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2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Heather Cox Richardson

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Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival! If you love storytelling or are simply curious about the world, you’ve landed in the right place. As a way into this vast — and vastly fascinating — festival celebrating “American Ingenuity,” we offer here a string of highlights that truly illustrate the resilience, intelligence and wit of this year’s authors. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection and special limited-time content on the Virtual Festival Platform.

We all know the North won the Civil War. The treaty with the South that was signed at Appomattox says so, right?

But did the North really win? Heather Cox Richardson, in her provocative new book, “How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America” (Oxford University), argues that democracy’s blood-soaked victory was ephemeral. The system of racial dominance that had sustained the South soon moved west and established a foothold. Settlers proceeded to seize Mexican land and oppress Native Americans, cementing racial hierarchies.

In this video recorded exclusively for the National Book Festival, Richardson emphasizes this point:

“American democracy has within it a fundamental contradiction, and that is the founders came up with the idea that all men are created equal, [yet they] in fact owned other human beings. They enslaved Africans. They enslaved Indigenous people. They considered women a lesser being altogether. So inherent within the concept of American equality is American inequality. And that contradiction, that paradox has driven our politics ever since.”

You can hear more from Richardson and from many other eminent historians, such as Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Jon Meacham and Eric Foner, on the Virtual Festival Platform (Go to “Stages” tab and select “History & Biography.” Click on “Sessions” and select an author).

Richardson and other select authors also recorded Q&A sessions with their fans. These are  available from the platform by clicking on an author’s name.

The National Book Festival would not be possible without the support of its generous sponsors. Longtime festival sponsor Wells Fargo sponsored the History & Biography stage. If you go to the “Partner Activities” tab and enter the Wells Fargo “booth” you can see author Veronica Chambers in a video celebrating reading, education and the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in America. Chambers gives us an inside look at her book “Finish the Fight! The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote.” Written with the staff of the New York Times, Chambers shares the lesser-known stories of diverse heroines who fought for the 19th amendment. You can also download several fun and educational “handouts.”

Videos from more than 120 fascinating authors are available on the festival’s various stages, such as Children’s, Teens, Fiction, Genre Fiction, Poetry & Prose and Understanding Our World. There is something for every age and interest.

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival celebrated its 20th birthday this year. You can get up-to-the-minute festival news, highlights, and other important information by subscribing to this blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You can support the festival, too, by making a gift now.

Comments (2)

  1. couldn’t agree more….

  2. Fascinating. I just finished re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee and it became very apparent to me that the current Right Wing sentiments had already been born and bred in South Carolina. Harper Lee seemed intent upon sharing what she saw as a native of the south in both her books. Having Heather Cox Richardson, a qualified history professor, confirm that has really opened my eyes to what is happening in our nation today. Wow. And thank you.

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