175 episodes

Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske each week as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past. Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/mountvernon/support

Conversations at the Washington Library Mount Vernon

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 58 Ratings

Conversations at the Washington Library is the premier podcast about George Washington and his Early American world. Join host Jim Ambuske each week as he talks with scholars, digital humanists, librarians, and other guests about Washington's era and the way we tell stories about the past. Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/mountvernon/support

    177. Harnessing Harmony in the Early Republic with Billy Coleman

    177. Harnessing Harmony in the Early Republic with Billy Coleman

    On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key began composing "The Star-Spangled Banner after witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry. Of all the things he could have done after seeing that flag, why did Key write a song?  And how did his new composition fit into a much longer history of music as a form of political persuasion in the Early Republic?

    On today’s episode, Dr. Billy Coleman joins us explore the power of music in the early United States, and how Federalists in particular used it as a kind of weapon to advance their vision of a harmonious nation led by elites. He also helps us understand why music as a form of historical evidence is a remarkable way to get inside the heads, and the hearts, of people from ages past. Coleman is the Kinder Institute Postdoctoral Fellow in Political History at the University of Missouri. He is the author of Harnessing Harmony: Music, Power, and Politics in the United States, 1788-1865, (UNC Press, 2020).

    Coleman and his collaborator, the music producer Running Notch, have also created a soundtrack for the book, featuring modern interpretations of some of the most important political songs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.nFind the soundtrack here or search for “Harnessing Harmony” on Spotify.

    You’ll hear clips from a couple of these tunes over the course of today’s program, but make sure you stick around after the credits roll for an exclusive opportunity to hear the complete versions of "Hail, Columbia" and "Jefferson and Liberty," which appear “ courtesy of Running Notch from the “Book Soundtrack” to Billy Coleman’s Harnessing Harmony: Music, Power, and Politics in the United States, 1788–1865 (UNC Press).

    About Our Guest: 

    Billy Coleman, Ph.D. is the Kinder Institute Postdoctoral Fellow in Political History at the University of Missouri. His research articles also appear in the Journal of Southern History and the Journal of the Early Republic. His new project, “Making Music National in a Settler State,” is exploring the transnational origins of national music in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Dr. Coleman is currently the North American-based Book Reviews Editor for the peer-reviewed journal, American Nineteenth Century History. 

    About Our Host: 

    Jim Ambuske, Ph.D. leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is currently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.


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    • 1 hr 6 min
    176. Hunting Satan in Scotland and the Atlantic World with Michelle D. Brock

    176. Hunting Satan in Scotland and the Atlantic World with Michelle D. Brock

    The Prince of Darkness wrought havoc on the souls of seventeenth-century Christians living throughout the Atlantic world. Whether they called him Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, or by any other name, Lucifer tempted men and women to break their covenant with God in Heaven and do his dark bidding on Earth.

    At a time of great religious upheaval, when the Protestant Reformation swept through Europe and across the ocean to England’s American colonies, fears of Satan’s malevolent influence and the search for signs of his deeds were particularly intense in Scotland.

    A Reformation driven largely by the Scottish clergy and gentry inspired Scots to see the Devil’s works in their everyday lives, question their salvation, and steel themselves against the possibility of eternal damnation.

    And just like in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1690s, Scots saw witches among them. Between the mid-1560s and early 1730s, Scots accused nearly 4,000 people of being in league with Satan. They executed many of the alleged conspirators.

    On today’s show, Dr. Michelle D. Brock helps us understand why Satan held such powerful sway over Reformed Scotland, how Scottish witch hunting compared to the colonial New England experience, and perhaps the ultimate question: In dealing with the supernatural, how do we know what we know.

    About Our Guest:

    Michelle D. Brock, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of history at Washington & Lee University. She is the author of Satan and the Scots: The Devil in Post-Reformation Scotland, c.1560-1700, (Routledge, 2016). She is co-director, along with Chris R. Langley of Newman University of Mapping the Scottish Reformation, a digital prosopography of the Scottish clergy between 1560 and 1689.

    About Our Host: 

    Jim Ambuske, Ph.D. leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is currently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.


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    • 55 min
    175. Finding Redemption from Tyranny with Bruce Stewart

    175. Finding Redemption from Tyranny with Bruce Stewart

    Conversations at the Washington Library kicks off Season 5 by exploring the life of a radical populist who never met a revolution he didn’t like. Almost unbelievably, Herman Husband participated in some of the most significant events in eighteenth-century America: The Great Awakening; the North Carolina Regulation Movement; The American Revolution; and the Whiskey Rebellion.

    Husband’s story illuminates the major religious, political, and economic upheavals that reshaped North America in this period, and we might just see some parallels between his time and our own.

    On today’s show, Dr. Bruce Stewart, a professor of history at Appalachian State University, joins Jim Ambuske to unpack Husband’s life. He is the author of the new book, Redemption from Tyranny: Herman Husband’s American Revolution, published in 2020 by the University of Virginia Press.

    It’s a compelling story of early America told through the eyes of a man for whom revolutions never went far enough.

    About Our Guest: 

    Bruce Stewart, Ph.D. is Professor of History at Appalachian State University. He earned his M.A. in History from Western Carolina University and his Ph.D. in History from the University of Georgia. His areas of study are United States History and Appalachian History. He is the author of four books, including his latest, Redemption from Tyranny: Herman Husband's American Revolution (UVA Press, 2020). 

    About Our Host: 

    Jim Ambuske, Ph.D. leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is currently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.


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    • 54 min
    174. (Recast) Tracing the Rise and Fall of Light-Horse Harry Lee with Ryan Cole

    174. (Recast) Tracing the Rise and Fall of Light-Horse Harry Lee with Ryan Cole

    This episode originally aired in September 2019.



    You may know him as Robert E. Lee’s father, but Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee was so much more. Born into a Virginia dynasty, the man who would become one of George Washington’s protégés came of age with the American Revolution itself. Lee was a graduate of Princeton University, a cavalry commander in the war’s brutal southern theater, and he later served two terms as Virginia’s governor. He was a dashing figure who romanticized the ancient world and aspired to be one of the new nation’s great slave-holding planters. But death and despair undercut the life that Lee imagined for himself. On today’s program, Ryan Cole joins us to discuss Lee’s tragic story. Cole is a journalist and former member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. He is the author of the new book, Light-Horse Harry Lee: The Rise and Fall of a Revolutionary Hero.

    About our Guest:

    Ryan Cole, a former assistant to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and speechwriter at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, holds degrees in history and journalism from Indiana University. He has written extensively about American history and literature for the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the New Criterion, Civil War Times, the American Interest, and the Indianapolis Star. Additionally, he has written for Indiana University and the Lumina Foundation, and he served on the staff of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

    About Our Host:

    Jim Ambuske, Ph.D. leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is currently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.


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    • 53 min
    173. Tracing the History of the Syphax Family with Steve Hammond and Brenda Parker

    173. Tracing the History of the Syphax Family with Steve Hammond and Brenda Parker

    The Syphax Family has deep historic ties to Mount Vernon and other sites of enslavement in Virginia.

    In 1821, Charles Syphax, an enslaved man at Arlington House in Northern Virginia, married Maria Carter, the daughter of a woman enslaved at Mount Vernon. Charles was the inherited property of George Washington Parke Custis, Martha Washington’s grandson. And there is very strong evidence that the woman that Charles married, Maria, was Custis’s daughter.

    On today’s episode, you’ll learn more about the fascinating history of the Syphax Family and its connections to Mount Vernon from Steve Hammond.

    Hammond is a Genealogist, Family Historian, and Syphax descendent who has spent decades reconstructing the Syphax family’s history. He recently joined Brenda Parker, Mount Vernon’s African American Interpretation and Special Projects Coordinator, on a live stream to discuss his family’s story.  We’re happy to bring her conversation with Hammond to the podcast.

    Be sure to check out the documents Hammond and Parker discuss during the program.

    About Our Guest:

    Steve Hammond is a descendent of the Syphax Family. He retired from the United States Department of Interior after many years of service. A genealogist and family historian, Hammond has spent decades researching, writing, and lecturing about the Syphax Family and their place in Virginia history. 

    About Our Guest Host:

    Brenda Parker is Mount Vernon's African American Interpretation and Special Projects Coordinator. Trained in performative arts, Parker interprets some of the women enslaved at Mount Vernon during George Washington's era, including Caroline Branham.


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    • 1 hr 5 min
    172. Exploring White Women as Slave Owners in the American South with Stephanie Jones-Rogers

    172. Exploring White Women as Slave Owners in the American South with Stephanie Jones-Rogers

    It’s easy to think of slave holding as a male profession. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and countless other men are often the names that come to mind when we think about early Americans who held other people in bondage.

    But white women, especially in the American South, were equally invested in slavery as owners in human property. A new generation of historians is helping us to understand why and how.

    One such scholar is Dr. Stephanie Jones-Rogers of the University California-Berkeley. She is the author of the new book, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, which recently won the LA Times Book Prize in History and the Best Book Award from the Society for Historians of the Early Republic.

    On today’s episode, we bring you the audio version of Library Executive Director Dr. Kevin Butterfield’s recent live stream interview with Dr. Jones-Rogers. It’s an illuminating look at an underexplored topic that were only just beginning to better understand.

    About Our Guest:

    Stephanie Jones-Rogers is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley where she specializes in African-American history, the history of American slavery, and women’s and gender history. She is the author of the book They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (Yale University Press, 2019), which won the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic’s 2020 Best Book Prize and the Organization of American Historians’ 2020 Merle Curti Prize for the best book in American social history. She is also the first African-American and the third woman to win the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History since the award’s inception in 1980. A former faculty member at the University of Iowa, Jones-Rogers received her Ph.D. in African-American History from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in 2012.

    About Our Guest Host:

    Kevin C. Butterfield is the  Executive Director of the Washington Library. He comes to Mount Vernon from the University of Oklahoma, where he served as the Director of the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage and Constitutional Studies Program, holding an appointment as the Wick Cary Professor and Associate Professor of Classics and Letters. He is the author of The Making of Tocqueville's America: Law and Association in the Early United States (Chicago, 2015).


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    • 1 hr 2 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
58 Ratings

58 Ratings

cjr816 ,

Enjoy This Podcast!

I enjoy hearing about was is happening at the library and Mt. Vernon. I was part of a Gilder Lehman Course with Gordon Wood in 2014 and since then have tried to keep track of all that is happening there. Thanks for the scholarly reflections of this important time period in American History.

Mayda A ,

Excellent

I love this podcast. Full of historical information.
I look forward to listening to every episode every week.

scm_one ,

Great.

Wonderful podcast. Interesting topics. Next best thing to visiting Mount Vernon.

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