CHESTERTOWN, MD— Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alan Taylor, one of the most celebrated contemporary historians of early America, is spending two weeks in Chestertown as he works on his newest book project, telling a little-known story of war and freedom on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Taylor is in residence as the 2012 Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellow at Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience from March 31 through April 13. He will give a sneak preview of his work-in-progress at the College on Thursday, April 12.
The War of 1812 has often been called “America’s second revolution.” For thousands of enslaved African Americans around the Chesapeake – including many on the Eastern Shore of Maryland – it proved to be nothing less than a new birth of freedom as they sought liberty under the protection of British troops. Their long-forgotten story is the subject of Taylor’s work, following up on the success of his last book, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies (Knopf, 2010), which was a finalist for last year’s George Washington Book Prize.
Taylor’s April 12 talk, “American Exodus, British Canaan: The War of 1812 in the Chesapeake,” will begin at 5 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Commons. A book signing will follow. The event is sponsored by the Starr Center and co-sponsored by the Maryland State Archives, the Maryland Historical Society, the Historical Society of Kent County, and the Black Studies Program at Washington College. Attendees will have the opportunity to view rare original documents about the War of 1812 in Maryland, displayed for the occasion by the Maryland State Archives. The event is free and open to the public.
Taylor is Professor of History at the University of California Davis and a contributing editor to the New Republic. His previous books include William Cooper's Town (Knopf, 1996), which won the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes for American history. The Civil War of 1812 also drew widespread praise. The Washington Book Prize jury called it “the most illuminating and original history of the conflict ever written.” Pulitzer-winning historian Gordon Wood, writing in The New York Review of Books, called it “remarkable and deeply researched,” adding, “Taylor masterfully captures the strangeness of this war.”
Established through a generous gift from Maurice Meslans and Margaret Holyfield of St. Louis, the Starr Center’s annual Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellowship brings to campus an individual engaged in the study or interpretation of African-American history or a related field. Besides providing the recipient an opportunity for a period of focused research and writing, the fellowship also offers Washington College students and faculty a chance to spend time with some of today’s leading interpreters of African-American culture.
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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship and public outreach, and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.