Are We One Country or Two? A Conversation about Reconciliation with David Blight
Are We One Country or Two?
A Conversation about Reconciliation with David Blight
Wednesday, February 3, 2021 • 3:00pm MST • Online, via Zoom
For years, commentators have talked about the culture wars, but increasingly, scholars and others are beginning to refer to a “truth divide,” suggesting that beliefs held by Americans are now so different that we are essentially living in two separate realities.
The disagreement about what constitutes American values and goals has now gotten so deep, one commentator suggested that it wasn’t so much about polarization related to political or cultural issues anymore, but rather democracy itself that we seemed to disagree about.
Reflecting on the attacks on the Capitol, the presidential inauguration, and other recent events, this event will feature David Blight, one of the country’s leading Civil War historians, in conversation with the Center’s directors, John Carlson and Tracy Fessenden. Blight will draw on his knowledge of another moment in American history when the country was so divided it went to war, to explore what it means to live in and think about a divided nation. Is polarization necessarily bad? Or are there lessons can we learn from history that might help us understand and bridge the divide? Is it still possible for events of civic celebration, public history, and collective memory—such as a presidential inauguration—to advance a vision of national unity, and for whom? Does history offer us any guidelines for how to heal a nation? In short, is reconciliation possible?
About the Speaker:
- David W. Blight is Sterling Professor of History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. The author, editor or co-editor of over fifteen books, his 2018 book, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, has won eight book awards including the Pulitzer Prize in History, the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, the Bancroft Prize for History, and the Francis Parkman Prize. Blight is also the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001), which garnered eight book awards including the Bancroft Prize, the Merle Curti Award, the Abraham Lincoln Prize and the Frederick Douglass Prize; A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation (2008), which won the Connecticut book award for best book in non-fiction; and American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (2011), which won the Aniston-Wolf Prize in non-fiction for best book on race and racism. Blight is featured in many documentary films on American history on PBS, the BBC, and other networks, and writes frequently for the popular press, including the Atlantic, the New York Times, and many other journals. Blight was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012, and his popular lecture course on the “Civil War and Reconstruction Era” is accessible to the public at https://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-119.
John Carlson (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is interim director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, associate professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, and co-director of the project “Recovering Truth: Religion, Journalism and Democracy in a Post-Truth Era,” an initiative funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. A scholar of religious ethics, Carlson writes on issues of war and peace, religion and violence, justice and human rights, and democracy and civic life, including pieces that reflect on concepts of civil religion and American purpose as expressed through Presidential inaugural speeches.
Tracy Fessenden (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is the Steve and Margaret Forster Professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, director of strategic initiatives in the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, and co-director of “Recovering Truth: Religion, Journalism and Democracy in a Post-Truth Era,” an initiative funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. Her work focuses on religion and American literature and the arts; gender, race, and sexuality in American religious history; and the relationship between religion and the secular in American law, culture, and public life, including Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature.
Selected bibliography for David Blight:
- Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom (Simon & Schuster, 2018)
- A People & A Nation: A History of the United States, Cengage Learning, 2014
- Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, Belknap Press, 2001
- “The Reconstruction of America,” Foreign Affairs (2021, January/February)
- “American Pogrom,” Real Clear Books (2020, November 6)
- “Europe In 1989, America in 2020, and the Death of the Lost Cause,” The New Yorker (2020, July 1)