University, Family, and Race,
Residing in the top reaches of stately, brick Fayerweather Hall, only a short distance from the rotunda of Low Memorial Library, the Columbia University history department faculty in the 1950s contained an impressive collection of intellectuals and scholars. There, in quarters atop Morningside Heights, six flights above the honking and rumbling of Amsterdam Avenue, in offices whose rattling windows gazed out over West Harlem and then, in the distance, over the roofs and clutter of East Harlem to the jumbled skyline of Queens and the Bronx, were lodged Henry Steele Commager (at Columbia from 1939 to 1956), Allan Nevins (1928–58), Richard Morris (1946–73), Jacques Barzun (1929–75), William Leuchtenburg (1952–83), David Donald (1947–59), Dumas Malone (1945–59), and others. Richard Hofstadter (1946– 70), among the most prominent of the Columbia historians, maintained his office in Hamilton Hall, a few buildings closer to the library.
By this time, Commager's reputation stood equal to that of any colleague in the department. Already he had served as the Pitt Professor of American History at Cambridge University and was recognized as a prolific scholarly figure in the field. Further, he was identified nationally outside the discipline of history as a cultural figure. In February 1952 he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, whose lifetime memberships were limited to 250. Others inducted with him into the institute's literary wing included Newton Arvin, Jacques Barzun, Louise Bogan, Waldo Frank, Carson McCullers, Eu