Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Magazine article Humanities

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

How is it that our culture has studied and written and published large libraries' worth of new books on the Civil War, and yet reading Drew Gilpin Faust, this year's Jefferson Lecturer, is like discovering untrodden territory? Her books range from the forgotten thoughts of slavery's apologists in the antebellum South to all the people who thought and breathed no more, the Civil War Dead. Her work calls us to attention, lest we grow dull to the shock of our own history, the shock of war and loss.

Perhaps we are to be forgiven, as simply recalling the brutality of the Civil War and the great American shame of slavery require maturity and, harder still, an emotional wherewithal that can be difficult to muster for wrongs committed more than 150 years ago. Looking at the past may be rewarding, but it is not always easy.

In an interview with Chairman Jim Leach, Faust gives us a tour of her work as a scholar before discussing her accomplishments as president of Harvard University. She recalls her inspiration as a young child to write a letter to President Eisenhower protesting the unequal treatment of black Americans. This terrific story she has also published as an essay, which we have excerpted along with fine passages from two of her books. …

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