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Past Lectures

Dr. Yael Sternhell

"War on Record: The Archive and Afterlife of the Civil War" (Live Stream Book Talk & Q&A)

February 6, 2024 - John Grisham Room, Mitchell Memorial Library
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Dr. Yael Sternhell

Dr. Yael Sternhell (Tel Aviv University) speaks about her book, War on Record: The Archive and Afterlife of the Civil War, which examines the creation of The War of the Rebellion: The Official Records of the Union and the Confederate Armies. Known as the OR, scholars and researchers consider this collection of documents to be the defining source for studying the Civil War. In War on Record, Sternhell looks at who decided what to include and exclude from the OR and how it shaped and misshaped Americans' understanding of the Civil War.

Dr. Susannah J. Ural, Frank & Virginia Williams Chair for Abraham Lincoln & Civil War Studies

"To Keep the Jewel of Liberty within the Family of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and African-American Military Service in the U.S. Civil War"

November 2, 2023 6:00pm - John Grisham Room, Mitchell Memorial Library

Susannah J. Ural, Ph.D. holds the Williams Chair in Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Studies at Mississippi State University. A military historian by training, Ural specializes in nineteenth-century America, with an emphasis on the experiences of U.S. Civil War soldiers and their families. She is also interested in the policies developed by Abraham Lincoln and the War Department that won the U.S. Civil War, and how these policies evolved during and after the conflict. Ural is the author of numerous books and articles on the U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction eras and a regular speaker at national and international events focused on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Dr. Terry Alford

"The Lincolns, the Booths and the Spirits: Two Families and the Great Beyond in the Civil War"

November 3, 2022 2:00pm - John Grisham Room, Mitchell Memorial Library

Dr. Terry Alford

Two families, one at the nation's political summit and one at its theatrical, were bound together in the Civil War period by their fascination with spiritualism. Abraham and Mary Lincoln turned to the seance table when their son Willie Lincoln died in 1862. Edwin Booth, together with his brother John Wilkes, were similarly attracted to the otherworld by the death of Edwin's wife Mary Devlin in 1863. Although there were many mediums in the country, the number of distinguished intermediaries to the other side was limited, and the two families shared several of the most gifted ones. No medium was more controversial than Charles J. Colchester who astounded the Lincolns with his powers. At the same time, he was an intimate friend of John Wilkes Booth. Colchester repeatedly warned Lincoln to take care of himself. Would the president, who received many such warnings over the years, finally listen to the one that mattered?

Terry Alford is an author and historian. He received a Ph.D. in history from Mississippi State University and did post-doctoral work in family history at the University of California, Davis. His interest in the history of race relations led to his writing Prince Among Slaves. This book tells the story of Abdul Rahman, an 18th Century Muslim prince from modern-day Guinea who was captured and sold into slavery in the Old South. Prince Among Slaves was made into an award-winning documentary shown on public television in the United Stated in 2008 to an audience of over four million viewers. The book, republished in 2007 to mark its 30th anniversary in print, was recently translated into Turkish.

Dr. Alford is a founding board member of the Abraham Lincoln Institute of Washington, D.C., and is a recognized authority on John Wilkes Booth and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Alford makes frequent appearances on television programs and networks such as 20/20, ABC News, CSPAN, BBC, and PBS. Fortune's Fool, Dr. Alford's biography of Booth, was published in 2015 by Oxford University Press and has received exceptional reviews. His research endeavors have been supported by four grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has been an historical consultant on a number of films and documentaries, including Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln," starring Daniel Day-Lewis. He also serves as a member of the Advisory Council for Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC. His latest book is In the Houses of their Dead: The Lincolns, the Booths, and the Spirits, published in 2022 to strongly positive reviews. David Adams in Publishers Weekly called it "enthralling...packed with eerie coincidences, amusing anecdotes, momentous twists of fate, and everyday human drama."

Dr. Alford received the Outstanding Faculty of Virginia Award from the State Council on Higher Education. This is the highest teaching honor given to college and university faculty in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Jonathan W. White

"In A House Built By Slaves: African American Encounters with Abraham Lincoln"

October 28, 2021 1:00pm - John Grisham Room, Mitchell Memorial Library

Jonathan W. White

Jonathan W. White is associate professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University. He is the author or editor of twelve books, including Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln (2014), which was a finalist for both the Lincoln Prize and Jefferson Davis Prize, a "best book" in Civil War Monitor, and the winner of the Abraham Lincoln Institute's 2015 book prize. He serves as vice chair of The Lincoln Forum, and on the boards of the Abraham Lincoln Association, the Abraham Lincoln Institute, and the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia, as well as the Ford's Theatre Advisory Council. His most recent books include Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War (2017), which was selected as a "best book" by Civil War Monitor; and "Our Little Monitor": The Greatest Invention of the Civil War (2018), which he co-authored with Anna Gibson Holloway. In October he published To Address You As My Friend: African Americans' Letters to Abraham Lincoln with the University of North Carolina Press, and My Work Among the Freedmen: The Civil War and Reconstruction Letters of Harriet M. Buss with UVA Press. In February 2022 he will publish A House Built By Slaves: African American Visitors to the Lincoln White House.

William C. Davis

"Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis as Chief Executives"

October 31, 2019 2:00pm - John Grisham Room, Mitchell Memorial Library

William C. Davis

William C. Davis, a native of Independence, Missouri, received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Sonoma State University in northern California, then spent twenty years in editorial management in the magazine and book publishing industry, before leaving in 1990 to spend the next decade working as a writer and consultant here and abroad. He is the author or editor of more than sixty books in the fields of Civil War and Southern history, as well as numerous documentary screenplays. He was the on-camera senior consultant and commentator for 52 episodes of the Arts & Entertainment Network/History Channel series "Civil War Journal," as well as a number of other productions on commercial and Public Television, and for the BBC, and has acted as historical consultant for several television and film productions, including "The Blue and the Gray," "George Washington," "The Perfect Tribute," and 2015's "Field of Lost Shoes" which was partially based on his book The Battle of New Market. In September 2013 he retired after thirteen years as Professor of History and Executive Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He is the only four-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Award given for book-length works in Confederate and Civil War History. His most recent book Inventing Loreta Velasquez: Confederate Soldier Impersonator, Media Celebrity, and Con Artist, was published in 2016 by Southern Illinois University Press. In 2015 the Lincoln Forum named him recipient of the Richard Nelson Current Award and the Ulysses S. Grant Association gave him its John Y. Simon Award. He was a member of the Advisory Board of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and serves on several other consultative bodies, as well as being an occasional consultant to the Virginia State Police on cold case homicides.

Dr. George C. Rable

"Believer, Skeptic, or Something Else? The Elusive Mr. Lincoln"

November 1, 2018 2:00pm - John Grisham Room, Mitchell Memorial Library

Dr. George C. Rable

George C. Rable is Professor Emeritus and formerly the Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History at the University of Alabama. Born in Lima, Ohio, in 1950, he received his B.A from Bluffton College (1972), his M.A from Louisiana State University (1973), and his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University (1978) where he studied under T. Harry Williams. He taught at Anderson University in Indiana from 1979-1998. From 2004-2008, he served as the President of the Society of Civil War Historians.

His books include: God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2010), which has won the 2011 Jefferson Davis Award and was a Choice Outstanding Academic Title; Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! (University of North Carolina Press, 2002), which won the Lincoln Prize, the Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award in American Military History, the Jefferson Davis Award, the Douglas Southall Freeman History Award and was a History Book Club selection; The Confederate Republic: A Revolution Against Politics (University of North Carolina Press, 1994), which was a History Book Club selection; Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism (University of Illinois Press, 1989), which won the Julia Cherry Spruill Prize and the Jefferson Davis Award; and But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction. (University of Georgia Press, 1984). His most recent book is Damn Yankees! Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate South (Louisiana State University Press, 2015), which won the James I. Robertson, Jr. Literary Prize. He is currently working on a book on the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan.

Harold Holzer

"The General vs. the President: Lincoln, Grant, and the Battle for Civil War Memory"

November 30, 2017 2:00pm - Turner A. Wingo Auditorium, Old Main Academic Center

Harold Holzer

Harold Holzer, winner of The 2015 Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize, is one of the country's leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. A prolific writer and lecturer, and frequent guest on television, Holzer served for six years (2010–2016) as Chairman of The Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. For the previous 10 years he co-chaired the U. S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC), appointed by President Clinton. President Bush awarded Holzer the National Humanities Medal in 2008. And in 2013, Holzer wrote an essay on Lincoln for the official program at the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Holzer, who now serves as The Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, has authored, co-authored or edited 52 books. His latest major book, Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion , won the Lincoln Prize, as well as The Mark Lynton History Prize from the Columbia University School of Journalism, The Hazel-Dicken Garcia Award, and the 2016 Goldsmith Book Prize from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In addition, Holzer has written more than 560 articles and reviews for both popular magazines and scholarly journals, and chapters to more than 60 books as well as a number of pamphlets and monographs on Lincoln.

Holzer is a frequent guest on radio and television, and lectures widely before Civil War and Lincoln groups and at museums, colleges, and historical societies conferences throughout the country. For more information, visit his website at