Historical Studies’ Tab Pulitzer Prize Finalist’ Ayers for Inaugural Abraham Lincoln Memorial Lecture

The Department of Historical Studies is pleased to welcome Dr. Edward L. Ayers, President Emeritus and Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities at the University of Richmond. Professor Ayers is a renowned Civil War historian and the author or editor of 10 books. He has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award, was the Carnegie Foundation’s National Professor of the Year in 2003, and was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2013. Ayers is also the current president of the Organization of American Historians.

Ayer’s first book on the Civil War, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, published in 2003, won the Bancroft prize, awarded annually for the best
books published in American history. The follow-up volume, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America was published in 2017, and continues the story from the first volume into Reconstruction. Together, the two volumes tell the story of the Civil War and Reconstruction as it was experienced on the ground by the individuals—men and women, white and black, civilian and solder—living in two communities in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Ayers has also been at the forefront of the “digital humanities,” which uses digital technologies to find and present new patterns and interpretations in the past. Ayers will be speaking at SIUE on “Abraham Lincoln, Race, and Slavery.”

“We are pleased and excited to have Dr. Ayers visit our campus. His scholarship concerning the Civil War and Reconstruction provides a critically important perspective that remains deeply relevant for our society. In addition, as one of the pioneers of the Digital Humanities, his insights in this area will be extremely valuable to us in the College of Arts and Sciences,” says College of Arts & Sciences Dean, Greg Budzban.

During the day on Wednesday, Feb. 28, Ayers will also visit with SIUE students. He will share his expertise with students in Dr. Erik Alexander’s section of HIST 338: “The Civil War and Reconstruction.” SIUE graduate students in the Department of Historical Studies will also have the opportunity to sit down with Ayers and discuss their own work.

Dr. Erik Alexander, assistant professor, Department of Historical Studies, teaches courses at SIUE on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, weighs in on having Ayers on the SIUE campus.

“We are very excited to have such a distinguished scholar of the United States and the Civil War as Ed Ayers visit our campus. Ed is among the preeminent Civil War historians writing today, and anyone interested in Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War will find his talk relevant and interesting. We hope to draw a large audience from the SIUE community, but we think his visit will be of great interest to the general public as well,” says Alexander.

The lecture will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 5:30 p.m. in the Abbott Auditorium of Lovejoy Library on the SIUE campus and is free and open to the public. Interested members of the community may park for free after 5 p.m. in the green lot behind Lovejoy Library. A reception will follow the lecture with light refreshments and snacks.

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