Historian Alan Taylor has created another Pulitzer Prize winning effort.
His latest book, “Thomas Jefferson’s Education” (W. W. Norton & Company, 448 pgs., $29.95) is a crucial examination of three significant aspects of Jefferson’s life: early education at the school of William and Mary, his relationship with slavery and his creation of the University of Virginia.
Without a doubt Taylor’s valuable research and noteworthy, clear and precise writing on Jefferson as a student at William & Mary, 1760-1762, is that the best within the last 70 years. His examination of Jefferson’s life at the school also as William & Mary’s first 120 years is adequate to or exceeds the work of famed Pulitzer Prize winning Jefferson biographer Dumas Malone, also a University of Virginia academician.
William & Mary’s saga, upon which much of Jefferson’s educational philosophy springs, wasn’t the inspiration upon which he wanted to make and build his new university. He rejected the monarchy and aristocratic model of education, and Taylor points out felt “the colleges and university would train for republican leadership” and more importantly that local schools “would enable every commoner ‘to read, to guage & to vote understandingly on what’s passing.’”
Taylor’s study of slavery and Jefferson’s ultimate support of it’s a crucial point of reference for it appears in various points of Jefferson’s complicated life. for instance, the will of enslaved persons in Albemarle County to possess their own schools, just like the white children, figured ultimately into the primary funding of the University of Virginia, the successor to Central College. The slave community had sought funding for his or her own schools from the government.
Controversy, as Taylor stressed, surrounded the birth of the university from the beginning as Jefferson’s desire for a replacement center of learning came from his ultimate disdain for his W&M school, that he had had ambivalent feelings for many years.
It is important to notice that a good sort of Virginians were engaged with Jefferson throughout his life, and their roles in his educational strife, trial and supreme success are examined intently by Taylor.
Personally, if this book doesn’t win major awards, it’ll still become an “encyclopedia” of Jefferson’s educational philosophy and important to historians for many years to return.
Taylor, the Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University, is already a two-time Pulitzer winner together with his previous books, “William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the first American Republic” in 1996 and “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia: 1772-1832,” in 2014.
This column has been written for half a year and today we might wish to take this New Year’s opportunity to spotlight the simplest books in “Kale on Books” during 2019. There are six works of note. i want to be forthright in saying that three of the authors (first three within the list) were colleagues of mine at the Richmond Times-Dispatch a few years ago. Nevertheless, their books in 2019 gained attention not only from me, but also regionally.
“The Ghost Ships of Archangel: The Arctic Voyage that Defied the Nazis” tells the story of 4 Allied ships that separated from their convoy to go into the ice mass of the North Pole, seeking safety from Nazi bombers. (Viking)
William Geroux wrote “The Ghost Ships of Archangel: The Arctic Voyage that Defied the Nazis” (Viking, 352 pgs., $28) a war II adventure. It focused on alittle group of ships from a bigger convoy enroute from Iceland to Archangel, a Russian Arctic port. How the ships eluded the Nazis and therefore the men involved made for a really well-written evocative account.
Howard Owen crafted his eighth Willie Black mystery, “Evergreen,” (Permanent Press, 254 pgs., $29.95) an excellent, lively read in what has become a crucial Richmond-based series. Black, a mixed-race reporter for a Richmond newspaper, becomes wanting to determine more about his father, whom he never knew. That saga becomes a full-blown mystery in itself.
The terrible mass shooting on April 16, 2007 on campus in Blacksburg, became the idea along side terrific research by Tom Kapsidelis for his book, “After Virginia Tech: Guns, Safety, and Healing within the Era of Mass Shootings” (University of Virginia Press, 272 pgs., $29.95). He examines the shootings and their aftermath, while also exploring other mass shootings by interviewing survivors, who often have sought to focus officials on guns and campus safety.
Mechanicsville author Ben Cleary takes today’s readers to the battlefields in “Searching for Stonewall Jackson: an issue for Legacy during a Divided America (Twelve, 384 pgs., $30). Often putting himself appropriately within the story, Cleary seeks to recount Jackson’s military successes also as his often misunderstood religious and private beliefs.
Theologian Shea Tuttle in her volume “Exactly as You Are: The Life and Faith of Mr. Rogers” (Wm. Eerdmans, 221 pgs., $23.99) carefully examines television personality Fred Rogers from a singular perspective. A movie, a documentary and a number of other recent books didn’t examine Rogers’ religious upbringing and his family’s background that led to his personality developed and utilized within the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” television program.
Although not written by a Virginian nor a few Virginia subject as per my original column police, Andrew Roberts’ book, “Churchill — Walking with Destiny” (Viking, 1151 pgs., $40) examines the lifetime of Churchill, easily one among the foremost dramatic political leaders of the 20th century. Rogers’ research and use of newly available royal material easily closes the door on another relevant Churchill biography for subsequent 25-30 years.