Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Starr Center Director Goodheart Launches "New York Times" Online Series on America's Civil War

CHESTERTOWN—Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, will offer glimpses back to our nation’s most tumultuous time in a new online history column for the New York Times that launched Monday, November 1.

His articles are part of a series entitled “Disunion,” marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Goodheart’s contributions will recount what was happening on specific days 150 years ago. The first installment, “The Last Ordinary Day,” sets the stage for Lincoln’s election as the nation’s 16th president: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/the-last-ordinary-day

Washington College students James Schelberg ’12 and Kathy Thornton ’13 are contributing research to the Times’ website, mostly by combing through pages from original Civil War-era newspapers. These sources are available via the Readex America’s Historical Newspapers archive, an online resource offered through the College’s Miller Library.

Thornton, a sophomore from Clarksville, MD, says working with Goodheart and being able to read original newspapers from the Civil War era has opened up possibilities for her as a student and researcher. “I’ve looked through issues of the New York Herald online for any articles written by Henry Villard, a Herald correspondent who accompanied Lincoln after he was elected on November 6, 1860. I was just amazed reading through the daily newspapers knowing that it was the closest thing to actually being there 150 years ago, knowing that we could really follow the sequence of events because we had access to each day's history.

“To know that I have the opportunity to research original documents and that my research is being used for the New York Times is incredible. How often do you get to say that you were part of a New York Times research project as a sophomore in college?”

For many columns, Goodheart will draw from research he completed for his upcoming book, 1861: The Civil War Awakening. Scheduled to be published in April by Alfred A. Knopf, 1861 explores the issues and events that divided the nation.

“That year has always fascinated me as the moment when the country—not just the government, but individual Americans—faced so many decisions,” Goodheart said. “Americans had to decide not only, ‘What side am I on?’ but also ‘What kind of country do I want America to be?’ I wanted to explore the larger cultural, ideological and political themes of that time.”

The book’s narrative actually begins in 1860, with Abraham Lincoln’s campaign for president, and ends July 4, 1861, when President Lincoln sent a message to Congress outlining his plans for prosecuting the war. “But the climax is really May of 1861, when enslaved African Americans began to free themselves—more than a year before the Emancipation Proclamation,” says Goodheart.

The “Disunion” series will feature other historians contributing commentary and perspective as well. To bookmark Goodheart’s ongoing contributions, use this link: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/author/adam-goodheart/.

Goodheart has been the director of the C.V. Starr Center since 2006. His articles appear in National Geographic, Smithsonian, and many other publications. Based at the circa-1746 Custom House along Chestertown's colonial waterfront, the Starr Center supports the art of written history and explores our nation’s past—particularly the legacy of its Founding era—in innovative ways through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach. For more information, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.

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