January 23, 2021

Town Talk: Great Lives lecture series at UMW (B101.5)

‘Great Lives’ Lecture Series Kicks Off Jan. 19

Great Lives banner

The “Great Lives” lecture series kicks off on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m. with a lecture on former Presidents James Monroe and George Washington, delivered by UMW Museums Executive Director Scott Harris. The Barlow & Thomas, P.C. Lecture.

Because of restrictions on public gatherings on campus, the entire series of 18 lectures will be pre-recorded and delivered electronically, through Zoom Webinars, with closed captioning available.

Although the presentations will be taped in advance, there will still be a live Q&A session following the online debut of each lecture, in which the speaker will be available to answer questions submitted by audience members.

Presidents George Washington and James Monroe are the subjects of the first "Great Lives" lecture on Jan. 19.

Presidents George Washington and James Monroe are the subjects of the first “Great Lives” lecture on Jan. 19.

From Revolutionary War battlefields to the arenas of American politics, George Washington and James Monroe navigated a complex relationship. Mutual regard and affection, born in the shared experience of fighting for the cause of independence, eroded steadily amid the early Republic’s changing political and diplomatic landscape. The resulting estrangement revealed much of the character of both men.

The emergence of Federalist and Republican factions during Washington’s presidential administration enflamed both domestic and foreign affairs. Monroe’s first diplomatic mission to France was a casualty of this partisan divide. His advocacy of Republican principles and the traditional alliance with France ran counter to the Federalists’ goal of improving relations with Great Britain. Recalled from his post in disgrace, Monroe aired his grievances with Washington publicly and received harsh criticism in return. The rift between the two men, personally distressing to both, was never repaired.

Or was it? Monroe’s presidency echoed symbols and values evident in that of Washington: popular tours of the country, efforts to mitigate party divisions, and a foreign policy aimed at insulating the United States from entanglements in European conflicts. Perhaps the Revolutionary Rift between George Washington and James Monroe was, in the end, healed.

The series continues on Thursday, Jan. 21 with a lecture on abolitionist Sojourner Truth by Professor of History Claudine Ferrell. The sPower Lecture.

Abolitionist Sojourner Truth is the subject of the "Great Lives" lecture on Jan. 21.

Abolitionist Sojourner Truth is the subject of the “Great Lives” lecture on Jan. 21.

Sojourner Truth began life in 1797 as a slave named Isabella in Ulster County, New York. After years of hard work and abuse, she ended her enslavement in late 1826. She then re-invented herself. The strikingly intelligent but illiterate young woman became an uncompromising abolitionist, a famed and witty speaker, a proponent of women’s rights, and an inspiring preacher. By the 1850s her Narrative of Sojourner Truth (1850) and Bible-inspired lectures made her name a familiar one throughout the northern states and in the nation’s newspapers. During her life, she used hard work, the speaker’s podium, the courts, and song as she fought against slavery and racial inequality and advocated for rights of women black and white. She won a legal action that freed her son, recruited black troops for the Union army, campaigned for temperance, and met with presidents. After the Civil War, she helped settle freed slaves, and even into her eighties, she worked to aid the migrant Exodusters in the 1870s. She died in 1883 in Battle Creek, Michigan, which honors her today with a massive statue that befits the six-foot-tall traveler for truth.

For more information and a full list of lectures, visit umw.edu/greatlives or contact the Office of University Events and Conferencing at 540-654-1065.

Crawley Discusses ‘Great Lives’ on ‘Town Talk’

Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus Bill Crawley

Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus Bill Crawley

Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus Bill Crawley previews the 2021 annual lecture series “Great Lives” on “Town Talk with Ted Schubel.” The biographical approach to history and culture is all virtual this year. Listen here. 

Great Lives Series Explores Perceptions of Past Presidents

In the midst of 2020’s contentious presidential election season, most Americans are looking ahead – to Nov. 3 and beyond. In the meantime, UMW Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley is looking backward, serving up some snapshots of past presidents.

With the spring Great Lives series cut short by COVID-19, Crawley decided to videotape, starting in August, a mini-series of lectures about several U.S. presidents, the lives of whom he deems great, or at least notable – Thomas Jefferson, the two Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman.

The Great Presidential Lives mini-series of lectures by UMW Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley features videotaped lectures on Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy.

The Great Presidential Lives mini-series of lectures by UMW Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley features videotaped lectures on Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Woodrow Wilson and John F. Kennedy.

 

The sixth and final lecture will be tomorrow: John F. Kennedy: “Camelot” and the Question of Style vs. Substance. The JFK lecture, as well as the other five – all approximately one hour – are available on the Great Lives website. Some of the lectures also are being rebroadcast as part of C-SPAN’s “The Presidency” series and will remain available on the UMW Page of the network’s free video library.

“I chose the six mainly because I’ve always found them to be especially interesting,” Crawley said. “Each was controversial in his own way in his own times and has continued to be the subject of changing historiographical interpretations over the years.” Read more.

COMMENTARY: JFK’s intangible contributions transcend his lack of concrete achievements (The Free Lance-Star)

Crawley Pens Commentary on Harry S. Truman for Great Presidential Lives

Professor Emeritus of History William B. Crawley recently offered commentary in The Free Lance-Star on the life of Harry S. Truman as part of his virtual “Great Presidential Lives” series. The online series is available at https://www.umw.edu/greatlives/.

When Vice President Harry S. Truman learned of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death on April 12, 1945, the realization that he would now be president made him feel, he told reporters, “like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

Truman had ample reason to be thunderstruck. And the American people generally shared his trepidation. They knew little about this successor to the legendary FDR, and what they did know was not reassuring.

For one thing, he had been vice president only during Roosevelt’s fourth term and thus in office for only a few months. His career prior to that was undistinguished, having held sundry jobs with indifferent success before winning election to the U.S. Senate in 1934.

Plain in both appearance and speech, he did not look or sound “presidential.” In short, few people have ever attained the presidency so seemingly ill-equipped for the job. Yet it was his fate to be faced with some of the most crucial problems of 20th century America. Read more.

COMMENTARY: Historians have been kind to ‘Give ’em hell, Harry!’ (The Free Lance-Star)

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