October 1, 2020

Crawley Pens Commentary on Woodrow Wilson for Great Presidential Lives

Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley offered commentary in The Free Lance-Star on the tragic life and presidency of Woodrow Wilson.

 

WOODROW WILSON, born in Staunton, Va., in 1856, became the first Southern-born president elected since the Civil War. He was the most highly educated, holding both a law degree and a doctorate in political science. He was the most overtly religious, save perhaps Jimmy Carter.

And he was also one of the most tragic.

In truth, Wilson was an unlikely candidate for the White House. Shy by nature and coddled as an only child by his mother, he did not attend formal school until he was 13. But despite his reserve and lack of popular rapport, he was highly ambitious.

The central and determining influence on Wilson’s life was, unarguably, religion. He came by it naturally, particularly through his Presbyterian minister father. From him, he imbibed not only religious conviction, but a penchant for eloquence of expression, both oral and written.

For Wilson, religion was his constant guide. He prayed daily and gave thanks before every meal. He read the Bible every day, wearing out several in the course of his lifetime. All of this had both positive and, to the minds of many observers, negative effects.

On the one hand, it sustained him in times of travail; on the other hand, it gave him an unbecoming (and often ineffective) sense of self-righteousness. Read more.

Crawley Announces Creation of Scholarship Honoring Jack Bales

Jack Bales at the celebration held by the University of Mary Washington in honor of his new book. Photo Credit: Erin Wysong.

Jack Bales at the celebration held by the University of Mary Washington in honor of his new book. Photo Credit: Erin Wysong.

A message from Bill Crawley.

When classes resume at UMW for the fall semester, things will not be the same — and not just because of the COVID-19 restrictions. Something will be missing – or, more accurately, someBODY will be missing. Jack Bales. Yes, difficult as it is to imagine the University without Jack, he has, in fact, embarked upon a richly merited retirement, effective at the end of last month.

I am sure that you will agree with me that the extent and quality of Jack’s contributions over the past 40 years are unparalleled – both to our students in their research and to us as faculty in our courses.  Many are the students whom I have heard say, “I would never have graduated without Mr. Bales” – or words to that effect. Many of them, I suspect, are not exaggerating, such was the attention and professional care he offered to any student who came knocking at his (always open) door.

To honor Jack for his exemplary service, a scholarship is being established in his name, which seems an altogether appropriate means of perpetuating his legacy of service to students. Activation of the award will require total donations of at least $25,000 – a goal to which I believe many of you would like to contribute as acknowledgement of the help he has given through the years.

To begin the process, my wife and I are donating $5,000, and we respectfully request that you consider joining us in whatever amount you wish. You may make your contribution at:

http://umw.edu/onlinegiving

Every donation will help to achieve our goal, which will serve as an appropriate tribute to this wonderful friend of the University and its students.

Great Presidential Lives: Announcing a New Online Mini-Series

With large in-person gatherings currently prohibited on campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Lives program is offering a mini-series of videotaped lectures focusing on several notable Presidents — an approach that seems particularly appropriate in this presidential election year.

Each lecture will be delivered by UMW Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley, who is the founding director of the Great Lives series. This year marks the completion of Professor Crawley’s 50 years on the Mary Washington faculty, during which he has won numerous awards for teaching excellence, focusing largely on political history.

All lectures will be pre-recorded and released on the dates listed below. They will remain posted throughout the series, after which they will be available in the Great Lives archives. Please refer to the schedule below and click on the media link to view the lecture.

Aug. 11 Thomas Jefferson: Paragon of Democracy or Racist Hypocrite?
Aug. 25 Theodore Roosevelt: The Patrician Progressive and the Bully Pulpit
Sep. 8 Woodrow Wilson: Self-Righteous Idealist or Far-Sighted Visionary?
Sep. 22 Franklin D. Roosevelt: Savior or Spoiler of American Democracy?
Oct. 6 Harry S. Truman: The Accidental President and the Triumph of True Grit
Oct. 20 John F. Kennedy: “Camelot” and the Question of Style vs. Substance

 

Crawley Announces Great Presidential Lives Online Series

Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley offered commentary in The Free Lance-Star on Founding Father and America’s third president Thomas Jefferson in advance of the Great Presidential Lives series, which launched on Aug. 11. The online series will be available at https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/.

Dr. Crawley also appeared on “Town Talk” with Ted Schubel on 1230AM/WFVA: https://www.newstalk1230.net/episode/bill-crawley-great/

 

FLS Commentary: IN RECENT years, as biographers have reinterpreted the lives of significant historical figures, there has been a tendency toward denigrating the reputations of a number of previously hallowed individuals.

In this process—referred to, sometimes derisively, as “revisionism”—perhaps no figure in American history has suffered a greater decline in stature than Thomas Jefferson.

To be sure, the third president had enemies in his own times, including one who ineloquently referred to him as a “son of a bitch” and a “red-headed rascal.” Others, in contrast, revered him as the “Sage of Monticello,” emphasizing his immortal precept that “all men are created equal.”

In a letter to James Madison dated Feb. 17, 1826, Jefferson implored his friend and presidential successor to “take care of me when dead.” He need not have worried, at least for his immediate posterity.

Indeed, for more than a century following his July 4, 1826, death, the preponderance of historical opinion—either diminishing or ignoring altogether his involvement with slavery and his racist views—was so uniformly in Jefferson’s favor that one historian, writing in the 1940s, declared that “the enemies of Thomas Jefferson are all dead or else are in hiding.”

But with the coming of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s, biographers began to focus increasingly on his personal life, which presaged the end of Jefferson’s secular sainthood. One critic pointed out the irony that “the leisure that made possible Jefferson’s great writings on human liberty was supported by the labors of three generations of slaves.” Read more.

View the first Great President Lives video here: https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/lecture/thomas-jefferson/.

COMMENTARY: Thomas Jefferson: Paragon of democracy or racist hypocrite? (The Free Lance-Star)

C-SPAN Airs ‘Great Lives’ Lecture on Joanne Freeman’s ‘Field of Blood’

Missing UMW’s celebrated Great Lives lecture series? Coronavirus cut this season short, but you can catch pre-recorded episodes on C-SPAN. Acclaimed author Joanne Freeman kicks off the three-part series by discussing her book, Field of Blood, which recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress.

View the C-SPAN coverage of Freeman’s lecture, based on her acclaimed 2018 work, The Field of Blood. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions were often punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests. When debate broke down, congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives. One representative even killed another in a duel. Many were beaten and bullied in an attempt to intimidate them into compliance, particularly on the issue of slavery.

These fights didn’t happen in a vacuum. Freeman’s dramatic accounts of brawls and thrashings tell a larger story of how fisticuffs and journalism, and the powerful emotions they elicited, raised tensions between North and South and led toward war. In the process, she brings the antebellum Congress to life, revealing its rough realities―the feel, sense, and sound of it―as well as its nation-shaping import. Funny, tragic, and rivetingly told, The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem and sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introducing a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men. The result is a fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

C-Span’s American History TV to Air Great Lives Lecture

C-Span’s American History TV will air the Great Lives lecture from Tuesday, March 10, “Female Internet Inventors,” by Claire Evans, author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. Titled “Women and Computers,” the program will air at the following times:

  • Saturday, March 28 at 10:30 p.m. EDT
  • Sunday, March 29 at 4:30 p.m. EDT
  • Monday, March 30 at 2:45 a.m. EDT

Description: The history of technology you probably know is one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers – but female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation. In fact, women turn up at the very beginning of every important wave in technology. They may have been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don’t even realize, but they have always been part of the story. In Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet (Penguin Random House), Claire L. Evans finally gives these unsung female heroes their due with her insightful social history of the women who made the Internet what it is today.

Speaker: Claire L. Evans is a writer and musician. She is the singer and co-author of the conceptual pop group YACHT, a founding editor of Terraform, VICE’s science-fiction vertical, and the author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women who Made the Internet (Penguin Random House, 2018). She is the former Futures Editor of Motherboard, and a contributor to VICE, Rhizome, Quartz, The Guardian, WIRED, and Aeon. She is an advisor to graduate design students at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and has taught and lectured about science fiction, art, and technology around the world, at places like Walker Art Center, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, CalArts, Arizona State University, UC Berkeley, General Assembly San Francisco, La Gaité Lyrique, the Hirshhorn Museum, and the Riverside Museum of Art in Beijing, among many others. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs the beloved LA-centric culture app 5 Every Day.

Great Lives Continues with Female Internet Inventors, C.S. Lewis

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, March 10, with Female Internet Inventors, featuring Claire L. Evans, author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The Theresa Y Crawley, D.D.S. Lecture.

The history of technology you probably know is one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers – but female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation. In fact, women turn up at the very beginning of every important wave in technology. They may have been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don’t even realize, but they have always been part of the story. In Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet (Penguin Random House), Claire L. Evans finally gives these unsung female heroes their due with her insightful social history of the women who made the Internet what it is today.

The Great Lives series continues on Thursday, March 12, with C.S. Lewis, featuring Devin Brown, author of A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. The Coldwell Banker Elite Lecture.

Although Clive Staples Lewis died over a half-century ago, his works live on in the hearts and minds of countless readers, young and old, all over the world. From the Lewis Memorial recently installed in Poets’ Corner to the new Narnia films scheduled for release by Netflix over the next decade, the life and legacy of an Oxford don born near the end of the 19th Century continue to impact the current one. In this talk, which features rare archival photographs, you will visit the places that Lewis knew and loved.

The Great Lives series will continue on Thursday, March 19 with America’s Notorious Pirates, featuring author Eric Jay Dolin. Visit https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/ for more information.

Great Lives Continues with Frederick Douglass on Feb. 27

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feb. 27, with abolitionist, orator and author Frederick Douglass, with David W. Blight, author of The New York Times bestseller Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The Synergy Periodontics and Implants Lecture.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was taught to read by his slave-owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence, he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.

Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, using his own story to condemn slavery. By the Civil War, Douglass had become the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. After the war he sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican Party or the cause of black civil and political rights.

In this “cinematic and deeply engaging” (The New York Times Book Review) biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historians have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’ newspapers. “Absorbing and even moving…a brilliant book that speaks to our own time as well as Douglass’” (The Wall Street Journal), Blight’s biography tells the fascinating story of Douglass’ two marriages and his complex extended family. “David Blight has written the definitive biography of Frederick Douglass…a powerful portrait of one of the most important American voices of the nineteenth century” (The Boston Globe).

The Great Lives series will continue on Tuesday, March 10 with Female Internet Inventors, featuring Claire L. Evans, author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. Visit https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/ for more information.

Great Lives Continues with American Duelists, John Adams & John Quincy Adams

The 17th season of the William B. Crawley Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feb. 20, with American Duelists, presented by author Joanne Freeman. This series is open to the public free of charge and no admission tickets are required. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall. Each lecture concludes with an audience Q&A session with the speaker and a book-signing. The Hirschler Lecture.

Professor Freeman’s lecture is based on her acclaimed 2018 work, The Field of Blood, which recovers the long-lost story of physical violence on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, she shows that the Capitol was rife with conflict in the decades before the Civil War. Legislative sessions were often punctuated by mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests. When debate broke down, congressmen drew pistols and waved Bowie knives. One representative even killed another in a duel. Many were beaten and bullied in an attempt to intimidate them into compliance, particularly on the issue of slavery.

These fights didn’t happen in a vacuum. Freeman’s dramatic accounts of brawls and thrashings tell a larger story of how fisticuffs and journalism, and the powerful emotions they elicited, raised tensions between North and South and led toward war. In the process, she brings the antebellum Congress to life, revealing its rough realities―the feel, sense, and sound of it―as well as its nation-shaping import. Funny, tragic, and rivetingly told, The Field of Blood offers a front-row view of congressional mayhem and sheds new light on the careers of John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and other luminaries, as well as introducing a host of lesser-known but no less fascinating men. The result is a fresh understanding of the workings of American democracy and the bonds of Union on the eve of their greatest peril.

The Great Lives series continues on Tuesday, Feb. 25 with John Adams and John Quincy Adams, presented by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein, authors of the book, The Problem with Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of PersonalityThe Parrish Snead Franklin Simpson, PLC Lecture.

The two presidents Adams have never been examined together, either as mutually supportive father-and-son historical actors, or as experienced men of the world with interconnected philosophies. History conveniently paints them as out-of-touch, each turned out of office by popularly cast southerners, Jefferson and Jackson; their rejection at the polls is explained in terms of their supposed resistance to a rising democratic spirit. The Problem of Democracy, Isenberg and Burstein’s first major collaboration since Madison and Jefferson (2010), elaborates on the Adamses’ constitutional thought in favor of strong institutional checks in government (as a counter to the myth of an all-knowing popular will); their critique of democracy’s tendency to “dress up” select political men as popular celebrities: in their time, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. Their concern about a moneyed oligarchy and their unwillingness to surrender personal political independence to the conforming character of the two-party system make them unique in the nation’s political life. The themes they embraced have clear implications for our times.

The Great Lives series will continue on Thursday, Feb. 27 with Frederick Douglass, featuring author David W. Blight. Visit https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/ for more information.