John Stauffer, Chairman of the doctoral program in the History of American Civilization and Professor of English and African and African American Studies at Harvard University, spent four days, 30 March- 2 April, at the Alexander Hamilton Institute, conducting a series of scholarly events for faculty, students, and the public. Professor Stauffer the author of two recent best-selling books, The State of Jones (Doubleday, 2009; coauthored Sally Jenkins) and GIANTS: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (Twelve 2009). Professor Stauffer, one of the leading scholars of the history of abolition and emancipation of his generation, was co-winner of the prestigious Frederick Douglass prize for his Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionisnm and the Transformation of Race (Harvard University Press, 2004)
On 30 March, Professor Stauffer delivered a lecture “Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and the Great Books,” to a full house in the Kennedy auditorium at Hamilton College. Professor Stauffer discussed the self-making of both Lincoln and Douglass and the role that six great books in common had in advancing both men from youthful awkwardness and struggle into rhetorical and intellectual greatness.
On 31 March, Professor Stauffer directed a Leadership Luncheon attended by the AHI’s undergraduate fellows. Professor Stauffer assigned as the prescribed reading his essay “Douglass’s Self-Making and the Culture of Abolitionism in the Cambridge Companion to Frederick Douglass (2009).
On 1 April, Professor Stauffer joined the class on the Old South taught by AHI co-founders Douglas Ambrose and Robert Paquette to speak about the meaning of the antislavery crusade at a both a global and national level. The ecumenical crusade against slavery originated in England during the second-half of the eighteenth-century and registered a seismic shift in moral sensibility that would eventually capture the world. Professors Stauffer, Ambrose, and Paquette discussed with students how northern abolitionists like Gerrit Smith, one of Hamilton College’s most famous alumni, transformed within a few decades theoretical abolitionism into a mass antislavery movement with appeal to common working white men and women in the North. The class ended with Professor Stauffer leading a searching discussion of Frederick Douglass’s famous speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
On 2 April, Professor Stauffer led a caravan of vehicles with students, faculty, and others to Peterboro, New York to visit the National Abolition Hall of Fame and the remnants of the Gerrit Smith estate. Along with Professor Stauffer, representatives of NAHOF and local historical societies provided a guided tour of relevant buildings and artifacts. Beth Spokowsky of the Peterboro Area Historical Society, added to the rewards by disclosing to Professor Stauffer the discovery of a letter from George Fitzhugh, a prominent proslavery thinker, to Ann Smith. Professor Stauffer and Douglas Ambrose are preparing for publication a volume on the remarkable correspondence between Gerrit Smith and George Fitzhugh. Fitzhugh was related to Gerrit Smith’s wife Ann.
The AHI would like to thank Professor Stauffer publicly for his uncommon generosity in lending his time, energy, and intellect to these special events.