Publication Date

February 1, 2000

Perspectives Section




The advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has chosen James M. McPherson, Princeton University history professor and noted historian of the Civil War, as the 2000 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities. McPherson joins a distinguished list of humanities scholars and is the third historian to be so honored in the past three years.

"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," declared Ferris.

The annual NEH-sponsored Jefferson Lecture is the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. McPherson will deliver 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 to request an invitation.

McPherson has written 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 yet another illuminating reconstruction of the period's history in a more recent book, For Cause and Comrades (1997),for which he was awarded the Lincoln Prize, McPherson focused on the stories of the ordinary citizen-soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

Indeed, McPherson stands out among historians for his assiduous efforts to break out of the ivory tower and to bridge the gulf between the scholar and the public.

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. McPherson also served on the Civil War Sites Advisory Committee. 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.

See also

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