The last public program in our fall lineup will be delivered by one of the nation’s foremost historians of slavery and resistance, David Blight, next Thursday, November 1 at 7 p.m. In recent public programs we have discussed the bicentennial of AAS and the War of 1812. Now, Blight will shift focus to another current and significant anniversary – the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. He will discuss the multiple legacies of the Civil War from the 50th to the 100th, and now to the 150th anniversaries of the event. He will also explore how the legacies of this great conflict are still very much part of our current, roiling political debates.
Blight has long been examining the ways in which the Civil War has been remembered, and how those memories have played into contemporary politics and culture. His most recent book, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, looks at how the centennial of the Civil War was entwined with civil rights politics and protests. Through the lens of the works of four different American writers – Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin – Blight explores how the difficult realities of the era, in many ways legacies of the war, clashed with the positive memories of the conflict’s outcome.
Before American Oracle, however, Blight’s time as an AAS Peterson Fellow contributed to his 2002 Bancroft Prize-winning book, also on the Civil War and its commemoration, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. In Race and Reunion, Blight explored the ways in which the Civil War was remembered in the fifty years following the end of the conflict, weaving together a narrative of literature, history, and public memorials.
Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale University, and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. Other published works include a book of essays, Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (2002); and Frederick Douglass’s Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (1989). Blight is also a frequent book reviewer for the Washington Post Book World, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, Slate.com and other newspapers. He has been a consultant to many documentary films, including the 1998 PBS series, “Africans in America,” and “The Reconstruction Era” (2004). In 2012, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Please join us for the last public program of the season!