OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

David Goldfield

Portrait of David Goldfield

David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is the author of Black, White, and Southern: Race Relations and Southern Culture (1990), which received the Mayflower Award for Nonfiction and the Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights; Still Fighting the Civil War: The American South and Southern History (2002); Southern Histories: Public, Personal, and Sacred (2003); and the widely acclaimed America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation (2011). He is also a coauthor of the textbook The American Journey (7th edition, 2013). His latest book, The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good (2017), offers a fresh interpretation of post-World War II America and argues that the federal government as led by Truman, Eisenhower, and Johnson was instrumental in the great economic, social, and environmental progress of the era.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

In a fresh interpretation of post-World War II America, Goldfield examines the generation immediately after the war. The unprecedented surge in American legislative and cultural history is brought to life as Goldfield explores the presidencies of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon Baines Johnson and the lives of ordinary Americans. He argues that the federal government was instrumental in the great economic, social, and environmental progress of the era. Following the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, the returning vets and their children took the unprecedented economic growth and federal activism to new heights. This generation was led by presidents who believed in the commonwealth ideal: that federal legislation, by encouraging individual opportunity, would result in the betterment of the entire nation. In the years after the war, their administrations created an outpouring of federal legislation that changed how and where people lived, their access to higher education, and their stewardship of the environment. They also spearheaded historic efforts to level the playing field for minorities, women and immigrants. But this dynamic did not last, and Goldfield shows how the shrinking and redirection of federal policy limited the opportunities of subsequent generations.
The Coronavirus and the Trump presidency will alter American politics in ways the Civil War and the Great Depression transformed the nation's political landscape. What clues do these earlier events offer for national life after 2020 in terms of legislation, settlement patterns, race relations, immigration, and foreign policy?