Media Resource

2011 Jefferson Lecture: Drew Gilpin Faust

"As we come over time to see ourselves differently, we will ask different questions of our past, and as we ask those questions, we in turn develop changed perceptions of ourselves."

—Drew Gilpin Faust, "Telling War Stories: Reflections of a Civil War Historian," 2011

Drew Gilpin Faust, historian and first female president of Harvard University, delivered the 2011 Jefferson Lecture, titled, "Telling War Stories: Reflections of a Civil War Historian," on May 2, 2011. Faust discusses the ways the Civil War has been commemorated and its legacies contested for over a century, with these debates about the interpretation of the war "mirroring our contemporary debates about national purposes." She highlights the importance of rigorous scholarship in influencing new forms of remembrance, as well as the role played by the changing politics and priorities of the present in shaping the questions we ask about the past, and the ways we seek to answer them. And she grapples with the ways war and the humanities are entwined, the ways we "use the humanity of words to understand the inhumanity of war." The full text of her lecture can be read here.

About Drew Gilpin Faust

Faust, who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, is a well-known scholar of the antebellum South and Civil War, professor of history, civil rights activist, founding dean of Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the first female president of Harvard University. She has published many books that advance our understanding of the South and Civil War by exploring Southern intellectual history and proslavery ideology, women and gender in the antebellum South, and the social and cultural history of the Civil War.

Learn More

Read an interview with Drew Gilpin Faust and NEH Chairman Jim Leach.

Read more about Faust's scholarship in David W. Blight's profile for Humanities magazine.

Classroom Connections

EDSITEment has a robust collection of curricula and lesson plans about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Civil Rights movement. This section highlights some of EDSITEment's curricular resources for teaching this history and its influence on the present. Not exhaustive, it instead picks up on some of the themes in Faust's research, especially gender and the experiences of women.


Lesson Plans