D.G. Martin

Leuchtenburg rates Obama

“How will historians rate Barack Obama’s presidency?” Following up my conversation last week with historian William Leuchtenburg about the challenges Hillary Clinton faces in her campaign, I wanted him to begin to put Obama in historical perspective, a challenging task for any one, but maybe not unfair to someone whose latest book, “The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton,” will be out in early December. Leuchtenburg did not shy away from the question. “I have been thinking a lot about that. As the presidency of Barack Obama winds down, I am getting phone calls.” Over the Christmas...

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Historian Leuchtenburg on Hillary Clinton’s Challenges

Is it too early to start putting the 2016 presidential election in historical perspective? Maybe. But it is never too early to ask presidential historian and UNC-Chapel Hill emeritus history professor William Leuchtenburg to size up today’s presidential politics in light of the experiences of other presidents and presidential candidates. Leuchtenburg recently completed work on a 752-page book, The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, scheduled for publication in December by Oxford University Press. Oxford says the book will be “an enthralling account of American presidential actions from the assassination of William McKinley in 1901 to Bill Clinton’s last...

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Surprising Heroes In A Long Struggle For Justice

Why does a moderate, progressive journalist write a book critical of his political idol, Terry Sanford, the late governor and senator, and make a hero of Republican U.S. Senator Thom Tillis? It would just be an interesting question for cocktail party talk if the subject of the book were not so serious and compelling. Winston-Salem Journal editorial page editor John Railey’s new book, Rage to Redemption in the Sterilization Age, combines a chronicle of a bleak period in our state’s history with a poignant personal memoir. This combination, along with the author’s skilled writing and good story-telling talents, make for...

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Bad News For Politicians – And The Rest Of Us, Too

I have some bad news for North Carolina politicians. Some of your best friends are dying. It is not people that I am thinking about. It is restaurants. In the small towns and cities in our state, candidates for public office still make campaign visits to the family-owned, home cooking eateries where locals have gathered for years for meals and familiar fellowship. Politicians pass by the fancy new places and put on their campaign schedules the fish camps and barbecues and meat-and-threes that have been around for years. I look for these places, too. If you are, like me...

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North Carolina And The U.S. – Mexico border

What does the 1,969-mile border between the United States and Mexico have to do with North Carolina? A North Carolina author delivers pages of answers in a book about his journey along the entire border, from Boca Chica in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico to San Diego, California on the Pacific Ocean. Charles D. Thompson, Jr., a Chatham County blueberry farmer turned author, filmmaker, activist, and Duke professor, tells the story of his border journey in his new book, Border Odyssey: Travels Along the U.S./Mexico Divide. Thompson’s border journey begins at Whippoorwill Farm in Pittsboro, North Carolina, where,...

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Is The Civil War Over?

One hundred and fifty years later, is the Civil War finally over? On Saturday, we will mark the 150th anniversary of the April 26, 1865 final surrender by Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston of approximately 90,000 troops to Gen. William T. Sherman, effectively ending the hostilities of the nation’s Civil War. Some of us have spent the last two months marking 150th anniversaries of the events leading up to Bennett Place, beginning in early March with the arrival in North Carolina of Gen. Sherman’s Union army and its occupation of Fayetteville. On March 21st and 22nd, we remembered the...

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William Powell, Dean of North Carolina History

When UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Emeritus William Powell died last week at the age of 95, North Carolina lost its dean of history. With constant help and support from his wife Virginia, he authored countless books and articles, including the preeminent history of our state, North Carolina Through Four Centuries – all 670 pages of it. Even though it is now 25 years since its publication, it is still the best. Then, there is his six-volume North Carolina Biography, with entries about almost 4000 prominent or important North Carolinians present and past. Of course, the book that every lover of UNC-Chapel...

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Five North Carolina Books

Here are five recent books, starting with a novel featuring a thinly disguised Jesse Helms, by North Carolina authors to put on your bedside reading table. What is it really like to be the top aide to a powerful North Carolina senator, one who is much loved and much hated for his strong uncompromising views on heated issues, a senator who is running for reelection against a popular governor with a full war chest of campaign funds? The Hunt-Helms race is obviously the model for the campaign chronicled in Billy Bowater, by Winston-Salem civic leader E.C. Hanes. The book’s...

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Race And Basketball: A Transformative Moment

If you just want to read about the incredible basketball game described by Scott Ellsworth in The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball’s Lost Triumph, you can skip the first 250 pages. Then you can read about that secret game played in 1944 between a team of all-white college all-stars at the Duke medical school and the North Carolina College for Negroes Eagles. But if you skip those 250 pages, you will miss a compelling story about basketball, race, and transformation. You will not learn what basketball’s inventor James Naismith, legendary University of Kansas coach...

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Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

“Were you a part of the Army that made the Indians leave their homes?” David, my five-year-old grandson, had been learning about American Indians in his preschool. He knew that I had been in the Army many years ago. So, of course, he wondered if my “many years ago” coincided with this and other incidents of ill treatment of Native Americans. When I was David’s age, the stories I learned about Native Americans emphasized the dangers on the frontier from the brutal attacks, scalping, kidnapping, and torture faced by the brave settlers. The magnitude of this shift in perspective...

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