A professor of history at Bowdoin College, Patrick Rael is a specialist in African American history. His most recent book, Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 (2015), was a finalist for the Harriet Tubman Prize, awarded by the New York Library’s Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. His other works include Black Identity and Black Protest in the Antebellum North (2002), African American Activism before the Civil War: The Freedom Struggle in the Antebellum North (2008), and Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early African-American Protest Literature (2001). He has written extensively about teaching, has contributed to the development of African American history curricula, and for over a decade has led seminars and workshops on teaching American history in primary and secondary schools.
This lecture uses one relatively discrete event in time -- the actions of the 20th Maine at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg -- to illustrate some ways that historians think of the past. With the audience, Prof. Rael works through the key primary documents that tell us what happened. Our collective investigation will suggest that while historians often seek to present seamless visions of the past, their real work lies in the work of interpreting the meaning of differences in primary accounts.