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Henry Wiencek, “Jefferson and His Slaves,” noon TOMORROW (May 10)

[Headline corrected]

Teaching Peace to the Conquered: Jefferson and His Slaves

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
Fellow Henry Wiencek

Tuesday, May 10, at noon, Charlottesville City Council Chambers

This lecture is free and open to the public.

Henry Wiencek

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Fellow Henry Wiencek will conclude this spring’s series of downtown C’ville lectures by VFH Fellows with a presentation titled Teaching Peace to the Conquered: Jefferson and His Slaves. Wiencek will discuss his research into the nature of slavery at Monticello—its management, finances, and psychology.  According to Wiencek, as Jefferson devised systems to modernize, adapt, and refine slavery, the enslaved people became ever more skilled and more valuable; yet, Jefferson adroitly convinced them that they were inferior.  Wiencek will examine Jefferson’s psychological program to “teach peace to the conquered,” in Bob Dylan’s phrase, and help create the atmosphere of paradox and contradiction that continues to obscure the harsh reality of slavery.  For more information, please contact Ann White Spencer, aspencer@virginia or visit virginiafoundation.org.

Wiencek was the Patrick Henry Fellow at the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, at Washington College, and held a research fellowship at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. He is the author of An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, and The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White.  His books have won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Biography, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History, and the Best Book award from the Society for Historians of the Early Republic.


Elizabeth Hoffman at New Dominion May 13

Reading and Book-signing at New Dominion Bookshop:

Friday, May 13 at 5:30 PM

Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman will present selections from

Broken Promises: A Novel of the Civil War

by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman

Originally self-published as In the Lion’s Den, this compelling debut was praised by the director of the prestigious Langum Prize as “very well written and a pleasure to read . . . presents an aspect of the Civil War saga that is out of the ordinary.” Now Ballantine publishes Hoffman’s novel for a broader audience just in time for the Civil War sesquicentennial.

The novel explores a little-known yet pivotal moment in the Civil War in a story brimming with loyalty, courage, love, and international intrigue. Based on the lives of the son and grandson of John Quincy Adams, as recorded in their memoirs and wartime correspondence, this engrossing saga reveals how close America came to experiencing a very different future.

“Brings the era to life with considerable sophistication and narrative flair.” —Joseph J. Ellis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“A stirring tale of diplomacy and intrigue in America’s most precarious hour . . . a compelling read and masterly history as well.” —David Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom from Fear

About the Author

Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, PhD, is a winner of the Allan Nevins Prize for Literary Distinction in the Writing of History. She holds the Dwight Stanford Chair in American foreign relations at San Diego State University and is the author of several books of history. Dr. Hoffman is a native Californian, graduate of Stanford, wife, and mother of four. BROKEN PROMISES, which she began writing on a Fulbright grant, is her first novel.

Terri Fisher, “Lost Communities of Virginia,” May 12 at New Dominion

Reading and Book-signing at New Dominion Bookshop

Thursday, May 12 at 12:15 PM

Terri Fisher will discuss

Lost Communities of Virginia

by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg

Lost Communities of VirginiaVirginia’s back roads and rural areas are dotted with traces of once-thriving communities. General stores, train depots, schools, churches, banks, and post offices provide intriguing details of a way of life now gone. The buildings may be empty or repurposed today, the existing community may be struggling to survive or rebuilding itself in a new and different way, but the story behind each community’s original development is an interesting and important footnote to the development of Virginia and the United States.

 Lost Communities of Virginia documents thirty small communities from throughout the Commonwealth that have lost their original industry, transportation mode, or way of life. Using contemporary photographs, historical information, maps, and excerpts of interviews with longtime residents of these communities, the book documents the present conditions, recalls past boom times, and explains the role of each community in regional settlement.

Distributed for the Community Design Assistance Center at Virginia Tech

About the authors:

Terri Fisher is Outreach and Programs Coordinator at the Community Design Assistance Center at Virginia Tech, Executive Director of the Giles County Historical Society, and author of two pictorial histories of Giles County, Virginia.

Kirsten Sparenborg is a member of the studio of Sottile & Sottile Urban Analysis & Design in Savannah, Georgia. She works as an artist and designer in the field of preservation in Washington, D.C.

Gary Gallagher, “The Union War,” at New Dominion April 8

Reading and Book Signing at New Dominion Bookshop

April 8 at 5:30 PM

Gary Gallagher will discuss

The Union War

by Gary Gallagher

The Union WarEven one hundred and fifty years later, we are haunted by the Civil War—by its division, its bloodshed, and perhaps, above all, by its origins. Today, many believe that the war was fought over slavery. This answer satisfies our contemporary sense of justice, but as Gary Gallagher shows in this brilliant revisionist history, it is an anachronistic judgment.

In a searing analysis of the Civil War North as revealed in contemporary letters, diaries, and documents, Gallagher demonstrates that what motivated the North to go to war and persist in an increasingly bloody effort was primarily preservation of the Union. Devotion to the Union bonded nineteenth-century Americans in the North and West against a slaveholding aristocracy in the South and a Europe that seemed destined for oligarchy. Northerners believed they were fighting to save the republic, and with it the world’s best hope for democracy.

Once we understand the centrality of union, we can in turn appreciate the force that made northern victory possible: the citizen-soldier. Gallagher reveals how the massive volunteer army of the North fought to confirm American exceptionalism by salvaging the Union. Contemporary concerns have distorted the reality of nineteenth-century Americans, who embraced emancipation primarily to punish secessionists and remove slavery as a future threat to union—goals that emerged in the process of war. As Gallagher recovers why and how the Civil War was fought, we gain a more honest understanding of why and how it was won.

“Gary Gallagher, more carefully and precisely than anyone else, enables the reader to understand why so many citizen soldiers were willing to peril their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to preserve the United States as one nation, indivisible and, in Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, to give the ‘new nation’ brought forth in 1776 a ‘new birth of freedom’ in 1863.”

—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

About the author

Gary W. Gallagher is John L. Nau III Professor of History at the University of Virginia.


Olivier Zunz at New Dominion April 8

Reading and Book Signing at New Dominion Bookshop

April 8 at 12:15 PM

Olivier Zunz will discuss

Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont in America

by Olivier Zunz with translation by Arthur Goldhammer

zunzAlexis de Tocqueville, a young aristocrat of twenty-five, worried deeply about the future of France as well as his own fate in his native country, which had just experienced its second revolution in less than fifty years. Along with Gustave de Beaumont, a fellow magistrate, Tocqueville conceived the idea that by traveling to America he could penetrate the secret of the modern world, in which democracy and equality were destined to rule.

Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont in America reproduces the journey of these two friends in an authoritative and elegant volume. Zunz and Goldhammer present most of the surviving letters, notebooks, and other texts that Tocqueville and Beaumont wrote during their decisive American journey of 1831–32, as well as their reflections and correspondence on America following their return to France. Also reproduced here are most of the sketches from the two sketchbooks Beaumont filled during their travels. The two young men relied on these documents in writing their individual works on America, Tocqueville’s seminal Democracy in America (1835–40) and Beaumont’s novel Marie or, Slavery in the United States (1835).

Focusing on American equality, Tocqueville made a lasting contribution to Western political thought by framing modern history as a continuous struggle between political liberty and social equality, and presented the United States as having struck a proper balance between the two ideals. Beaumont concentrated instead on the brutality of racial prejudice. These extraordinarily rich and often profound texts constitute the indispensable record of their intertwined engagement with the United States, which we see here through the unfailingly intelligent gaze of two young Frenchmen with a unique appreciation of what was novel in the American experiment.

“No serious library can afford to be without this exceptional volume, which is translated and edited superbly.It will give as much pleasure to casual browsers as to serious Tocqueville scholars.” Library Journal (starred review)

About the author and the translator

Olivier Zunz is Commonwealth Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He edited (with Alan S. Kahan) The Tocqueville Reader: A Life in Letters and Politics, authored Why the American Century?, and served as president of The Tocqueville Society/La Société Tocqueville.

Arthur Goldhammer has translated more than 110 works from the French, including Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and The Ancien Régime and the Revolution. He is an affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, and a member of the editorial board of French Politics, Culture, and Society.


“Bare Feet, Iron Will” at New Dominion November 10

Coming to New Dominion Bookshop:

James G. Zumwalt will discuss

Bare Feet, Iron Will: Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields

Wednesday, November 10 at 12:15 PM

The following from James G. Zumwalt:

Bare Feet, Iron WillThe Vietnam war left an indelible mark on America. Not since the American Civil War has a conflict so divided her people. And, a generation after the war in Vietnam ended, many Americans are still haunted by its memory.

In warfare, it is a universal tenet that both sides suffer. Neither the victor nor the vanquished emerges unscathed. Tragedy, hardship and suffering are universal to the warrior regardless of which side of the battlefield he stood; they are universal to the family awaiting his return; they are universal to the civilian population supporting the warrior’s cause. “Universality” is a simple principle—it recognizes the commonality of suffering so that, once the fighting ends, a fertile ground can be plowed in which the seeds of friendship are then sown. It is a principle of which I, in my own sense of loss, lost sight.

I think there are veterans, like me, who have had difficulty in accepting the suffering the Vietnam war brought on us. It was my return to Vietnam however, in which I was able to come to terms with the internal struggle of my own personal tragedy of the war, which inspired me to write this book.

While we may not agree with the political motivations to which those on the other side of the battlefield adhered, we must respect their commitment and belief to die for them. Perhaps this message was no more eloquently stated than by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in a Memorial Day speech he gave in 1884. A Union veteran of America’s Civil War, he noted that he and his fellow Union comrades had been driven during that conflict by a belief their cause was a just and noble one.

“We equally believed that those who stood against us held, just as sacred, convictions that were the opposite of ours—and we respected them as every man with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief…You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible…without getting at last something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south—each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then, it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier’s death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by his side.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

America’s first ambassador to Vietnam after the war, Douglas “Pete” Peterson, undoubtedly would agree with Holmes’ statement. Having spent nearly seven years as a POW in Vietnam, Peterson is a man with a reason to be bitter towards his former enemies—yet he is not. On the 31st anniversary of the day he was shot down near the village of An Doai—on September 10, 1997 Ambassador Peterson returned to the site of that memorable event in his life. With two of the men involved in his capture at the time standing before him, the Ambassador said:

“I return here not to relive what was probably the most unhappy day of my life, but to signify to the entire world that reconciliation with a former enemy is not only possible but absolutely the right way to reach out.” —Douglas Peterson, former POW and America’s first post-war ambassador to Vietnam

Before researching this book, I must acknowledge my ignorance as to the suffering experienced by our Vietnamese counterparts during the war. The 19th century British statesman Benjamin Disraeli noted, ignorance is “a great step to knowledge.” My numerous return trips to Vietnam and discussions with the Vietnamese people about the war and what they endured during it have enabled me now to climb that step.

About James G. Zumwalt:

Lieutenant Colonel James Zumwalt is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the 1989 intervention into Panama and Desert Storm. An author, speaker and business executive, he also currently heads a security consulting firm named after his father—Admiral Zumwalt & Consultants, Inc.

He writes extensively on foreign policy and defense issues, having written hundreds of articles for various newspapers, magazines and professional journals.

His articles have covered issues of major importance, oftentimes providing readers with unique perspectives that have never appeared elsewhere. This has resulted, on several occasions, in his work being cited by members of Congress and entered into the US Congressional Record.

His thoughtful perspectives earned him an invitation to join the prestigious Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), of which the honorary co-chairmen are Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator Jon Kyl, former Secretary of State George P. Schultz and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey. The CPD is a non-partisan organization with one goal—to stiffen American resolve to confront the challenge presented by terrorism and the ideologies that drive it.

Colonel Zumwalt is featured as one of 56 US military professionals in LEADING THE WAY, a book by best-selling author Al Santoli, which documents the most critical moments of the interviewees’ combat experiences from Vietnam to Somalia.

He has also been cited in numerous other books and publications for unique insights based on his research on the Vietnam war, North Korea (a country he has visited ten times and about which he is able to share some very telling observations) and Desert Storm.

Colonel Zumwalt received a presidential appointment to be the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, in which capacity he served from 1991-1992.

Because of his expertise, he also was asked to participate in a very unique educational project conducted at a high school in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he voluntarily contributes time and resources to educating students on issues of international importance.

Encyclopedia Virginia is expanding

The harbor area of Hampton Roads, from officia...

Image via Wikipedia

Encyclopedia Virginia is looking for an Assistant Editor. Knowledge of and interest in Virginia history a big plus. This will be a full time classified staff position at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. For more information, contact Brendan Wolfe at EV.

And there’s more! According to Brendan:

We’re entering into a partnership with the Library of Virginia that involves publishing on our site the entirety of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. At the same time, we’re beginning to edit our pre-colonial and colonial history sections and are developing a smart-phone application that uses one’s current geographical coordinates to identify nearby historical events and connect them to encyclopedia entries. It’s pretty cool — all of which is to say that this is a great time to join the staff.