Videos of our past events are available to view on the pages listed below.
Fall 2023 Events
September 15, 2023
A prize-winning historian, Jefferson Cowie, chronicles a sinister idea of freedom: white Americans’ freedom to oppress others and their fight against the government that got in their way in the Pulitzer Price winning book Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power.
In Freedom’s Dominion, historian Jefferson Cowie traces this complex saga by focusing on a quintessentially American place: Barbour County, Alabama, the ancestral home of political firebrand George Wallace. In a land shaped by settler colonialism and chattel slavery, white people weaponized freedom to seize Native lands, champion secession, overthrow Reconstruction, question the New Deal, and fight against the civil rights movement.
Spring 2023 Events
May 11, 2023
The Center for Presidential History presents a discussion the new book Mourning the Presidents: Loss and Legacy in American Culture with speakers Lindsay Chervinsky, Camille Davis, Sharron Conrad, and Matthew Costello.
Mourning the Presidents examines the deaths, funerals, mourning rituals, and legacies of twelve presidents, from George Washington to George H. W. Bush. How the nation responds to the death of a president reveals much about the political climate, social values, domestic divisions, and international pressures facing the nation at that moment. By examining how American society mourned twelve presidential deaths, how different communities celebrated or criticized their legacies, and how these trends evolved over time, this volume offers a unique approach to American culture and politics from 1799 to today. This book reveals surprising parallels between different generations of mourners, the role of race and presidential families in shaping legacies, and what presidential deaths reveal about society in the United States at the time of death and today.
April 19, 2023
Will Inboden’s new book The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink gives a masterful account of how Ronald Reagan and hist national security team confronted the Soviets, reduced the nuclear threat, won the Cold War, and supported the spread of freedom around the world.
The Peacemaker reveals how Reagan’s White House waged the Cold Ware while managing multiple crises around the globe. As president, Reagan remade the four-decades-old policy of containment and challenged the Soviets in an arms race and ideological contest that pushed them toward economic and political collapse, all while extending an olive branch of diplomacy as he sought a peaceful end to the conflict. Based on thousands of pages of newly-declassified documents and interviews with senior Reagan officials, The Peacemaker brims with fresh insights into one of America’s most consequential presidents.
March 29, 2023
Gregory Brew, of Yale University and a CPH Senior Fellow, shares about his new book Petroleum and Progress in Iran: Oil Development, and the Cold War which places oil at the center of the Cold War narrative and contextualizes Iran’s pro-Western alignment and slide into petrolic authoritarianism.
From the 1940s to 1960s, Iran developed into the world’s first ‘petro-state’, where oil represented the bulk of state revenue and supported an industrializing economy, expanding middle class, and powerful administrative and military apparatus. Drawing on both American and Iranian sources, Gregory Brew outlines how the Pahlavi petro-state emerged from a confluence of forces – some global, some local. He shows how the shah’s particular form of oil-based authoritarianism evolved from interactions with American developmentalists, Pahlavi technocrats, and major oil companies, all against the looming backdrop of the United States’ Cold War policy and the coup d’etat of August 1953.
March 7, 2023
SMU’s Center for Presidential History is entering our second decade. Not surprisingly, we begin by looking back, and by looking at the way most Americans engage the White House and Washington in our 21st century: through the eyes, thoughts, and words of the journalists who follow the president every day. Join Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, Chief White House Correspondent for the New York Times and a Staff Writer at the New Yorker respectively, as they reveal and discuss the changes in presidential engagement with the media since CPH’s founding.
February 9, 2023
One of our preeminent historians of race and democracy, Peniel E. Joseph (University of Texas, Austin), argues that the period since 2008 has marked nothing less than America’s Third Reconstruction.
The racial reckoning that unfolded in 2020, he argues, marked the climax of a Third Reconstruction: a new struggle for citizenship and dignity for Black Americans, just as momentous as the movements that arose after the Civil War and during the civil rights era. Joseph draws revealing connections and insights across centuries as he traces this Third Reconstruction from the election of Barack Obama to the rise of Black Lives Matter to the failed assault on the Capitol.
Susan Colbourn (Duke University) discusses her new book which tells the story of the height of nuclear crisis and the remarkable waning of the fear that gripped the globe.
Euromissiles is a history of diplomacy and alliances, social movements and strategy, nuclear weapons and nagging fears, and politics. To tell that history, Colbourn takes a long view of the strategic crisis—from the emerging dilemmas of allied defense in the early 1950s through the aftermath of the INF Treaty thirty-five years later. The result is a dramatic and sweeping tale that changes the way we think about the Cold War and its culmination.
Fall 2022 Events
December 1, 2022
Christopher McKnight Nichols (The Ohio State University) discusses his new book which explores the ideological landscape of international relations from the colonial era to the present.
Ideology drives American foreign policy in ways seen and unseen. Racialized notions of subjecthood and civilization underlay the political revolution of eighteenth-century white colonizers; neoconservatism, neoliberalism, and unilateralism propelled the post–Cold War United States to unleash catastrophe in the Middle East. Ideologies order and explain the world, project the illusion of controllable outcomes, and often explain success and failure. How does the history of U.S. foreign relations appear differently when viewed through the lens of ideology?
Framing Reconstruction: Presidents, Popular Sentiment, and the Idea of a Lost Moment of Racial Accommodation
November 17, 2022
Gary W. Gallaghers, University of Virginia, and Joan Waugh, UCLA, discuss Reconstruction president, how Union war aims shaped the postwar political landscape, and modern perceptions of the postwar years.
This program explores how the four Reconstruction presidents have been assessed, how Union war aims shaped the postwar political landscape, and how modern perceptions often ignore attitudes and political realities in the postwar years. It suggests that an appreciation of wartime goals and of American traditions regarding a peacetime professional military establishment render the story of Reconstruction not only understandable but also predictable.
October 13, 2022
Nicole Hemmer of Vanderbilt University offers a bold, new history of modern conservatism that finds its origins in the populist, right-wing politics of the 1990s.
Historian Nicole Hemmer reveals, in her new book Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s, the Reagan coalition was short-lived; it fell apart as soon as its charismatic leader left office. In the 1990s — a decade that has yet to be recognized as the breeding ground for today’s polarizing politics — changing demographics and the emergence of a new political-entertainment media fueled the rise of combative far-right politicians and pundits.
September 21, 2022
Historian Sam Haynes presents a bold new history of the origins and aftermath of the Texas Revolution, revealing how Indians, Mexican, and Americans battled for survival in one of the continent’s most diverse regions.
The Texas Revolution has long been cast as an epic episode in the origins of the American West. As the story goes, larger-than-life figures like Sam Houston, David Crockett, and William Barret Travis fought to free Texas from repressive Mexican rule. In Unsettled Land (Basic, 2022), historian Sam Haynes reveals the reality beneath this powerful creation myth.
September 15, 2022
Historian Max Krochmal and senior editor Jack Herrera discuss the complex and critical role of Tejano politics, in history and today.
Election seasons have always been filled with political and partisan appeals to various groups of people: special interest groups, religious organizations, ethnic voting blocs, and more. One group which has received a dramatic increase in political and journalistic attention over the last few years are Tejanos: Texans of Mexican or Hispanic descent. Much digital ink has been spilled over Tejano voting history and practice: will they vote Democratic blue? Are Republican red numbers increasing since the Trump presidency? But while it can be tempting to presume that so-called interest groups like Tejanos will vote one way or the other—red or blue—it is not so simple. And it never has been.
Spring 2022 Events
April 27, 2022
New York Times best-selling author A. J. BAIME tells the thrilling tale of the 1948 presidential election, one of the greatest election stories of all time, as Truman mounted a history-making comeback and staked a claim for a new course for America.
On the eve of the 1948 election, America was a fractured country. Racism was rampant, foreign relations were fraught, and political parties were more divided than ever. Americans were certain that President Harry S. Truman’s political career was over. Truman’s own wife, Bess, did not believe he could win. The only man in the world confident that Truman would win was Mr. Truman himself. And win he did.
Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum: Japanese American Incarceration: The Camps and Coerced Labor during World War II
April 6, 2022
Join Stephanie D. Hinnershitz, author of Japanese American Incarceration: The Camps and Coerced Labor during World War II, and historian with the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy at the National WWII Museum, as she discusses how the U.S. government used incarceration to address labor demands during World War II and how Japanese Americans responded to the stripping of their rights.
This program is presented in partnership with the Center for Presidential History and the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, and in conjunction with their current special exhibition, “Courage and Compassion: The Japanese American World War II Experience,” on view at the Museum through June 12, 2022. The special exhibition will be available to view prior to the event, beginning at 6:00 p.m.
March 7, 2022
Drawing on her acclaimed new book, For the Many: American Feminists and the Global Fight for Democratic Equality, Dorothy Sue Cobble will discuss how American women moved the nation and the world toward inclusion and equality.
For the Many: American Feminists and the Global Fight for Democratic Equality presents an inspiring look at how U.S. women and their global allies pushed the nation and the world toward justice and greater equality for all. Reclaiming social democracy as one of the central threads of American feminism, Dorothy Sue Cobble offers a bold rewriting of twentieth-century feminist history and documents how forces, peoples, and ideas worldwide shaped American politics.
February 7, 2022
Historian Sarah Coleman recounts the numerous battles over US immigrants’ rights since 1965―and how these conflicts reshaped access to education, employment, civil liberties, and more.
The 1965 Hart-Celler Act transformed the American immigration system by abolishing national quotas in favor of a seemingly egalitarian approach. But subsequent demographic shifts resulted in a backlash over the social contract and the rights of citizens versus noncitizens….
Fall 2021 Events
November 11, 2021
With political gridlock in Washington DC at an all time high, government shutdowns–or the threat of them–have become a routine occurrence. National parks close. Federal paychecks stop going out. The National Institute of Health stops admitting new patients. How did we get to the point where it has become normal for the US Government to halt in its tracks? The history, in this case, is quite recent….
November 11, 2021
Historian Cameron Blevins discusses his latest book, Paper Trails: The U.S. Post and the Making of the American West, on the pivotal role of the U.S. postal service during the country’s expansion west….
October 14, 2021
October 8, 2021
The Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute Asian Studies & Asian American Experiences Research Cluster and the Center for Presidential History present a documentary screening and open discussion of the award-winning documentary Asian Americans.
The screening featured guest speaker Dr. Scott Kurashige, Chair of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies at Texas Christian University and moderated by Dr. Crista J. DeLuzio, associate professor of history at SMU.
October 7, 2021
Despite—or because of—its huge popular culture status, Peanuts enabled cartoonist Charles Schulz to offer political commentary on the most controversial topics of postwar American culture through the voices of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Peanuts gang….
February 7, 2022
Author and historian Spencer McBride discusses one of the most important elections in American history and the focus of his latest book, Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassin, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom.
By the election year of 1844, Joseph Smith, the controversial founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had amassed a national following of some 25,000 believers. In less than twenty years, Joseph Smith had transformed the American religious landscape and grown his own political power substantially. Still, the political standing of the Mormon people remained unstable….
Summer 2021 Events
June 7, 2021
When Jean Becker closed up President Bush’s Houston office in 2019 after his death, she told the Houston Chronicle, “What a pleasure. What a journey.” In The Man I Knew, the former chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush shares an intimate look into the post-presidency of one of America’s most influential one-term presidents.
June 2, 2021
The Center for Presidential History is proud to partner with Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in their presentation of To Bigotry No Sanction – a new cantata based on George Washington’s historic 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, RI, composed by Jonathan Comisar and featuring members of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Spring 2021 Events
May 6, 2021
What is grand strategy? What does it aim to achieve? And what differentiates it from normal strategic thought–what, in other words, makes it “grand”? In answering these questions, most scholars have focused on diplomacy and warfare, so much so that “grand strategy” has become almost an equivalent of “military history.”
April 28, 2021
In the 1950s, the US government not only called the new People’s Republic of China an enemy of the “free world” but also supported the Chinese Nationalist regime on Taiwan. In response, PRC leader Mao Zedong derided the United States as a “paper tiger” and promised to help defeat American aggression. The resulting international tensions both shaped and limited the politics of Chinese American communities…
April 22, 2021
Tobacco is the quintessential American product. From Jamestown to the Marlboro Man, the plant occupied the heart of the nation’s economy and expressed its enduring myths. But today smoking rates have declined and smokers are exiled from many public spaces. The story of tobacco’s fortunes may seem straightforward: science triumphed over our addictive habits and the cynical machinations of tobacco executives. Yet the reality is more complicated…
Join us LIVE for the season 1 finale of “The Past, the Promise, the Presidency: Race & the American Legacy,” the CPH’s inaugural podcast season. If you’ve been with us from the start, or for any period of time since then, we’re sure you’ve got questions! And comments. Critiques and thoughts.
Beginning with Etan Patz’s disappearance in Manhattan in 1979, a spate of high-profile cases of missing and murdered children stoked anxieties about the threats of child kidnapping and exploitation. Publicized through an emerging twenty-four-hour news cycle, these cases supplied evidence of what some commentators dubbed “a national epidemic” of child abductions…
In a narrative-redefining approach, Engaging the Evil Empire dramatically alters how we look at the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Tracking key events in US-Soviet relations across the years between 1980 and 1985, Simon Miles shows that covert engagement gave way to overt conversation as both superpowers determined that open diplomacy was the best means of furthering their own, primarily competitive, goals…
Sorting Out the Mixed Economy: The Rise and Fall of Welfare and Developmental States in the Americas
The untold story of how welfare and development programs in the United States and Latin America produced the instruments of their own destruction
In the years after 1945, a flood of U.S. advisors swept into Latin America with dreams of building a new economic order and lifting the Third World out of poverty. These businessmen, economists, community workers, and architects went south with the gospel of the New Deal on their lips, but Latin American realities soon revealed unexpected possibilities within the New Deal itself.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed major, sometimes fatal shortcomings in the U.S. healthcare system. Through a conversation about the recent history of healthcare, historians George Aumoithe and Maria K. John will shed light on today’s crisis…
From civil rights to Ferguson, Franchise reveals the untold history of how fast food became one of the greatest generators of black wealth in America.
Often blamed for the rising rates of obesity and diabetes among black Americans, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s have long symbolized capitalism’s villainous effects on our nation’s most vulnerable communities…
A new biography published about George Washington is unlike any other. Described as “form-shattering and myth-crushing,” “keen and savage,” as well as “spirited and engaging,” historian Alexis Coe’s “You Never Forget Your First” chronicles the life of our first president from a 21st century and “decidedly feminist” perspective. Coe says, “I set out to write a book that was true, and different, and that added any kind of diversity in approach, perspective, and, of course, author. I set out to take a giant leap away from hagiography and great man history—and really mean it…
How will the election of 2020 be remembered by history? What, if any, are its historical antecedents, and to what degree is it unprecedented? And, as we look ahead to Inauguration Day, what can history tell us about the next four years?
Join us as we welcome presidential historian Thomas Balcerski for an evening of wide-ranging conversation about the election of 2020 in historical perspective…
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, two things are clear: we are in an unprecedented constitutional crisis, and President Trump is at the center of it.
In the middle of this crisis, you (like most Americans) may find yourself asking questions you don’t know the answer to…