,” Wright said. “And I had never taken it seriously… going into the Marines after high school was one way of delaying going into the mines or working for John Deere or the Kraft cheese plant.”… “I’m a student of history… American history,” Wright said. “I think I’ve had a fascination with history even when I was in elementary school. I recall loving history and reading history texts and there was a story which I found fascinating and enjoyable and I just liked to read history.”… – WCAX, 6-29-09
  • Simon Schama: My Secret Life: Simon Schama, historian, 64 Interview in the Independent (UK) (6-27-09)




  • W.Va. Civil War group debuts at Harpers Ferry Sesquicentennial of John Brown’s Raid kicks off – Journal News, 6-26-09
  • 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


  • Niall Ferguson: The Ascent of Money Brings The Economic Crisis Down to Earth on PBS each Wednesday in July – About.com, 6-29-09
  • ‘History Detectives’ focus on Oak Ridge: Oak Ridge and Knoxville will be in the television spotlight over the next two weeks as PBS’ “History Detectives” investigate the historical significance of two mysterious letters contributed by area residents. Cast members of the television show, “History Detectives,” delve into the “Manhattan Project Patent.” – Oak Ridger, 6-29-09
  • BBC to launch new series on history of Christianity – Religious Intelligence, 6-19-09
  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS History Detectives: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule
  • History Channel: “Secrets of the Founding Fathers” – Monday, June 29, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “How Bruce Lee Changed the World” – Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked ” – Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 4pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Life After People” Marathon – Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 8-10pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Underwater Universe” – Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Band Of Brothers” Marathon – Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 3-7pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Ben Franklin” – Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Stealing Lincoln’s Body” – Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 4pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Kennedy Assassination: Beyond Conspiracy” – Friday, July 3, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Lincoln Assassination” – Friday, July 3, 2009 at 4pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Secrets of the Founding Fathers” – Friday, July 3, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Secret Societies” – Friday, July 3, 2009 at 10pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Seven Signs of the Apocalypse” – Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 12pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Presidents” Marathon – Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 8-12pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Revolution” Marathon – Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 8am-5pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Mysteries of the Freemasons” – Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 6pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Presidents” Marathon – Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 8-12pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Crime Wave: 18 Months of Mayhem” – Monday, July 6, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT



  • 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
  • Michael McMenamin: Becoming Winston Churchill: The Untold Story of Young Winston and His American Mentor, July 1, 2009
  • Elinor Burkett: Golda (Reprint), July 1, 2009
  • Mike Evans (Editor): Woodstock: Three Days That Rocked the World, July 7, 2009
  • Roger S. Bagnall: Oxford Handbook of Papyrology, July 14, 2009
  • David Maraniss: Rome 1960: The Summer Olympics That Stirred the World (Reprint), July 14, 2009
  • Buzz Aldrin: Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon, July 23, 2009
  • Alice Morse Earle: Child Life in Colonial Times (Paperback), July 23, 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
  • Annette Gordon-Reed: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Paperback), September 8, 2009
  • Jon Krakauer: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, September 15, 2009


December 1, 2008: The Obama Transition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, First Ladies, and the Bush Legacy.


Damon Winter/The New York Times

Barack Obama’s national security team is to include, from left, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. James L. Jones, a retired Marine commandant.


  • A timeline of the Obama campaign – Newsday
  • Get to know the Obamas: Bios of Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha – Newsday

The Headlines…

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office: http://change.gov/

  • Consensus emerging on universal healthcare The prospect of bold government action appears to be accepted among key players across the ideological and political spectrum, including those who staunchly opposed the idea in the 1990s. – LA Times, 12-1-08
  • Hillary Clinton’s test at State: How she’ll work with Obama – USA Today, 11-30-08
  • Jonah Goldberg: The Obama School Scandal? National Review Online: Public Schools Are Unacceptable To Pretty Much Anyone, Liberal Or Conservative – NRO, CBS News, 11-30-08
  • Obama turns to friends, foes for White House posts – AP, 11-30-08
  • Obama’s small-donor ‘myth’ The campaign’s base was dominated by those who gave less than $200, the political standard for small donors. But a new study asks, are you still a small donor if you do that five times? – La Times, 11-30-08
  • Officials: Obama set to introduce Clinton Monday: A deal with Bill Clinton over his post-White House work helped clear the way for Hillary Rodham Clinton to join President-elect Barack Obama’s national security team as secretary of state, reshaping a once-bitter rivalry into a high-profile strategic and diplomatic union. Obama was to be joined by the New York senator at a Chicago news conference Monday, Democratic officials said, where he also planned to announce that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would remain in his job for a year or more and that retired Marine General James L. Jones would serve as national security adviser. – AP, 11-30-08
  • Obama’s strong-willed national security team: With Clinton as secretary of State, retired Marine Gen. James Jones Jr. as national security advisor and Gates remaining in Defense, Obama will have a choice among often starkly differing views. – LA Times, 11-30-08
  • Liberals Angry Over Obama Keeping Gates as Pentagon Chief President-elect Obama’s expected selection of Robert Gates as his defense secretary and retired Gen. Jim Jones as his national security adviser is raising eyebrows among liberals. – Fox News, 11-29-08
  • Bill Clinton agrees to release donor’s names – Reuters, 11-30-08
  • Inauguration turning into D.C. windfall Frenzy to find accommodations sparks complaints of price-gouging – Houston Chronicle, NYT, 11-29-08
  • Bush Offers Support To India After Attacks Terror Ends With At Least 195 Dead; Tensions High Between India And Pakistan – CBS News, 11-29-08
  • Obama’s Supporters Spoke With Wallets – The Tampa Tribune, 11-30-08
  • on the Bush legacy: The most damaging president since Herbert Hoover – National Post, 11-29-08
  • Bush legacy remains to be written – National Post, 11-21-08
  • Remembered Unkindly Some say Bush will displace Buchanan as worst president – National Post, 11-21-08
  • Meet Obama’s financial SWAT team Three star advisers have formidable reputations and loads of experience. Now all they have to do is get the derailed U.S. economic engine back on trackAll three star nominees: Timothy Geithner, head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as the new treasury secretary, and prominent academic economists Lawrence Summers and Christina Romer as top advisers – looked decidedly glum as they were introduced by a beaming Mr. Obama. – Globe & Mail, 11-29-08
  • National Security Pick: From a Marine to a Mediator: James L. Jones, a retired four-star general, was among a mostly Republican crowd watching a presidential debate in October when Barack Obama casually mentioned that he got a lot of his advice on foreign policy from General Jones. – – NYT, 11-29-08
  • Obama to Name Defense Secretary on Monday President-elect Barack Obama is expected to announce Monday who will be his secretary of defense. – Fox News, 11-28-08
  • Barack Obama set to roll out national security team; Hillary could be first: President-elect Barack Obama plans to roll out his national security team next week and could officially name Hillary Clinton secretary of state as early as Monday, Democratic sources said. – Ny Daily News, 11-28-08
  • Hillary Clinton as diplomat Obama’s bold choice for his secretary of State shows the two can be partners on the world stage. – LAT, 11-28-08
  • Obama Picks May Leave Big Holes As Elected Officials Migrate, Democratic Seats Are Vulnerable – WaPo, 11-28-08
  • Malia Obama Calls Dibs on Lincoln’s Desk Obama Talks to Barbara Walters About Homework, History and Happy Family – ABC News, 11-26-08
  • Obama’s Speechwriter Moves to the White House: In his latest round of White House staff announcements, Mr. Obama said Wednesday that he was naming Jon Favreau as his director of speechwriting. Mr. Favreau, 27, has had a hand in practically every speech that the president-elect has delivered over the last four years, following Mr. Obama from his Senate office to the presidential campaign. – NYT, 11-26-08
  • Bush twins show Obama girls fun White House tricks – AP, 11-26-08
  • McCain Plans to Run Again (for the Senate) – NYT, 11-25-08
  • Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware will be replaced in the United States Senate by his longtime aide, Edward Kaufman, when Mr. Biden resigns the seat to become vice president. – NYT, 11-24-08

President-elect Barack Obama, flanked by National Economic Council ...


Mon Nov 24, 1:16 PM ET

Political Quotes

  • First Lady Laura Bush describes post-White House plans: I’ll miss being with the military, too, and that’s one of the things about Camp David that we liked so much, and that’s going to church at Camp David with the people who are posted there. I’ll miss all the people that are around us all the time. From the ushers and the butlers who are there for every president and have been there four or five administrations, to our own staff, of course, that we love to laugh with and talk with and solve problems with. And so I’ll miss the people the most….
    She also said her husband “is going to build a freedom institute with his presidential library and museum at SMU [Southern Methodist University] in Dallas, and that’ll be a really good vehicle, I think, for me to continue to work with, especially, women and children in Afghanistan.”…
    “The main point I wanted to say to her is that this is — the White House is a home, and it can be a very happy home for her and for her children and her husband, and it certainly has been for us.” – CNN, 11-30-08

Mrs. Laura Bush is framed by equipment on the set of "Meet the Press" as she joins NBC host Tom Brokaw for the Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008, edition of the weekly TV show at the NBC studios in Washington, D.C. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Mrs. Laura Bush is framed by equipment on the set of “Meet the Press” as she joins NBC host Tom Brokaw for the Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008, edition of the weekly TV show at the NBC studios in Washington, D.C. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

  • President Bush Weighs In on His Legacy: “I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values. And I darn sure wasn’t going to sacrifice those values; that I was a President that had to make tough choices and was willing to make them. I surrounded myself with good people. I carefully considered the advice of smart, capable people and made tough decisions.”…
    But he said he wanted to be known “as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package; that came to Washington, D.C., with a set of political statements and worked as hard as I possibly could to do what I told the American people I would do.”…. “I’ve been in the Bible every day since I’ve been the President, and I have been affected by people’s prayers a lot. I have found that faith is comforting, faith is strengthening, faith has been important…. “And the greatness of America — it really is — is that you can worship or not worship and be equally American. And it doesn’t matter how you choose to worship; you’re equally American. And it’s very important for any President to jealously protect, guard, and strengthen that freedom.” – NYT, 11-28-08
  • Barack Obama: Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect: In a preview of his weekly address, President-elect Barack Obama addressed the nation on the occasion of Thanksgiving, nearly one hundred and fifty years after President Lincoln called for the last Thursday in November to be set aside to acknowledge our blessings. You Tube, 11-26-08
  • Swing voters give Obama flexibility to solve US economic crisis: Even President-elect Barack Obama’s least enthusiastic supporters seem willing to cut him slack in solving the nation’s problems.That is one conclusion of a focus group conducted Nov. 22 by pollster Peter Hart among Virginia voters who might not have been expected to vote for Obama. Eight of the 12 voted for George Bush in 2004, nine considered backing John McCain. The focus group session, conducted for the Annenberg Public Policy Center, will air Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. on C-SPAN. – Christian Science Monitor, 11-28-08
  • President-elect Obama announces two more leaders of economic team: At a press conference in Chicago today, President-elect Barack Obama announced additional members of his economic team — nominating Peter Orszag as Director and Rob Nabors as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. – You Tube, 11-25-08
  • President-elect Obama announces economic team: At a press conference in Chicago today, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden officially announced key members of their economic team, naming Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury and Lawrence Summers as Director of the National Economic Council. – You Tube, 11-24-08
  • A Barbara Walters Special: Barack and Michelle Obama Watch the Full Special With Barbara Walters and the President-Elect on ABC.com – ABC News, 11-27-08 Video: Barack and Michelle Obama on ‘Barbara Walters Special’ – Ace Showbiz, 11-27-08
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman: Obama ‘about perfect’ in Cabinet picks: “Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration….
    I will ask them to judge me by my record. Generally speaking, I’ve had a record, a voting record, which is really ultimately what it’s about, not unlike most Democrats….
    It appears to me that the war in Iraq is coming to a successful — I don’t want to say conclusion yet, but it’s moving in a way that it will not be a divisive issue either in the Democratic Party or between Democrats and Republicans in the time ahead. And therefore, I think we’ll return to more normal times, which I welcome. – AP, 11-26-08
  • Obama reassures nervous nation on ailing economy: “Help is on the way…There is no doubt that during tough economic times family budgets are going to be pinched. I think it is important for the American people, though, to have confidence that we’ve gone through recessions before, we’ve gone through difficult times before, that my administration intends to get this economy back on track….
    “People should understand that help is on the way. And as they think about this Thanksgiving shopping weekend, and as they think about the Christmas season that is coming up, I hope that everybody understands that we are going to be able to get through these difficult times, We’re just going to have to make some good choices….
    The American people would be troubled if I selected a treasury secretary or a chairman of the National Economic Council at one of the most critical economic times in our history who had no experience in government whatsoever. What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. But understand where the vision for change comes from. First and foremost, it comes from me. That’s my job.
    What I don’t want to do is to somehow suggest that because you served in the last Democratic administration, that you’re somehow barred from serving again. Because we need people who are going to be able to hit the ground running – AP, 11-26-08
  • Obama and the Budget: “This isn’t about big government or small government; it’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works.”…. Mr. Obama gave an example of the kind of cuts he intends to make (look out, subsidized farmers, here may come the ax): “There’s a report today that from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the $2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies,” he said. “If this is true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste I intend to end as President.” “We had a decisive win. I don’t think that there’s any question that we have a mandate to move the country in a new direction and not continue the same old practices that have gotten us into the fix we’re in.”… “Friendship doesn’t come into this. That’s part of the old way of doing business.” He says he wants to undertake projects that will “give the American economy the most bang for the buck.”… – NYT, 11-25-08
  • Obama urges Congress to pass costly stimulus bill: “If we do not act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.”…. “The economy is likely to get worse before it gets better. Full recovery will not happen immediately. I know we can work our way out of this crisis because we have done it before.” – AP, 11-24-08
President-elect Barack Obama, with his wife, Michelle, left, and daughters Sasha and Malia, handed out food for Thanksgiving during a visit yesterday to Chicago's St. Columbanus Parish.
President-elect Barack Obama, with his wife, Michelle, left, and daughters Sasha and Malia, handed out food for Thanksgiving during a visit yesterday to Chicago’s St. Columbanus Parish. (Jim Watson/ AFP/ Getty Images

Historians’ Comments

  • George Herring: “Will Obama and Clinton work as a team? They’ve had differences, but Obama is expected to name her as secretary of State.”: “I do think the differences between them on some of these foreign-policy issues were magnified by the heat of campaign rhetoric,” says George Herring, a historian and professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky. “I don’t buy into the whole idea that Obama is, more than anything else, viewing Clinton as a rival.”…. “Nixon and Kissinger had a close but very weird relationship, suspicious of each other and each demeaning the other when he wasn’t around. But they respected each other’s views and capabilities, and they worked together,” he says. – Christian Science Monitor, 11-30-08
  • Paul C. Light: “For Obama, a chance to push big changes”: “Everything that he talked about during the campaign that can be seen as stimulus is going to be in that package,” predicted Paul C. Light, a professor at New York University’s graduate school of public service. “It will be one of the heaviest pieces of legislation passed by Congress in the last 20 years, and I mean heavy in terms of actual weight and page numbers.” – Boston Globe, 11-30-08
  • Paul Light “Liberals to keep pressure on Obama for results”: “I think he’s moving center-left, rather than left-center. It’s fair to call him pragmatic,” said Paul Light, a public policy professor and presidential historian at New York University. “I think labor is going to get a lot from him. I think his liberal supporters are going to get a lot from him. But they’re going to be disappointed if they want all liberal all the time.” – AP, 11-30-08
  • Carl Anthony “FIRST LADIES Very Little in Common But That ‘O'”: “There seems to be this moving train that simply insists that Mrs. Obama is the new Mrs. Kennedy,” says Carl Anthony, historian for the National First Ladies’ Library, who has been fielding calls from reporters eager to connect the dots. But Anthony thinks they’re worlds apart. – Newsweek, 11-30-08
  • Michael Beschloss: “Historian: Obama’s message also liability lower expectations”: Hope is the greatest asset and greatest liability for Barack Obama, said Michael Beschloss, author and scholar on presidential history. “He knows how damaging it could be to a new president (for voters) to expect a Superman, especially at a time when the problems are so great that everyone is looking for miracles,” Mr. Beschloss said…. “many people had doubts about, I would say, down to the evening of Nov. 3,” he said, adding some predicted a last-minute swelling of racial prejudice to bare itself at the polls. “That did not happen.” “If al-Qaida is saying that America has been captured by a white reactionary clique … Barack Obama does not look that way, and I think they’re going to have a much harder time recruiting,” Mr. Beschloss said. – The Times Tribune, 11-14-08
  • Betty Caroli: “Defining the job has challenged first ladies”: Many a first lady has said, in retrospect, that she had no idea how hard being first lady would be. Even the current one, Laura Bush, according to author and first lady historian Betty Caroli. Of all the first ladies, she should have known what was in store: Her mother-in-law, Barbara, was first lady from 1989-1993. “So no matter I suppose how well prepared … she’s probably going to be surprised by the enormity of the publicity, the focus, the demands and so forth,” Caroli said of Michelle Obama. – AP, 11-28-08
  • Robert P. Watson: “Defining the job has challenged first ladies”: Still, the job description is ill-defined, said Robert P. Watson, who has written two books about first ladies and directs the American studies program at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. “The first lady has to find her own way and match that with her husband’s interests,” Watson said. – AP, 11-28-08
  • Gerald Gawalt: “Scenes from Obamas’ love story Their affection stands out among presidential pairs”: Historians say Ronald and Nancy Reagan were perhaps the most adoring first couple. Like the Obamas, they appeared to genuinely enjoy being together. They often exchanged love notes and cards, including one in which the president declared his wife “my valentine forever.” “They seemed to be one of these couples that were head over heels in love with each other, even as they got older,” said Gerald Gawalt, a Library of Congress historian. – Chicago Tribune, 11-30-08
  • Michael Beschloss “Barack and Michelle: A more perfect union? First Couple-to-be could be relationship role models for nation, experts say”: In general, the relationship between the American president and his wife has always been an important one, and does have an impact on the public, said NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “We know that a person’s partner [choice] is one of the biggest clues to what that person is all about,” he said. Beschloss said that in the past, how a political figure interacted with his or her spouse didn’t matter as much, and as with the Kennedys, the media often looked the other way when it came to philandering. “Presidents are so intensely covered, we know so much about their personal lives that it’s inevitable that the public is going to know a lot about, and make judgments on, what happens between political wives and husbands,” he said. “John and Jackie Kennedy almost never held hands or showed affection in public — nowadays, people would think something was wrong.” – MSNBC, 11-29-08
  • Gil Troy “Barack and Michelle: A more perfect union? First Couple-to-be could be relationship role models for nation, experts say”: The Obamas have the best of both worlds, said Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University and author of “Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons.” “The Obama marriage is a modern partnership between equals; they are a working couple just like the Clintons,” he said. “But, unlike the Clintons — and more like the Bushes — the Obamas appear to be a solid couple, devoted to each other, with no fidelity questions hovering overhead.” – MSNBC, 11-29-08
  • Liza Mundy “Barack and Michelle: A more perfect union? First Couple-to-be could be relationship role models for nation, experts say”: “Their friends have observed that they have a very positive relationship,” said Liza Mundy, author of “Michelle: A Biography.” “One of Barack’s friends pointed out how effusive he is in his praise of Michelle — he knows how much his career has demanded of her, and he’s very appreciative of that.” – – MSNBC, 11-29-08
  • Stephen J. Wayne “Obama has a hand on the helm weeks before taking oath of office”: – “It’s a consequence of the state of the economy and the invisibility of President Bush,” said Georgetown University’s presidential historian, Stephen J. Wayne. “I don’t think Obama expected it.” Kasas City Star, 11-29-08
  • David Bercuson “Bush legacy remains to be written:” “Kennedy’s got a great legacy. But what did he ever do? He got killed before he did anything,” suggests David Bercuson, a University of Calgary historian. After Kennedy dragged his heels on civil rights, it was Lyndon Johnson who finally advanced the cause. But “all poor old Johnson gets credit for is the Vietnam War,” which Kennedy set in motion, Prof. Bercuson argues….
    “He [Bush] will wear this recession, rightly or wrongly, the same way [Herbert] Hoover wore the Depression and the great crash,” says Prof. Bercuson. National Post, 11-29-08
  • Bush legacy remains to be written – Mr. Bush’s legacy in the academy is not off to a propitious start: Princeton University’s Sean Wilentz, one of the country’s leading historians, speculated a couple years ago that Mr. Bush could be the “worst president in all of American history.” In an unscientific poll earlier this year of 109 historians by the History News Network, 98.2% rated the Bush presidency a failure; 61% called it the worst ever. National Post, 11-29-08
  • Allen C. Guelzo: The Bush legacy: The five best things he ever did The war in Iraq, ‘Axis of Evil’ speech, Faith-based initiatives, Blunting the metastasis of abortion, Balancing the bench – National Post, 11-21-08
  • Robert S. McElvaine “The Bush legacy: The five worst things he did”: Fight against terror, ‘Pre-emptive war’, Economic policies, Trashed the constitution, ‘Gulf coast war’ – – National Post, 11-21-08

Democratic Convention Day 1: August 25, 2008

Day 1 Schedule

    Barack Obama’s story is an American story that reflects a life of struggle, opportunity and responsibility like those faced by Americans everyday. The opening night of the Convention will highlight Barack’s life story, his commitment to change, and the voices of Americans who are calling for a new direction for this country.

    Monday’s headline prime-time speaker was Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention (NYT)

Michelle Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention (NYT)

    Other Monday night speakers include: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetero-Ng and Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s older brother; Jerry Kellman, mentor and long-time friend of Barack Obama; Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.; former Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton; Tom Balanoff, President of Illinois SEIU; Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America; NEA President Reg Weaver; AFT President Randi Weingarten; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; State Comptroller Dan Hynes; Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulis; Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle; and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Monday night also featured a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and a speech by the senator. – DemConvention.com

Historians’ Comments

  • PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer: Historical Perspective A panel of historians, including NewsHour regulars Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith, offers a historical perspective on this week’s Democratic event. – Mp3, RealAudio
  • Richard Reeves on “Kennedy passes the torch to Obama”: Others were wary of making too much the Kennedy-Obama link. The Kennedy magic was unique to its time, said Richard Reeves, author of a book on John Kennedy. The family legacy was in keeping with the spirit of the New Deal and grounded in the common generational experiences of the Great Depression and World War II. “Obama’s totally a new phenomenon,” Reeves said. “He represents totally different things.” – McClatchy Newspapers, 8-25-08
  • Thomas Whalen on “Ailing Kennedy refuses to miss big event”: “This may be Ted Kennedy’s final gift to the party,” said Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political historian who has written on the Kennedys. “This says that he feels this is the Democrats’ year and the party is not as unified as he’d like it to be. His appearance takes the headlines away from the Clinton faction.” “The greatest legacy Kennedy would want would be an Obama victory in November,” Whalen said. – USA Today, 8-26-08
  • Paula Giddings on “Michelle Obama as First Lady”: “People are trying to fit her somewhere in their minds and in this array of images we have in our culture about African-American women, as the vixen, or the mammy or the angry black woman,” said Paula Giddings, a black studies professor at Smith College. “But she doesn’t fit any of the molds so she is kind of unsettling to a lot of people. She is something new.” “Imagine seeing her in the White House. Just the picture of her on the lawn with her two girls,” Giddings said. “In deep ways and superficial ways, it would be a dramatic shift.” – Newsday, 8-25-08<
  • Myra Gutin on “Michelle Obama as First Lady”: “For some people she is supposed to represent a woman who is more traditional in her approach to the office of first lady and be somebody to do the requisite entertaining and look after her husband,” said Myra Gutin, a historian of first ladies. “But some feel like the first lady should be more of an activist in the model of Eleanor Roosevelt or Hillary Clinton.” But Monday night, Gutin said, Michelle Obama must first address some of the negative feelings she has generated, and show that she will be a good first lady. – Newsday, 8-25-08<
  • Jim Lorence on “UWMC History Professor Says Biden a Good Pick for Obama’s Running Mate”: Monday NewsChannel 7 spoke to Professor Jim Lorence of the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County about the importance of picking the right running mate for a presidential campaign. He gave us some insight past vice presidential candidates have influenced elections. “The campaign in which the vice presidency did make a difference was in 1960 when Lyndon Johnson was on the Kennedy ticket, and Johnson brought Texas into the democratic column.” Presidential candidate Barack Obama has already chosen his running mate, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, who has six terms in the Senate and 35 years of political experience. “He [Biden] may make people feel more comfortable with Obama because he brings that foreign policy expertise to the ticket.” Presidential hopeful John McCain is expected to announce his running mate by the end of this week. Rumors are circulating that it will most likely be a McCain-Romney ticket. “I think that Romney’s expertise in the area of foreign policy, or at least his background in the private sector and in business and on economic issues is going to be an important factor in the selection of a vice president,” says Professor Lorence. – WSAW, WI, 8-25-08
  • Sean Wilentz on “Obama Hope of Audacity Means Race Isn’t About Losing Liberals”: Obama has shown an “enormous ability to arouse the intense admiration and affection of his base,” says Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University. “Exactly what he means by change, hope and transformation — all the sort of big-payoff words that appear in his speeches — he has yet to clearly define.” – Bloomberg, 8-25-08
  • Fred Siegel on “Obama’s ideological elusiveness”: Some critics voice skepticism. They see an ambitious fellow who remains intentionally undefined. “His philosophy is ambition,” said Fred Siegel, a historian at the Cooper Union in New York. “I see him as having a rhetoric rather than a philosophy.” Senator, what is your view of the Supreme Court decision barring the execution of child rapists? The question was standard fare for a politician who has questioned the equity of the death penalty. But Obama’s answer set reporters to typing furiously. “I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes,” he said. “I think the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime.” – International Herald Tribune, 8-25-08
  • Vermont Gov. Madeline Kunin: Former governor and historian to speak at the Democratic National Convention – PolitickerVT, 8-25-08
  • Julian E. Zelizer on “Conventions now even timed for strategy”: Political conventions are no longer the venues where presidential candidates are selected and introduced to the nation’s voters, said Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. That now happens during each party’s primary race, which begins early in the election year. “Basically conventions are now made for the media — carefully choreographed, staged events intended to promote the candidate and the party on the national stage as the real election season kicks off,” Zelizer said. “With their new function, it makes more sense to have them as close as possible to the general election.” – Daily Record, 8-24-08
  • Julian Zelizer on “Obama’s Pick Taking The Measure Of Joe Biden, The Longtime Senator And Democrats’ Choice For VP”: “The role of the attack dog is something he is quite comfortable with,” said Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. – CBS News, 8-24-08

The Speeches…

  • Barack Obama on the Campaign Trail in Iowa: “I can’t wait to hear Michelle’s speech, I will tell you that I did get a little preview of the video they did of her, and she was extraordinary.”
  • Nancy Pelosi:
    This week is the culmination of an historic race that has brought millions of voters to the polls–many voting for the first time. All Democrats salute Senator Hillary Clinton for her excellent campaign. Our party and our country are strengthened by her candidacy.

    Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives addressing the Democratic National Convention (CNN)

    Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives addressing the Democratic National Convention (CNN)

    We meet today at a defining moment in our history. America stands at a crossroads, with an historic choice between two paths for our country. One is a path of renewing opportunity and promoting innovation here at home, and of greater security and respect around the world. It is the path that renews our democracy by bringing us together as one nation under God. But there is another path–it leads us to the same broken promises and failed policies that have diminished the American dream and weakened the security of our nation.

    We call this convention to order tonight to put America on the path begun by our founders–a path that renews America’s promise for a new century. We call this convention to order to nominate a new leader for our time– Barack Obama–the next President of the United States. Two years ago, the American people set our nation in a new direction–electing a new Democratic majority in Congress committed to real change….

    Barack Obama’s dream is the American dream. He gives us renewed faith in a vision of the future that is free of the constraints of the tired policies of the past–a vision that is new and bold and calls forth the best in the American people.

    Barack Obama’s change is the change America needs. Whether in Illinois or in Washington, Barack Obama has bridged partisanship to bring about significant reform. Barack Obama knew that to change policy in Washington you had to change how Washington works.

    That means restoring integrity to government by reducing the influence of special interests. I saw firsthand his strong leadership on one of the toughest issues: enacting the toughest ethics reform legislation in the history of Congress. This was only possible with Barack Obama’s leadership…..

    One hundred and fifteen years ago, a young woman named Katharine Lee Bates visited Denver. From the top of Pike’s Peak, she looked across Colorado–to the bountiful golden prairies to the east and to the majestic mountains to the west. That night she returned to her hotel room, opened her notebook, and the words of “America the Beautiful” spilled from her pen. My favorite verse is the fourth: O beautiful, for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years…

    Today, Barack Obama is a 21st century patriot who sees beyond the years. As president, Barack Obama will renew the American dream; Barack Obama is the leader for America’s future.

    Inspired by that same vision of “America the Beautiful,” Democrats will leave this Denver convention, unified, organized, and stronger than ever to take America in a new direction with Barack Obama and Joe Biden as President and Vice President of the United States! – Download, PBS

  • Caroline Kennedy:I am here tonight to pay tribute to two men who have changed my life and the life of this country: Barack Obama and Edward M. Kennedy. Their stories are very different, but they share a commitment to the timeless American ideals of justice and fairness, service and sacrifice, faith and family.Leaders like them come along rarely. But once or twice in a lifetime, they come along just when we need them the most. This is one of those moments. As our nation faces a fundamental choice between moving forward or falling further behind, Senator Obama offers the change we need….I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them, but I do now, Barack Obama. And I know someone else who’s been inspired all over again by Senator Obama. In our family, he’s known as Uncle Teddy. More than any senator of his generation, or perhaps any generation, Teddy has made life better for people in this country and around the world.For 46 years, he has been so much more than just a senator for the people of Massachusetts. He’s been a senator for all who believe in a dream that’s never died. If you’re no longer being denied a job because of your race, gender or disability, or if you’ve seen a rise in the minimum wage you’re being paid, Teddy is your senator too….

    He is a man who always insists that America live up to her highest ideals, who always fights for what he knows is right and who is always there for others. I’ve seen it in my own life. No matter how busy he is, he never fails to find time for those in pain, those in grief or those who just need a hug. In our family, he has never missed a first communion, a graduation, or a chance to walk one of his nieces down the aisle.

    He has a special relationship with each of us. And his 60 great nieces and nephews all know that the best cookies and the best laughs are always found at Uncle Teddy’s. Whether he is teaching us about sailing, about the Senate or about life, he has shown us how to chart our course, take the helm and sail against the wind. And this summer, as he faced yet another challenge, he and Vicki have taught us all about dignity, courage and the power of love.

                                                  In this campaign, Barack Obama has no greater champion. When he is president, he will have no stronger partner in the United States Senate. Now, it is my honor to introduce a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy. – Download, PBS

  • Senator Edward Kennedy: My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here.And nothing — nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship. So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days. Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat.
    Senator Edward Kennedy addressing the Democration National Convention after a tribute given by his niece Caroline Kennedy

    Senator Edward Kennedy addressing the Democratic National Convention after a tribute given by his niece Caroline Kennedy

    But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you — I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great test.

    For me this is a season of hope — new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few — new hope.

    And this is the cause of my life — new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

    We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will.

    Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay.

    And Barack Obama will be a commander in chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake, but always for a mission worthy of their bravery.

    We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor, but when John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn’t say it’s too far to get there. We shouldn’t even try.

    Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

    Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And we can do it again.

    There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination — not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation.

  • And this November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.
  • Michelle Obama: … every step of the way since that clear day, February, 19 months ago, when, with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change, we joined my husband, Barack Obama, on the improbable journey that has led us to this moment. But each of us comes here also by way of our own improbable journey.
    Michelle Obama rehersing her speech with younger daughter Sacha holding the convention gravel

    Michelle Obama rehersing her speech with younger daughter Sacha holding the convention gravel

    I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector, and my lifelong friend. And I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.

    And I come here as a mom, as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world. They’re the first things I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night. Their future — and all our children’s future — is my stake in this election.

    And I come here as a daughter, raised on the South Side of Chicago…

    And, you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that, even though he had this funny name, and even though he had grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine.

    He was raised by grandparents who were working-class folks just like my parents and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. And like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves.

    And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like, you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them and even if you don’t agree with them.

    And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values and to pass them onto the next generation, because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them…. And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “the world as it is” and “the world as it should be.” And he said that, all too often, we accept the distance between the two and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.
    But he reminded us that we also know what our world should like — look like. He said we know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves, to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn’t that the great American story?…

    … and the 45th anniversary — and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

    And I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history, knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me, all of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work, the same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country.

    People who work the day shift, they kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift, without disappointment, without regret, see, that goodnight kiss is a reminder of everything they’re working for.

    The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table.

    The servicemen…

    The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.

    The young people across America serving our communities, teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

    People like Hillary Clinton…

    … who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that our daughters and our sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

    People like Joe Biden…

    … who has never forgotten where he came from and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.

    All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do, that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

    And that is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

    And, you see, that is why I love this country….

    It’s what he’s done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure that the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs, and benefits, and health care, including mental health care.

    See, that’s why Barack’s running: to end the war in Iraq responsibly…

    … to build an economy that lifts every family, to make sure health care is available for every American, and to make sure that every single child in this nation has a world-class education all the way from preschool to college.

    That’s what Barack Obama will do as president of the United States of America….

    … millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams, millions of Americans who know that Barack will fight for people like them, and that Barack will bring finally the change that we need.

    And in the end, and in the end, after all that’s happened these past 19 months, see, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago.

    He’s the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago this summer, inching along at a snail’s pace, peering at us anxiously at — through the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he’d struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her something he never had, the affirming embrace of a father’s love….

    … how this time — how this time we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming…

    … how this time, in this great country, where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House…

    … that we committed ourselves…

    … we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

    So tonight, in honor of my father’s memory and my daughters’ future, out of gratitude for those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment, let us devote ourselves to finishing their work, let us work together to fulfill their hopes, and let’s stand together to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America.

    Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.

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