Professor Robertson spoke previously as part of the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series on Stonewall Jackson. He returns to UMW to discuss the daily lives of the Civil War soldiers. That topic is treated in the latest of his numerous books, The Untold Civil War, which is a visually striking collection of the 132 episodes of his popular public radio “Civil War Series” stories, illustrated with 475 rare images of battle scenes, artifacts, and people. Having retired recently from the history faculty at Virginia Tech, he achieved iconic stature as a Civil War scholar, going back to his appointment as executive director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission, working with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in marking the war’s 100th anniversary. The recipient of every major award given in the Civil War field— and a mesmerizing lecturer of national acclaim— Bud Robertson is probably more in demand as a speaker before Civil War groups than anyone else in the field.
Lectures on Video
Contrary to legend, he never said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Phineas Taylor Barnum was a businessman, hoaxer, and impresario who provided entertainment to a nation hungry for it. “I am a showman by profession . . . and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me,” Barnum wrote defiantly in his autobiography. In an authoritative biography of Barnum, author Neil Harris, professor of history at the University of Chicago, describes the culture and climate of America in the 19th century that produced such an outsized, and sometimes outrageous, figure. Harris has written widely on various aspects of the evolution of American cultural life and on the social history of art and design.
Drawing on the unique historical sites, archives, expertise, and the authority of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, bestselling authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón created the first authorized and complete graphic biography of Anne Frank. “More than simply poignant, this biography elucidates the complex emotional aspects of living a sequestered adolescence as a brilliant, budding writer. Naturally, this book has significant appeal for teens as well as adults.”— Booklist. Sid Jacobson was formerly the managing editor and editor in chief for Harvey Comics, and an executive editor at Marvel Comics; artist Ernie Colón has worked at Harvey, Marvel, and DC Comics.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the George Washington of today’s Republic of Turkey. After he gained his military reputation by repelling the 1915 Allied invasion of the Dardanelles, he first directed Turkey’s 1920-22 “War of Salvation” and then became Turkey’s first president. He immediately embarked on a fifteen-year campaign to modernize Turkey, which included the empowering of women, abolition of key Islamic institutions, and introduction of Western legal codes, dress, calendar, and alphabet. His adopted surname means “Father of the Turks.”
Nabil Al-Tikriti, Associate Professor of History at the University of Mary Washington, earned a Ph.D. in Ottoman History from the University of Chicago. In addition, having served in various field capacities with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) since 1993, he has just been elected to a three-year term as a member of MSF-USA’s Board of Directors.
Wind, sand, and a dream of flight brought Wilbur and Orville Wright to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where, after four years of experimentation, they achieved the first successful tests of a heavier than air, engine-powered machine in 1903. The Wright brothers, high school dropouts who were self-taught mechanical and aeronautic engineers, typified the legendary ethic of American know-how. Author James Tobin is a specialist in literary journalism and narrative history at Miami University of Ohio. His first book, Ernie Pyle’s War: America’s Eyewitness to World War II won the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award in biography.
Born into a former-slave family in 1867, Sarah Breedlove transformed herself into Madam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur who built her empire developing hair products for black women. After the bloody East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917, Madam Walker devoted herself to having lynching made a federal crime; she later donated part of her financial legacy to support black schools, organizations, individuals, orphanages, retirement homes, and the YMCA and YWCA. Author A’Lelia Bundles is the great-great-granddaughter of Madam Walker. Bundles enjoyed a 30-year career as an executive and producer in network television news, including as a producer for ABC’s “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.” On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker was named a 2001 New York Times Notable Book.
Lauren Redniss is a graphic biographer whose writing and drawing have appeared in the New York Times, which nominated her for the Pulitzer Prize. Her idea for a life of the Curies occurred to her because, she told the online magazine, Intelligent Life, “I had been thinking about love stories….What struck me as an interesting challenge was that the two main themes were love and radioactivity. And both of those things, of course, are invisible. I loved the idea that I could try to make a visual book out of invisible things.” Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie was a finalist for the National Book Award. Redniss teaches at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City.
In this presentation at the National Book Awards ceremony, Ms. Redniss summarizes her approach to creating the Curie book. (She did not wish her Great Lives presentation to be made available.)
James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart was the most famous Confederate cavalryman of the Civil War — and one of its most dashing figures. Born in Virginia and educated at West Point, he was a trusted associate of Robert E. Lee, leading the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry in important battles including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and the Wilderness — as well as Gettysburg, where his actions proved controversial. His death in Richmond in spring 1864 marked the decline of the superiority of the Confederate horse during the war. Emory M. Thomas is Regents Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Georgia, a long-time member of the history department faculty, and the author of eight books, including authoritative biographies of Lee and Stuart.
The game’s afoot when British historian and professor of history at the University of Exeter Jeremy Black elucidates the scintillating mind of Sherlock Holmes; the tenebrous character of Dr. Moriarty; and the rather obtuse Dr. Watson, who chronicled Holmes’ adventures. Professor Black analyzes Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous character and the escapades that emanated from Holmes’ digs at 221B, where it is always 1895 in London. Black is the author of more than 100 books on European (and especially British) history, including London: A History. He has previously given highly popular Great Lives lectures on figures ranging from George III and Napoleon to James Bond.
Juliette Gordon Low spent several years searching for something useful to do with her life. Her search ended in 1911, when she met retired British officer Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. On returning to the United States in 1912, she called her cousin. “Come right over! I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!” Within ten years, the Girl Scouts organization was indeed worldwide. Stacey Cordery’s biography of Juliette Gordon Low is the first of its kind. An historian teaching at Monmouth College in Illinois, she is also the author of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker.
As will happen from time-to-time, technology let us down. After filming author Harriet Reisen’s presentation on Louisa May Alcott, we discovered that the digital file was corrupt, unusable. This is a loss, of course. Fortunately, she gave a similar talk on C-SPAN2’s BookTV in 2009 and you can watch it here.
In place of Ms. Reisen’s presentation in Dodd Auditorium on March 13, we offer this special talk about the first modern biography, Boswell’s Life of Johnson with books and materials from University of Mary Washington Simpson Library Special Collections. We use music, portraits, pages from books hundreds of years old, and a narrative to tell the story of how James Boswell met and befriended the large, gruff Samuel “Dictionary” Johnson and later wrote a biography of him that became a classic.
This presentation was a collaborative effort among Simpson Special Collections librarian Carolyn Parsons; Tim Owens, Instructional Technology Specialist in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies; library student intern, Stephanie Hall; and Charles J. Shields, Associate Director, Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series.
Following graduation from the University of Virginia, author John A. Farrell embarked on a prize-winning career as a newspaperman, most notably for the Denver Post and the Boston Globe. His biography of Darrow— “impeccably researched, beautifully written, and timely,” said the San Francisco Chronicle— describes the career of the limelight-stealing, two-fisted attorney who resigned from corporate law to defend union organizers, powerless minorities, and those accused of sensational crimes. He is perhaps best known for his devastating attack on his former friend (and three-time presidential candidate) William Jennings Bryan, when the pair faced off during the notorious Scopes “Monkey Trial” over the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools.
April 15, 1947, marked the most important opening day in baseball history. When Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond that afternoon at Ebbets Field, he became the first black man to break into major-league baseball in the 20th century. World War II had just ended; democracy had triumphed. Now Americans were beginning to press for justice on the home front— and Robinson had a chance to lead the way. But his biggest concern was his temper, and playing well, despite race-baiting by segregationists. Author Jonathan Eig, in addition to publishing three nonfiction books, writes a monthly sports column for Chicago magazine.
In 1958, the sheriff of Caroline County charged into the bedroom of Richard and Mildred Loving in the dead of night and arrested them. Although legally married in Washington, Richard was white and Mildred was black, which was against the law in Virginia and 13 other states. The case on their behalf was brought by the ACLU before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” leading to the overturning of all such laws in the United States. Panelists on the program are Bernard Cohen, one of two lawyers who argued the case before the Court, and Peggy Fortune, the Lovings’ daughter.
Christopher Columbus, said a New York Times reviewer of Laurence Bergreen’s biography, was a “terribly interesting man — brilliant, audacious, volatile, paranoid, narcissistic, ruthless and (in the end) deeply unhappy.” Part explorer, part entrepreneur, part wannabe-aristocrat, Columbus initiated the most important period in Western history as a result of an error. Laurence Bergreen, a frequent lecturer at major universities and symposiums, also serves as a featured historian for the History Channel. Among his many other books are biographies of Magellan and Marco Polo.
Vice-president of the United States, brilliant attorney, duelist, and renegade leader of Western adventurers— Aaron Burr cut a path through American history that is bold, at times erratic, and highly controversial. In his fast-paced book, American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America, historian and constitutional lawyer David O. Stewart follows close on the trail of Burr during the most exciting period of his career.
Get to know Noah Webster, a brusque, ambitious intellectual who influences you every time you speak or start to write.
Noah Webster was born in 1758 in Connecticut of a prestigious Puritan Yankee lineage. Although he tried variously to be a lawyer, a school teacher, and a newspaperman with various degrees of success, his talents always led him to write. Not fiction or poetry; instead, Webster was a born compiler of information. His reference book, The American Spelling Book was the first true bestseller of early American publishing and taught a young nation the rudiments of reading and writing.
In 1828 he published the groundbreaking American Dictionary of the English Language and secured his niche as an avatar of a distinct American culture. Biographer Joshua Kendall (The Man Who Made Lists) honors Webster’s crucial contributions to post-colonial nationhood by how he codified for ordinary people— merchants, secretaries, journalists and self-taught writers, for instance— what is now known as American English.
The Marquis de Lafayette, who came from a long line of French military men dating to the Crusades, wanted honor and glory from a young age. But he had to leave the comforts of his native France and sail to America in order to find them.
Born in nobility and considerable wealth, the Marquis was seemingly destined for greatness from an early age and in any endeavor he chose. Against just about everyone’s wishes, including his own personal family’s plans for the future military leader, he stole out of France with the object of becoming nothing less than a general in the Continental Army. Once in America, he found favor with General Washington, who made him a division, then army commander. Lafayette proved extremely able, loyal, and brave, and his connection to Versailles helped secure aid that eventually turned the tide of the war.
Then biographer Marc Leepson takes the reader back to France with Lafayette where this still youthful soldier and idealist carried on his mission to bring democracy to his own country. Leepson depicts the courage, dedication, and brilliance of a political statesman. Risking the anger and rejection of the French establishment, Lafayette worked passionately and tirelessly to free his own people. True to the adage that a prophet is seldom appreciated in his own land, the Marquis not infrequently risked the guillotine as payment for his political efforts.
Moving fluidly from scene to scene of Lafayette’s adventures in France and America, the book reads almost like the screenplay for a movie. The love interest is only marginally the hero’s teenage bride Adrienne. The true love interest is Lafayette’s passion for glory and the cause of liberty.
And So It Goes is the culmination of five years of research and writing—the first-ever biography of the life of Kurt Vonnegut, author of the now-classic Slaughterhouse Five: Vonnegut’s World War II experiences turned into fiction.
Published in November 2011, Charles J. Shields’ biography was chosen by the New York Times and the Washington Post as a 2011 Notable Book, and been widely acclaimed by reviewers. Shields is also the author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (2006), which spent 15 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In August 2011 he was named associate director of the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series.
The April 23, 2009 lecture on Ronald Reagan.
Stephen J. Farnsworth
Professor of Communication,
George Mason University
Author, Spinner in Chief