american history

  Former 2nd Lady of the United States, Lynne Cheney, has spent decades studying the nation's fourth president, James Madison. The result of that labor is the new 564-page book, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered.

Father of the Constitution, principle author of the Bill of Rights, founder of the first opposition party, Secretary of State and fourth President was a masterful politician who Cheney believes, despite all his accomplishments, has been overshadowed by other founders.

Lynne Cheney is the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and is the author of 12 books, several on American history.

  We’re often told that the United States is, was, and always has been a Christian nation. But in One Nation Under God, historian Kevin M. Kruse reveals that the idea of “Christian America” is an invention—and a relatively recent one at that.

As Kruse argues, the belief that America is fundamentally and formally a Christian nation originated in the 1930s when businessmen enlisted religious activists in their fight against FDR’s New Deal. Corporations from General Motors to Hilton Hotels bankrolled conservative clergymen, encouraging them to attack the New Deal as a program of “pagan statism” that perverted the central principle of Christianity: the sanctity and salvation of the individual. Their campaign for “freedom under God” culminated in the election of their close ally Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

First Ladies

Apr 29, 2015

  C-SPAN’s yearlong history series, First Ladies: Influence and Image, featured interviews with more than fifty preeminent historians and biographers. In the resulting book, First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women, these experts paint intimate portraits of all forty-five first ladies—their lives, ambitions, and unique partnerships with their presidential spouses.

Susan Swain and the C-SPAN team elicit the details that made these women who they were: how Martha Washington intentionally set the standards followed by first ladies for the next century; how Edith Wilson was complicit in the cover-up when President Wilson became incapacitated after a stroke; and how Mamie Eisenhower used the new medium of television to reinforce her, and her husband’s, positive public images.

While Eleanor revolutionized the role of First Lady with her outspoken passion for human rights, Alice made the most of her insider connections to influence politics—including doing as much to defeat the League of Nations as anyone in elective office. Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth is a double biography of the first cousins whose political perspectives could not be more dissimilar.

Authors Mike Peyser and Timothy Dwyer will be at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, April 11th at 7:00 PM for a presentation, Q&A and book signing.

Across four decades of public life, from 1776 until he left the presidency in 1817, James Madison made extraordinary contributions to the American republic. Yet, according to historian David O. Stewart, too often he is consigned to the shadows of history and concealed by his more heroic contemporaries.

In Stewart's new book Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America, he looks to restore Madison to a proper place and explores the relations he forged which contributed to his success.

  In August 1906, black soldiers stationed in Brownsville, Texas, were accused of going on a lawless rampage in which shots were fired, one man was killed, and another wounded. Because the perpetrators could never be positively identified, President Theodore Roosevelt took the highly unusual step of discharging without honor all one hundred sixty-seven members of the black battalion on duty the night of the shooting.

Taking on Theodore Roosevelt: How One Senator Defied the President on Brownsville and Shook American Politics by Harry Lembeck investigates the controversial action of an otherwise much-lauded president, the challenge to his decision from a senator of his own party, and the way in which Roosevelt’s uncompromising stance affected African American support of the party of Lincoln.

  We are very happy to continue our regular feature – Ideas Matter: Checking in with the Public Humanities.

One hundred fifty years ago this coming week was a ceremony that most Americans believe ended the Civil War - the surrender agreement at Appomattox Court House. What is wrong with the way we understand that event and the end of the war?

Greg Downs, Gregory Downs is an Associate Professor at the City College & Graduate Center, CUNY, and is the author of the just-published After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War, is here to tell us.

  In Huck Finn’s America, award-winning biographer Andrew Levy shows how modern readers have been misunderstanding Huckleberry Finn for decades.

Twain’s masterpiece, which still sells tens of thousands of copies each year and is taught more than any other American classic, is often discussed either as a carefree adventure story for children or a serious novel about race relations, yet Levy argues convincingly it is neither.

  Every American president, when faced with a crisis, longs to take bold and decisive action. When American lives or vital interests are at stake, the public—and especially the news media and political opponents—expect aggressive leadership. But, contrary to the dramatizations of Hollywood, rarely does a president have that option.


  Acclaimed biographer James McGrath Morris latest book, Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, brings into focus the riveting life of one of the most significant yet least known figures of the civil rights era—pioneering journalist Ethel Payne, the “First Lady of the Black Press."

A self-proclaimed “instrument of change” for her people, Payne broke new ground as the Washington correspondent for the Chicago Defender. She publicly prodded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to support desegregation, and her reporting on legislative and judicial civil rights battles enlightened and activated black readers across the nation. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized Payne’s seminal role by presenting her with a pen used in signing the Civil Rights Act. In 1972, she became the first female African American radio and television commentator on a national network, working for CBS. Her story mirrors the evolution of our own modern society.