Fall 2020 Events
Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home
December 3, 2020
A gripping and true story about five boys who were kidnapped in the North and smuggled into slavery in the Deep South—and their daring attempt to escape and bring their captors to justice, reminiscent of Twelve Years A Slave and Never Caught.
Philadelphia, 1825: five young, free black boys fall into the clutches of the most fearsome gang of kidnappers and slavers in the United States. Lured onto a small ship with the promise of food and pay, they are instead met with blindfolds, ropes, and knives. Over four long months, their kidnappers drive them overland into the Cotton Kingdom to be sold as slaves. Determined to resist, the boys form a tight brotherhood as they struggle to free themselves and find their way home…
Mapping the Gay Guides: Using Digital History to Explore LGBTQ Travel Guides, 1965-1980
November 23, 2020
Mapping the Gay Guides is a digital history project that is freely available online and uses mapping technology to transform these guidebooks into an interactive experience where users can explore historical queer geography. The site includes over 34,000 locations from all 50 states between 1965 and 1980. Join us as project directors Amanda Regan and Eric Gonzaba discuss Mapping the Gay Guides and what we can learn from using technology to study historical LGBTQ spaces…
Statecraft: The Bush 41 Team
November 12, 2020
Join the Miller Center and Southern Methodist University for a special screening of the director’s cut of the VPM/Miller Center documentary “Statecraft: The Bush 41 Team.” A discussion will immediately follow the screening featuring two experts from the film: Jeffrey A. Engel, director of SMU’s Center for Presidential History, and Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the Miller Center. The discussion will be moderated by Miller Center Director and CEO William Antholis…
The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution
October 27, 2020
The US Constitution never established a presidential cabinet―the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected the idea. So how did George Washington create one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government?
On November 26, 1791, George Washington convened his department secretaries―Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph―for the first cabinet meeting. Why did he wait two and a half years into his presidency to call his cabinet? Because the US Constitution did not create or provide for such a body. Washington was on his own…
Critical American Elections
October 23, 2020
Critical Elections in American History. Is 2020 One?
Politicians claim every election is ‘the most important of our lifetime,’ but 2020 feels like it just might be. Yet Americans have faced big choices before. Professor Jeffrey A. Engel will explore the politics and drama of critical votes that seemed to their era unusually important…
ELECTION SPECIAL: Historians Discuss
October 19, 2020
We face the most critical election of our lifetimes. That is often said. This year it seems as true as ever. Political historians Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer, both of Princeton University, join CPH’s Jeffrey Engel for a roundtable discussion of how 2020 looks to historians…
Just Like Us: The American Struggle to Understand Foreigners
October 13, 2020
Americans’ ideas of their differences from others have shaped the modern world—and how Americans have viewed foreigners is deeply revealing of their assumptions about themselves.
Just Like Us is a pathbreaking exploration of what foreignness has meant across American history. Thomas Borstelmann traces American ambivalence about non-Americans, identifying a paradoxical perception of foreigners as suspiciously different yet fundamentally sharing American values beneath the layers of culture…
Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884
October 7, 2020
The presidential election of 1884, in which Grover Cleveland ended the Democrats’ twenty-four-year presidential drought by defeating Republican challenger James G. Blaine, was one of the gaudiest in American history, remembered today less for its political significance than for the mudslinging and slander that characterized the campaign. But a closer look at the infamous election reveals far more complexity than previous stereotypes allowed, argues Mark Summers. Behind all the mud and malarkey, he says, lay a world of issues and consequences…
The Man Who Ran Washington: James A. Baker III
October 5, 2020
From two of America’s most revered political journalists comes the definitive biography of legendary White House chief of staff and secretary of state James A. Baker III: the man who ran Washington when Washington ran the world.
For a quarter-century, from the end of Watergate to the aftermath of the Cold War, no Republican won the presidency without his help or ran the White House without his advice…
JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956
September 23, 2020
A Pulitzer Prize–winning historian takes us as close as we have ever been to the real John F. Kennedy in this revelatory biography of the iconic, yet still elusive, thirty-fifth president.
By the time of his assassination in 1963, John F. Kennedy stood at the helm of the greatest power the world had ever seen, a booming American nation that he had steered through some of the most perilous diplomatic standoffs of the Cold War…
Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party
September 16, 2020
The story of how Newt Gingrich and his allies tainted American politics, launching an enduring era of brutal partisan warfare.
When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, President Obama observed that Trump “is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party.” In Burning Down the House, historian Julian Zelizer pinpoints the moment when our country was set on a path toward an era of bitterly partisan and ruthless politics, an era that was ignited by Newt Gingrich and his allies…
The People’s Revolt: Texas Populists and the Roots of American Liberalism
September 2, 2020
In the years after the Civil War, the banks, railroads, and industrial corporations of Gilded-Age America, abetted by a corrupt political system, concentrated vast wealth in the hands of the few and made poverty the fate of many. In response, a group of hard-pressed farmers and laborers from Texas organized a movement for economic justice called the Texas People’s Party—the original Populists…
1918 Flu Epidemic: The Real Story & What You Need to Know
August 27, 2020
Amidst troubling times, it is always helpful to look to history for precedent, context, and even guidance. As our society navigates the COVID pandemic, perhaps the most important historical moment for us to look back to is the 1918-19 pandemic…
THIRD RAIL: Is the Electoral College Relevant or a Relic?
August 14, 2020
Jesse Wegman believes the Electoral College is “antiquated and anti-democratic,” while Tara Ross calls it “indispensable.” On March 30, presidential historian Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at SMU, will moderate a discussion with Ross and Wegman about this 216-year-old institution created by the Twelfth Amendment…