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Mourning the Presidents: Loss and Legacy in American Culture

May 11, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:15 pm

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. 

On November 30, 2018, George H. W. Bush died at age ninety-four. Over the next several weeks, the nation participated in collective mourning. Strident political foes came together to celebrate Bush’s lifetime of service, diplomatic expertise, and kindness. Although Bush left office with a low approval rating, his death came at a time when the political atmosphere and tumultuous administration of Donald Trump caused many Americans to recall a time when the president served with decency. 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.

Dr. Lindsay M. Chervinsky is a presidential historian. She is the author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution and the forthcoming book, An Honest Man: The Inimitable Presidency of John Adams. She is a columnist at Governing and Washington Monthly, a regular contributor to media outlets and podcasts, and teaches audiences of all ages.

Dr. Camille Davis is the inaugural H. Ross Perot Sr. Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Presidential History.  Her role within CPH is multi-faceted. She works on an oral history project that studies the life and career of Ross Perot Sr., and she assesses concepts of American leadership and  American identity during the nation’s founding and early republic through the lens of visual and intellectual history. Her book project is called Visual Prestige: The Role of Portraiture in Shaping the Nascent Identity of American Leadership.

Dr. Sharron Conrad is a historian of the Civil Rights Movement and how it intersects with the American presidency. She joined the Center for Presidential History in 2019, and in 2021, she accepted the position of Associate Professor of History at Tarrant County College.

Dr. Matthew Costello joined the White House Historical Association as Vice President of the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History and Senior Historian in November 2016 after completing his Ph.D. and M.A. in American history at Marquette University. He received his B.A. in history and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.



May 11, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:15 pm