WASHINGTON, January 11, 2000 -- Princeton University history professor James M. McPherson, considered among the greatest historians of the Civil War, has been named the 2000 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today.
"James M. McPherson has helped millions of Americans better understand the meaning and legacy of the American Civil War," said NEH Chairman William Ferris. "By establishing the highest standards for scholarship and public education about the Civil War and by providing leadership in the movement to protect the nation's battlefields, he has made an exceptional contribution to historical awareness in America. I am delighted to name him the 2000 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities."
The annual NEH-sponsored Jefferson Lecture, named in honor of the scholarly accomplishments of the third president of the United States, is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. Dr. McPherson will present his lecture, titled "'For a Vast Future Also': Lincoln and the Millennium," on Monday, March 27, 2000, at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The lecture is open to the public, and attendance is free. Those interested in attending should call (202) 606-8446 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to request an invitation.
McPherson has authored a dozen books about the Civil War and more than 100 articles and reviews. His Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988), is considered by many the best single-volume history of the American Civil War and is credited with generating widespread popular interest in the subject throughout the nation. Published as a volume in the Oxford History of the United States series, Battle Cry of Freedom helped pave the way for the success and critical acclaim of the 1990 PBS documentary "The Civil War," for which McPherson served as an advisor.
In addition to his scholarship, McPherson is a vigorous preservationist. He has served on the boards of two nonprofit organizations dedicated to preserving and protecting Civil War battlefields-the Civil War Trust and the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites. The two organizations, which have saved nearly 10,000 acres of endangered battlefield land at more than 50 sites in 15 states, merged in November 1999 to form the Civil War Preservation Trust.
McPherson also served on the Civil War Sites Advisory Committee created by Congress in 1991, which reported in 1993 that "more than one-third of all principal Civil War battlefields are either lost or are hanging onto existence by the slenderest of threads." In 1993 and 1994, McPherson served as president of Protect Historic America, which successfully opposed a plan to build a commercial historical theme park near Virginia's Manassas battlefield.
McPherson has taught for nearly four decades at Princeton, where he holds the title of George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History. In addition to Battle Cry of Freedom, his books include For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1997), Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War (1996), What They Fought For, 1861-1865 (1994), Gettysburg (paintings by Mort Kunstler) (1993), Images of the Civil War (paintings by Mort Kunstler) (1992), Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution (1992), Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (1982; 2d ed., 1992), The Abolitionist Legacy: From Reconstruction to the NAACP (1975), Marching Toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War (1968), The Negro's Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted During the Civil War and Reconstruction (1965) and The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction (1964).
Born in Valley City, N.D., McPherson has a B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn., from which he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and a Ph.D. with highest distinction from Johns Hopkins University.
McPherson was chosen to be the 2000 Jefferson Lecturer by the National Council on the Humanities, the 26-member advisory board of NEH. The lectureship carries a $10,000 honorarium.
Previous Jefferson Lecturers have been Caroline Walker Bynum, Bernard Bailyn, Stephen Toulmin, Toni Morrison, Vincent Scully, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Conquest, Bernard M.W. Knox, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Bernard Lewis, Walker Percy, Robert Nisbet, Forrest McDonald, Leszek Kolakowski, Cleanth Brooks, Sidney Hook, Jaroslav Pelikan, Emily T. Vermeule, Gerald Holton, Barbara Tuchman, Edward Shils, C. Vann Woodward, Saul Bellow, John Hope Franklin, Paul A. Freund, Robert Penn Warren, Erik Erikson and Lionel Trilling.
Popular interest in the Civil War has led many Americans to trace their family ancestry to the war's participants. Anyone interested in tracing his or her family ancestry is invited to participate in NEH's "My History Is America's History" project, which encourages Americans to do research into their family history and share the results online. The project's guidebook, available for free while supplies last, can be ordered by calling 1-877-NEH-HISTORY (1-877-634-4478). There is a nominal postage and handling charge for delivery. Family stories can be shared online, and the guidebook can also be downloaded for free, at http://www.myhistory.org, the project's website.