Panel Discussion: “Frederick Douglass at 200: The Life Behind the Times”

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2018 - 4:30pm 

Linsly-Chittenden Hall 101, 63 High Street, Yale University (location to be confirmed) 

Join us for a panel discussion in honor of the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Gilder Lehrman Center.  

Frederick Douglass is one of the greatest American thinkers, writers, and orators of the nineteenth century. He is forever known in his words and his activism. Join the Gilder Lehrman Center for a discussion of that literary and political legacy, especially through the story of the personal life behind his turbulent times. 

Scholars of Frederick Douglass will explore public and private dimensions of his life, including his daughter, three sons, and extended family; his two marriages, one of 44 years with Anna Murray Douglass and the other for 11 years with Helen Pitts Douglass; his relationships with European women, Julia Griffiths and Ottilie Assing; and his personal friendships, some rooted in fierce rivalry and some in enduring support, both in the United States and in England. 

The panel will include a reading by Nzadi Keita of a selection of her poems imagining the life of Anna Murray Douglass. 

Welcome and introduction: David W. Blight, Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center and Class of 1954 Professor of American History, Yale University 

Moderator: Jacqueline Goldsby, Professor and Chair of African American Studies, Professor of English and American Studies, Yale University


·David W. Blight, author of the forthcoming, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of American Freedom (2018)

·Leigh Fought, Associate Professor of History at Lemoyne College and author of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass (2017) 

·M. Nzadi Keita, Associate Professor of English, Ursinus College and author of Brief Evidence of Heaven: Poems from the Life of Anna Murray Douglass

·Sarah Meer, Fellow of Selwyn College, University of Cambridge; expert on Julia Griffiths and Douglass’s relationships with British antislavery, author of the forthcoming Cousins and Claimants: Transatlantic Notions, 1820-1920

·Hannah Rose Murray, PhD in American and Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham: “ ‘It is Time for the Slaves to Speak:’ Transatlantic Abolitionism and African American Activism in Britain 1835-1895”; Gilder Lehrman Center visiting fellow

Book Talk: Ed Ayers, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America

Thursday, November 16th, 2017 - 5:00pm to 6:00pm

GLC Book Talk lead by Ed Ayers on his new book: The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America (WW Norton, October 2017).

At the crux of America’s history stand two astounding events: the immediate and complete destruction of the most powerful system of slavery in the modern world, followed by a political reconstruction in which new constitutions established the fundamental rights of citizens for formerly enslaved people. Few people living in 1860 would have dared imagine either event, and yet, in retrospect, both seem to have been inevitable.

In a beautifully crafted narrative, Edward L. Ayers restores the drama of the unexpected to the history of the Civil War. He does this by setting up at ground level in the Great Valley counties of Augusta, Virginia, and Franklin, Pennsylvania, communities that shared a prosperous landscape but were divided by the Mason-Dixon Line. From the same vantage point occupied by his unforgettable characters, Ayers captures the strategic savvy of Lee and his local lieutenants, and the clear vision of equal rights animating black troops from Pennsylvania. We see the war itself become a scourge to the Valley, its pitched battles punctuating a cycle of vicious attack and reprisal in which armies burned whole towns for retribution. In the weeks and months after emancipation, from the streets of Staunton, Virginia, we see black and white residents testing the limits of freedom as political leaders negotiate the terms of readmission to the Union.

Ayers deftly shows throughout how the dynamics of political opposition drove these momentous events, transforming once unimaginable outcomes into fact. With analysis as powerful as its narrative, here is a landmark history of the Civil War.

Marìsa J. Fuentes - Refuse Bodies, Dispossessed Lives: The Ethical Practice of History

GLC Public Panel Discussion: Confronting Coercion: Building Worker Power in the 21st Century

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm