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Last updated:
November 1, 2002

Acclaimed Historian Eric Foner to Lecture on Nov. 7

Nationally acclaimed historian Eric Foner, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, will visit the University of Wisconsin ­ River Falls campus on Thursday, Nov. 7. Foner will lead an interactive seminar for teachers from 1 ­ 4 p.m. in the Hagestad Student Center and deliver a public presentation in the North Hall auditorium at 7 p.m.

The evening presentation is titled "Freedom and the Meaning of American Identity," in which Foner will offer some provocative ideas about the unique nature of American freedom and its role in the shaping of our national character. Following his presentation, he will be questioned by a panel of experts, including historians Kurt Leichtle (UW-River Falls), Jim Oberly (UW-Eau Claire), and Bob Zeidel (UW-Stout), as well as teachers Mike Yell (Hudson Middle School) and Rebecca Biel (St. Paul Johnson High School). He will also take questions from the audience.

The evening presentation is free and open to the public. The afternoon is by invitation only and has limited seating.

His appearance is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Otto Bremer Foundation. WHC supports public programs that engage the people of Wisconsin in the exploration of human cultures, ideas and values. Foner is also supported by the College of Education and Professional Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences at UW-RF.

Foner is one of this country's most prominent historians. He received his doctoral degree at Columbia under the supervision of Richard Hofstadter. During the 1990s, he served as president of both the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association.

Foner's publications have concentrated on the intersections of intellectual, political and social history, and the history of American race relations. His best-known books are: "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War"; "Tom Paine and Revolutionary America"; "Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1963-1877" (winner of the Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, and Los Angeles Times Book Award); The Readeršs Companion to American History (with John A. Garraty) and "The Story of American Freedom," which was enthusiastically reviewed in every major newspaper. His newest book, "Who Owns History? Rethinking the Past in a Changing World," was released in April 2002.

A winner of the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates, Foner has also written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and many other publications, and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including Charlie Rose, Book Notes, MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour, All Things Considered, and in historical documentaries on PBS, C-SPAN and the History Channel. He has lectured extensively to both academic and non-academic audiences.

The afternoon workshop is titled "The Imagined Community: American Identity as History and Idea." Participants include teachers participating in an NEH project, "Still Searching for America: Conversations on National Identity." Through summer institutes, professional development workshops, and activities in their own classroom, teachers from Wisconsin and Minnesota have received extensive background knowledge on the evolving topic of American identity. They are also equipped with skills for doing authentic intellectual work in history, humanities, social science, and the arts, skills they have then translated into lessons for their own students.

During his visit, Foner will help teachers do historical detective work as they search for the roots of American identity through the examination and interpretation of primary documents such as Thomas Paine's radical 18th century pamphlet "Common Sense." After he leaves Wisconsin, Foner will continue to engage teachers during an on-line conversation.

For information on either event, contact Professor Geoffrey Scheurman, Project Director, at 715/425-3520, or geoffrey.scheurman@uwrf.edu.

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