I am back in southern California for a few days after a trip to Jackson, Mississippi, Washington, DC, and Chicago, Illinois.
Mississippi was very interesting: my friend Sam arranged for me to speak at Mississippi College, to a group of faculty and friends. People were eager to hear about Stanton, and my ideas about why he is so hated in the South. There are a lot of reasons, including his efforts during the war to recruit and arm former slaves, and his efforts after the war to ensure that the Union Army remained in the South.
What was especially interesting for me was to learn about more recent history. I was not aware, for example, that several black college students were arrested in the early 1960s for visiting the public library in Jackson, Mississippi. This was mentioned because a plaque honoring the Tougaloo Nine was just erected and unveiled in Jackson—a few blocks away from where we were speaking on Saturday. I was also not aware that blacks in Port Gibson, in 1966, boycotted white merchants, leading to a lawsuit by several white merchants against the NAACP and some individual black organizers. The case was fought all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, which decided in 1982 in favor of the NAACP. Sam and I visited Port Gibson on Friday and saw the mural commemorating the black boycott, as well as the standard white statue, in the center of the square, commemorating the Confederate soldiers. I had never read this Supreme Court case before (it was handed down just as I was taking the bar exam) and it opens a window into that time and place.
Washington was fun for another reason: seeing old friends. Indeed generations of friends, including Karen, with whom I went to middle school in Arcadia, California; Stephen, Sally and others with whom I went to Phillips Exeter; Larry, who was in my freshman dormitory at Stanford; and a different Larry, a friend and classmate at Harvard. And more recent friends as well, including Anna, one of my mock trial students, about to be a senior at Exeter, and her family. I had intended to spend some time at the Library of Congress, working on my next book, but wound up spending all the time seeing friends. It was time well spent.
I had two book events in Washington Tuesday: the National Archives at noon and Politics & Prose at seven. The Archivist of the United States himself introduced me, a great honor, and I talked about some of the resources at the Archives, including the Edwin-Ellen love letters and the War Secretary telegrams, that were basic resources in the book. In the evening, before a great crowd at Politics & Prose, I talked about Stanton and impeachment; not just impeachment but an emphasis on impeachment.
Wednesday was long: I woke up at about five, in Washington, and called a taxi. When it did not arrive on time, I walked to the subway, and managed to make my eight am departure for Chicago. After some time talking with my Exeter classmate John, I went to the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, where we taped an interview at 2 pm. Then a taxi back to Midway Airport, trying to explain the American Civil War to a taxi driver from Mali. The flight from Chicago to Denver was delayed, so that I had to run through the Denver airport to get on the last flight to Santa Ana. I really thought I would miss the flight—I was mentally prepared for spending a night in a Denver airport motel—but I made it. Home by 11 pm, west coast time.
I am off again tomorrow, Sunday, for two book events up in the Bay Area.