An Incredible Asset

Yale for Life, with its emphasis on interdisciplinary teaching, seminar sessions, outstanding alumni who prepare impeccably, and innovative course topics, is proud to have attracted Yale’s most learned scholars – and its best teachers.  The passion and joy of Yale for Life participants, faculty and alumni alike,  has not gone unnoticed – our faculty not only return for subsequent years, but they assist us in recruiting more of Yale’s finest.  Our faculty frequently will stay in class for sessions taught by other faculty, and almost without exception, they join us for many of our meals and special events.  The result is that faculty are an integral part of the Yale for Life Community, and the special character of their interaction with alumni enhances the experience beyond measure.

Here, then, with pride, we present our lead and guest faculty.

Andy Lipka ’78 talks about the joys of the Yale for Life faculty.

Lead Faculty – “Yale: Myth and Reality, Past and Present”

Jay Gitlin

Associate Director Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers & Borders; Senior Lecturer, History

Professor Jay Gitlin is Senior Lecturer in Yale’s History Department;, Associate Director of the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers & Borders, and Chair, Committee on Canadian Studies, The MacMillan Center. He received his BA, M.Mus., and PhD at Yale. His work focuses on the history of the French in North America. His book, Country Acres and Cul-de-sacs: Connecticut Circle Magazine Reimagines the Nutmeg State, 1938-1952 has just been published. He is currently working on The Rise and Fall of Modern Shopping.  The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders & American Expansion was published in 2010 by Yale University Press and won the 2010 Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize for the best book in French colonial history from the French Colonial Historical Society.  He has published numerous articles and contributed chapters to the Oxford History of the American West (Oxford, 1994) and The Louisiana Purchase and the Emergence of the American Empire (Congressional Quarterly, 2003). He is also co-editor and co-author of Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past (W.W. Norton, 1992).

Prof. Gitlin is a faculty advisor to the Native American Cultural Center at Yale and is currently teaching a new course with Professor Paul Kennedy on “Cities of Empire.” He is also a gold card member of the American Federation of Musicians and started playing jazz and dance music before he arrived at Yale College.

Edward Cooke

Charles F Montgomery Professor of the History of Art, Director of the Center of Study in American Decorative Arts and Material Culture; Professor of American Studies

Professor Edward S. Cooke, Jr., the Charles F. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, focuses upon American material culture and decorative arts.  His Making Furniture in Pre-industrial America: The Social Economy of Newtown and Woodbury, Connecticut explores the artisanal world of colonial and early national America, while some of his work on modern craft has historicized and explicated more recent forms of production.  This can be seen in his role as founding co-editor of The Journal of Modern Craft and guest editor of a special issue of American Art focusing upon craft as well as his work as co-curator and publication author of six different exhibitions: New American Furniture (Museum of Fine Arts, 1989); Inspiring Reform: Boston’s Arts and Crafts Movement (Davis Museum, Wellesley College, 1997); Wood Turning in North America Since 1930 (Yale University Art Gallery, 2001); The Maker’s Hand: American Studio Furniture, 1940-1990 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2003); Inspired by China: Contemporary Furnituremakers Explore Chinese Traditions (Peabody Essex Museum, 2006); and Paul Evans: Crossing Boundaries and Crafting Modernism (Michener Art Museum, 2014).  His Inventing Boston: Production and Consumption in the Atlantic World, 1680–1720 (Yale University Press) will be published in early 2019.  He is currently writing Material Culture and Global Art History (under contract with Princeton University Press).

At Yale, Cooke teaches lecture courses on American material culture from the fifteenth century to the present as well as an introductory course on global decorative arts and offers seminars on a variety of topics including material culture theory, material literacy, the American interior, American furniture, and modern craft. He has also taught seminars on craft and design in India and in Australia.  He served as the Chair of the department from 2000 to 2006 and from 2012 to 2016. Since his arrival at Yale in 1992, he served as Director of the Yale Center for the Study of American Art and Material Culture, a group of interested Yale faculty, graduate students, and museum professionals who meet weekly during the semester for presentations on the theme of that academic year.  The participants are drawn by a scholarly interest in the study, analysis, and interpretation of material culture.

Cooke’s work in expanding the field of decorative arts has led to several awards, including the Iris Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Decorative Arts (2010), the Furniture Society’s Award of Distinction (2016), election as an Honorary Fellow of the American Craft Council (2016), and College Art Association’s Distinguished Teacher of Art History Award (2018).

Lead Faculty – “A New Birth of Freedom: How the Civil War Era Made a New America”

Akhil Reed Amar

Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science

Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law in both Yale College and Yale Law School. After graduating from Yale College, summa cum laude, in 1980 and from Yale Law School in 1984, and clerking for then Judge (now Justice) Stephen Breyer, Amar joined the Yale faculty in 1985 at the age of 26. His work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, and he has been cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in more than three dozen cases—tops in his generation. He regularly testifies before Congress at the invitation of both parties; and in surveys of judicial citations and/or scholarly citations, he invariably ranks among America’s five most-cited mid-career legal scholars. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the American Bar Foundation’s Outstanding Scholar Award. In 2008 he received the DeVane Medal—Yale’s highest award for teaching excellence. He has written widely for popular publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and The Atlantic. He was an informal consultant to the popular TV show, The West Wing, and his constitutional scholarship has been showcased on The Colbert Report, The O’Reilly Factor, and Constitution USA with Peter Sagal. He is the author of dozens of law review articles and several books, including The Constitution and Criminal Procedure(1997), The Bill of Rights (1998—winner of the Yale University Press Governors’ Award), America’s Constitution (2005—winner of the ABA’s Silver Gavel Award), America’s Unwritten Constitution (2012—named one of the year’s 100 best nonfiction books by The Washington Post), The Law of the Land (2015), and The Constitution Today (2016—named one of the year’s top ten nonfiction books by Time magazine). In 2017 he received the Howard Lamar Award for outstanding service to Yale alumni. He is Yale’s only currently active professor to have won the University’s unofficial triple crown—the Sterling Chair for scholarship, the DeVane Medal for teaching, and the Lamar Award for alumni service.

Professor Amar has taught in Yale for Life on several occasions, including as co-lead professor for the 2016 offering of “A New Birth of Freedom.”  A true “Yalie for Life,” he also audited a Yale for Life course in 2017 on “The Enlightenment!”

Steven B. Smith

Alfred Cowles Professor of Government and Philosophy

Steven B. Smith has taught at Yale since 1984. He has served as Director of Graduate Studies in Political Science, Director of the Special Program in the Humanities, and Acting Chair of Judaic Studies and from 1996-2011 served as the Master of Branford College. His research has focused on the history of political philosophy with special attention to the problem of the ancients and moderns, the relation of religion and politics, and theories of representative government.

His best known publications include Hegel’s Critique of Liberalism (1989), Spinoza, Liberalism, and Jewish Identity (1997), Spinoza’s Book of Life (2003), Reading Leo Strauss (2006), and The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss (2009) and Political Philosophy (2012). His newly released book, Modernity and its Discontents, is now available. He is also the Co-Director of Yale’s Center for the Study of Representative Institutions (YSCRI) that focuses on the theory and practice of representative government in the Anglo-American world.  He is also the editor of The Writings of Abraham Lincoln.

He has received several academic awards and prizes including the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize given by Phi Beta Kappa, but is most proud of receiving the Lex Hixon ‘63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences in 2009. He is a die-hard Yankees fan and hopes to be able to play for the team in the next life.  He has taught in Yale for Life in Directed Studies (2011), The Enlightenment and Its Critics (2017), and American Nationhood: North and South (2018).

Lead Faculty – “China, From Present to Past: 2019-1000 C.E.”

Valerie Hansen

Stanley B. Woodward Professor of History

Valerie Hansen teaches Chinese and world history at Yale, where she is the Stanley B. Woodward Professor of History. Her current book project is The World in the Year 1000: When Globalization Began. Today our world economy has become largely integrated, with economic fluctuations having immediate repercussions across the globe. But when did globalization first happen? Most would say 1492, the year that Columbus’s first voyage triggered the massive exchanges of plants, animals, and human populations that initiated the Age of Discovery. Her book proposes an even earlier date, the year 1000. In that year, the Viking explorer Leif Erikson and his followers landed on the northern tip of the Canadian island of Newfoundland, having sailed across the north Atlantic from Greenland. All around the world, as goods and people began to move between regions not previously in contact, a number of expanding kingdoms and empires began to brush up against each other.Her book demonstrates how a network of global pathways took shape around the year 1000 and examines how people responded when they experienced globalization for the first time.

She is a frequent visitor to Asia, spending the academic years 2008-09 and 2011-12 teaching at Yale’s undergraduate program at Peking University, fall semester 2015 as a visitor at Yale-NUS College, and fall 2016 as a visiting scholar at Xiamen University in Fujian province, China. Having lived in China for six-plus years, Valerie has visited at least 300 temples, climbed the Great Wall multiple times (once during a lightning storm), and posed next to the terracotta warriors eleven times (all this in the company of her husband and three children).

Her books include The Silk Road: A New History with Documents, The Open Empire: A History of China to 1800, Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China, Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1279, and Voyages in World History(co-authored with Kenneth R. Curtis).

Peter C. Perdue

Professor of History

Peter C. Perdue is Professor of History at Yale University. He has taught courses on East Asian history and civilization, Chinese social and economic history, the Silk Road, and historical methodology. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His first book, Exhausting the Earth: State and Peasant in Hunan, 1500-1850 A.D. (Harvard University Press,1987), examined long-term agricultural change in one Chinese province. His second book, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (Harvard University Press, 2005), discusses environmental change, ethnicity, long-term economic change and military conquest in an integrated account of the Chinese, Mongolian, and Russian contention over Siberia and Central Eurasia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He is a coeditor of two books on empires: Imperial Formations, (SAR Press, 2007) and Shared Histories of Modernity, (Routledge, 2008), and a co-author of  Global Connections, a world history textbook forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, and Asia Inside Out, three volumes on inter-Asian connections forthcoming from Harvard University Press. His current research focuses on Chinese frontiers, Chinese environmental history, and the history of tea.

Guest Faculty – “Yale: Myth and Reality, Past and Present”

Patrick Pinnell

Former Head of Yale Environmental Design Graduate Research Program; Architect

Patrick Pinnell FAIA CNU APA NCARB is an architect, planner, author, and educator, with offices in the lower Connecticut River Valley. A Minnesota native, he graduated from Yale College with high honors in English Literature and earned his graduate professional degree at the Yale School of Architecture.

Architectural work in the last decade includes houses in Maine, Florida, New York, and Connecticut; seventeen actor housing cottages for Goodspeed Musicals in a National Register Historic District in East Haddam, Connecticut; and participation in design of the mixed-use buildings and a parking garage for the new Storrs Town Center at the University of Connecticut, for which he also outlined the basic planning. Urban-scale projects include work on Hartford’s downtown and region (Downtown Action Strategy, 1998; Hartford 2010 Plan; Rentschler Field research center and stadium planning; advisor to the Sheldon-Charter Oak neighborhood, including HOPE VI reconstruction of the Dutch Point public housing project; and advising on the Trinity College Master Plan). He is advising the Town of Brookhaven, NY, on three Transit- Oriented Developments (Ronkonkoma Hub, Port Jefferson Station, and Stony Brook) including a Form-Based Code. At Yale’s invitation, he designed over two hundred stone commemorative ornaments for two new collegiate Gothic residential colleges.

Pinnell was on the emergency team of planners and architects who flew into coastal Mississippi to aid reconstruction immediately after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He led the urban design team in the successful effort to save Fenway Park, the country’s oldest major league ballpark, in Boston in 2001; consulted on the Chicago 2020 (“New Burnham”) Plan; and helped plan a new town around eighteen National Register-listed structures on the former Longview Estate, outside Kansas City, Missouri. He has worked frequently over the last forty years with Duany / Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) of Miami on planning and new town projects, including Seaside, Florida; Kentlands, Maryland; East Fraserlands, Vancouver, BC; and others. With Andrés Duany, he long co-wrote The Technical Page column for New Urban News.

Historic preservation–connected work includes participation, with Cooper-Robertson Architects as lead, in the Master Plan for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. With KPMB of Toronto as lead, he helped plan the renovations of historic Sprague and Hendrie Halls for the Yale School of Music. He holds the status of registered Historic Architect with the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Pinnell has testified as an expert witness for a number of preservation-connected planning cases.

Pinnell served for years as vice-chair of the Hartford Parking Authority. He is a former Elector of the Wadsworth Atheneum, the nation’s oldest art museum, and advises it on development and planning. He serves on the boards of Connecticut Landmarks, of the Burr-McManus Trust (which oversees Hartford’s Burr Mall and monumental Calder “Stegosaurus”), and is on the advisory board of Historic New England.

He was elected to the Monday Evening Club, founded in 1869 by Mark Twain and others, in 2006, and the Acorn Club, founded in 1898, in 2012. Pinnell formerly headed Yale’s graduate research program in Environmental Design, as well as for eighteen years teaching design studios and the history of architectural theory there. Before moving to Connecticut in 1989, his practice (Cass & Pinnell Architects) was based in Washington, D.C. The firm’s many award-winning buildings included houses for members of the U.S. Senate, and an African-American church. He has taught and lectured at many American schools and organizations, as well as in Europe and Japan. A founding member of the Congress for New Urbanism and former board member of its New England chapter, Pinnell has long experience with housing and town planning issues; his completed buildings include an award-winning social housing block in an historic district of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The New York Times quoted Pinnell in its 2006 obituary of the great urbanist Jane Jacobs. He serves annually on the jury for the Ange Jacques Gabriel Prize, awarded by the Western European Architecture Foundation. His many publications include articles on the early work of Frank Lloyd Wright (using Taliesin Foundation archives), on Yale’s Beinecke Library, and on various issues in the history and theory of architecture and urbanism. The Campus Guide: Yale University, a book on the history and buildings of the campus and their place within New Haven, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 1999, new edition in 2012. Pinnell’s op-eds on development issues for the Hartford Courant have received an American Planning Association award. With his wife, Trinity College art history professor Kathleen Curran, he lives in the 1799 Levi and Mehitabel Hand Ward House in Higganum, Connecticut. (7/1/2018)

David Alan Richards ’67 ’72LAW

President, Yale Library Associates

David Richards is the President of the Yale Library Associates, an associate Fellow of Davenport College, a member of the University Librarian’s Development Council, and the author of 2017’s Skulls and Keys: The Hidden History of Yale’s Secret Societies.  He was an American Studies major at Yale, and holds a master’s degree in history from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Keasbey Scholar.  He is also the author of the British Library-published Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliography (2010), and two other books on that Nobel Prize-winner, and his collection of first editions and manuscripts of that author has made Yale the world center of Kipling studies.  He is now writing a history of the university library.

Rebecca Tannenbaum ’97PhD

Senior Lecturer, History; Yale NUS Fellow International Affairs

Wesleyan University, B.A., 1984; Yale University, Ph.D., 1997

Rebecca Tannenbaum’s research is focused on Colonial America, especially women’s history and the history of medicine, history of women’s health, as well as history of the family. She is currently working on a cultural history of biological motherhood in America, from the Colonial period through the mid-nineteenth century. She has written a book, The Healer’s Calling: Women and Medicine in Colonial New England (Cornell University Press, 2002), as well as published numerous articles in scholarly publications.

Kelly Fayard

Director, Native-American Cultural Center; Assistant Dean, Yale College

Kelly Fayard (Poarch Band of Creek Indians) is an assistant dean of Yale College and the director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale.  She earned her BA in cultural anthropology and religion from Duke University, and a certificate in museum studies as well as her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan. Before her current position, she was assistant professor of anthropology in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Bowdoin College.  She held the Anne Ray fellowship at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM in 2014-2015.  She is currently a member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Society for Applied Anthropology, where she also serves as a member of the Beatrice Medicine Committee that awards a student funding to attend the annual meeting, and is on the ethics committee of the Association of American Anthropologists.

Laura Wexler

Professor, Women’s Gender, & Sexuality Studies and American Studies

Laura Wexler is the author of Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U. S. Imperialism (University of North Carolina Press, 2000) and Pregnant Pictures (Routledge, 2000), co–authored with photographer Sandra Matthews. Tender Violence was awarded the  Joan Kelley Memorial Prize of the American Historical Association for the best book in women’s history and/or feminist theory. She also co–edited, with Laura Frost, Amy Hungerford and John MacKay, the volume Interpretation and the Holocaust, as a special issue of the Yale Journal of Criticism. Professor Wexler’s many other publications on photography and American visual culture include recent studies of the writings of Frederic Douglass, and the photographs of La Toya Ruby Frazier. Her current research interests center on family photographs and national memory.

Professor Wexler has served on the editorial boards of numerous journals including American Quarterly, Genders, and the Yale Journal of Criticism. She founded and directs the Photographic Memory Workshop at Yale.  The courses she teaches at Yale University include: “The History of Photography,” “Visuality and Violence,” “Photography, History and Memory,” “Gender & Sexuality in Media & Popular Culture,” and “Digital Humanities.”

Laura Wexler completed her undergraduate studies at Sarah Lawrence College and holds M.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University in English and Comparative Literature. She has taught at Amherst College, Trinity College, Wesleyan University and Yale University. She served as Chair of the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program from 2003–2007 and Co-chair of the Yale Women’s Faculty Forum from 2008-2011.  She is a recipient of major research awards from the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.  She taught in Yale for Life in 2016 during our course, “A New Birth of Freedom.”

Dean Ryan André Brasseaux

Dean, Davenport College, Yale University

Dean Ryan André Brasseaux is the chief academic advisor for the almost 460 students comprising Davenport College, one of Yale’s 14 residential colleges. He helps students navigate academic regulations, Yale bureaucracy, and life in general.

Dean Brasseaux earned the Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; the Master of Arts in Anthropology from Louisiana State University; and the Ph.D. in American Studies here at Yale. He specializes in vernacular American music, culture and politics in French North-America, and public humanities. He teaches courses on the history of country music, the American Gulf Coast, the history of Quebec and Canada, and a cross-listed undergraduate/graduate course called Intro to Public Humanities. He is the author of over forty articles, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews, and three books, including the Oxford University Press title, Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music.

Dean Brasseaux’s wife, Jessika Ducharme Brasseaux, a nurse practioner and graduate of the Yale School of Nursing, and their children, Anne Elise, known as “Ani”, and Joseph Emile, “Joe” are enjoying life in Davenport. Jessika is an avid gardener with an interest in organic and sustainable foods, and the Dean is an accomplished cook, specializing in the cuisine of his native state, Louisiana. Both are great lovers of music and dance.

Vera F. Wells

Director of the Sylvia Ardyn Boone Memorial Project, Yale University

Vera Wells was a member of Yale’s first undergraduate class to include women and was also among the first to enroll in its African American Studies courses in 1969.  After graduating in 1971 with a BA degree in psychology, she studied organization management at Harvard’s Kennedy School.  Vera then consulted on education programs and conducted field research in Africa in the 1970s for international development projects, primarily in the southern BLS countries.   Most of her career, however, was spent during 20 years as an executive at the National Broadcasting Company where she began in promotional research for new TV programs, including HILL STREET BLUES, MIAMI VICE, THE COSBY SHOW and LAW & ORDER. She also oversaw NBC’s Page Program in the seating of NYC based shows, including SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, and completed her tenure there as Director of Corporate and Philanthropic Initiatives and represented NBC on the Arts and Culture Committee of the GE Foundation. 

During the spring term of 1970, Vera requested and wrote the proposal for the Yale residential college seminar on Black women that originally recruited Sylvia Ardyn Boone to teach it at TD in September 1970.  That set in motion the two women organizing the “Chubb Conference on the Black Woman” which brought Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, John Henrik Clarke and Shirley Graham DuBois to campus that December.  After Vera’s graduation in 1971, Sylvia Boone continued to mentor and befriend Vera.  When Prof. Boone died in 1993, Vera coordinated her funeral and memorial details at Yale and still continues as the Director of the Boone Memorial Project.  She oversaw the court-approved donation of Boone’s papers for appropriate archiving so that they can be made available to scholars in the future.  Vera used her own personal assets to endow both an undergraduate scholarship and a graduate student prize to honor her mentor at Yale, and she continues to fund this project to secure Boone’s literary estate and intellectual legacy.  

An active and committed alumna, Vera is the recipient of a 2007 “Yale Medal” for her volunteer service to the University.  She has helped to organize events for women and Black alumni and has championed efforts to raise funds to support the Afro-American Cultural Center, Robert Farris Thompson’s portrait at TD, the Women Faculty Forum and many Yale initiatives that benefit women and students of color.  She was an at-large member of Yale’s University Council for 10 years, where she served on its Theater Review Committee, a member of the Yale Development Board and the Yale Tomorrow Campaign.  A preliminary founding committee member for YaleWomen Inc, Vera received a “YaleWomen Award for Excellence” in March 2019.  She currently serves on five committees preparing for 50WomenAtYale150 Celebrations in 2019-20.  As a TD Fellow, Vera has an office at Timothy Dwight College, where her Boone Project is based. 

Guest Faculty – “A New Birth of Freedom: How the Civil War Era Made a New America”

David W. Blight

Class of 1954 Professor of American History

David W. Blight  is Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale University, joining that faculty in January, 2003.  He previously taught at Amherst College for thirteen years.  As of June, 2004, he is Director, succeeding David Brion Davis, of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale.  In 2013-14 he was the William Pitt Professor of American History at Cambridge University, UK, and in 2010-11, Blight was the Rogers Distinguished Fellow in 19th century American History at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.   During the 2006-07 academic year he was a fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars, New York Public Library.  He is currently writing a new, full biography of Frederick Douglass that will be published by Simon and Schuster in 2015.  Blight works in many capacities in the world of public history, including on boards of museums and historical societies, and as a member of a small team of advisors to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum team of curators.  For that institution he wrote the recently published essay, “Will It Rise: September 11 in American Memory.”  In 2012, Blight was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and delivered an induction address, “The Pleasure and Pain of History.”

Blight’s newest books include annotated editions, with introductory essay, of Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom (Yale Univ. Press, 2013), Robert Penn Warren’s Who Speaks for the Negro, (Yale Univ. Press, 2014), and the monograph, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (Harvard University Press, published August 2011), which received the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Award for best book in non-fiction on racism and human diversity.  American Oracle is an intellectual history of Civil War memory, rooted in the work of Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin.  Blight is also the author of A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including their Narratives of Emancipation, (Harcourt, 2007), paperback in 2009.  This book combines two newly discovered slave narratives in a volume that recovers the lives of their authors, John Washington and Wallace Turnage, as well as provides an incisive history of the story of emancipation.  In June, 2004, the New York Times ran a front page story about the discovery and significance of these two rare slave narratives.  A Slave No More garnered three book prizes, including the Connecticut Book Award for non-fiction.  Blight recently published the articles, “The Theft of Lincoln in History, Politics, and Memory,” in Our Lincoln, Eric Foner, ed., (2008); and “Hating and Loving the ‘Real’ Abe Lincolns: Lincoln and the American South,” in Richard Carwardine and Jay Sexton, eds., The Global Lincoln, (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011); “Mirror of Memory,” American Interest, August, 2011; and numerous op-ed columns for newspapers, including the New York Times and the New York Daily News.

Blight is also the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Harvard University Press, 2001), which received eight book awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize as well as four awards from the Organization of American Historians, including the Merle Curti prizes for both intellectual and social history.   Other published works include a book of essays, Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002); and Frederick Douglass’s Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (LSU Press, 1989).  Blight is the editor of and author of introductions for six other books, including When This Cruel War Is Over: The Civil War Letters of Charles Harvey Brewster (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1992); Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Bedford Books, 1993); co-editor with Robert Gooding-Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Bedford Books, 1997); co-editor with Brooks Simpson, Union and Emancipation: Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era (Kent State Univ. Press, 1997); and Caleb Bingham, The Columbian Orator (orig. 1797, NYU Press, 1997), the book of oratory and antislavery writings that Frederick Douglass discovered while a youth.  The edited volume, Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory, was published by Smithsonian Press in 2004 and is the companion book for the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

Blight is also a frequent book reviewer for the New York Times, Washington Post Book World, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, and other newspapers, and has written many articles on abolitionism, American historical memory, and African American intellectual and cultural history.   He is one of the authors of the bestselling American history textbook for the college level, A People and a Nation (Houghton Mifflin).  He is also series advisor and editor for the Bedford Books series in American History and Culture, a popular series of teaching books for the college level.  Blight lectures widely in the US and around the world on the Civil War and Reconstruction, race relations,  Douglass, Du Bois, and problems in public history and American historical memory.  He teaches summer institutes for secondary teachers and for park rangers and historians in the National Park Service, devoting a good deal of time to these and many other public history initiatives.

Blight has been a consultant to many documentary films, including, “Death and the Civil War,” (2012), the 1998 PBS series, “Africans in America,” and “The Reconstruction Era” (2004) among others.  Blight has a Ph. D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and did his undergraduate degree at Michigan State University.  He has also taught at Harvard University, at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and for seven years was a public high school teacher in his hometown, Flint, Michigan.  He was also senior Fulbright Professor in American Studies at the University of Munich in Germany in 1992-93.

Blight was elected as a member of the Society of American Historians in 2002, and served as that Society’s President in 2013-14.  Board of Trustees or Advisory Board memberships include the New York Historical Society, the Benjamin Franklin Papers at Yale, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinatti, the National Civil War Center at Tredegar in Richmond, VA, Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians, and the board for African American Programs at Monticello in Charlottesville, VA.  He also served on the board of advisors to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and is involved in planning numerous conferences and events to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  In his capacity as director of the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale, Blight organizes conferences, working groups, lectures, the administering of the annual Frederick Douglass Book Prize, and many public outreach programs regarding the history of slavery and its abolition.  Blight maintains a professional web site at and his lectures for the course, “The Civil War and Reconstruction Era,” are available on line at the Yale University web site,  In 2009, Blight chaired the jury for non-fiction for the National Book Award.

John Fabian Witt

Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law

John Fabian Witt is Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School. His most recent book Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History was awarded the 2013 Bancroft Prize, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was selected for the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, and was a New York Times Notable Book for 2012. Professor Witt is currently writing the story of the men and women behind the Garland Fund: the 1920s foundation that quietly financed the efforts that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education. He is also co-editing a scholarly edition of a lost nineteenth-century manuscript on martial law, tentatively titled To Save the Country: A Lost Manuscript of the Civil War Constitution, which is forthcoming with Yale University Press.

Previous writing includes Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law (Harvard University Press, 2007), and the prizewinning book, The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law(Harvard University Press, 2004), as well as articles in the American Historical Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, and other scholarly journals. He has written for the New York Times, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. In 2010 he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for his project on the laws of war in American history. Professor Witt is a graduate of Yale Law School and Yale College and he holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as law clerk to Judge Pierre N. Leval on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Professor Witt’s casebook, Torts: Cases, Principles, and Institutions (2nd ed. 2016), is available for free on a Creative Commons license at

Professor Witt is the Head of Davenport College.  He taught in Yale for Life as co-lead Professor of our wildly popular 2016 offering of “A New Birth of Freedom.”

Manisha Sinha

 Professor and the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut

Manisha Sinha is professor and the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History. She was born in India and received her Ph.D from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed on faculty, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she taught for over twenty years. Her recent book The Slave’s Cause was reviewed by The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe Christian Science MonitorThe Atlantic, and The Boston Globe, among other newspapers and journals. It was featured as the Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review. It was named the book of the week by Times Higher Education in May, 2016 to coincide with its UK publication and one of three Great History Books for 2016 in Bloomberg News. Her first book, The Counterrevolution of Slavery, was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico in 2015.

Sinha’s research interests lie in United States history, especially the transnational histories of slavery and abolition and the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. She is a member of the Board of the Society of Civil War Historians and of the Council of Advisors of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg, New York Public Library. She is a co-editor of the “Race and the Atlantic World, 1700-1900,” series of the University of Georgia Press and is on the editorial board of the Journal of the Civil War Era and Slavery and Abolition. She has written for The New York TimesThe New York Daily NewsTime MagazineCNN, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Dissent, Jacobin, and The Huffington Post and been interviewed by The Times of LondonThe New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, The Boston Globe, Slate, The Daily Caller, and Gothamist. She has appeared on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are and was an adviser and on-screen expert for the Emmy nominated PBS documentary, The Abolitionists (2013), which is a part of the NEH funded Created Equal series. She is currently writing a book on the “Greater Reconstruction” of American democracy and capitalism after the Civil War under contract with Basic Books.

Crystal Feimster

Associate Professor of African American Studies, History and American Studies

Crystal N. Feimster, a native of North Carolina, is an associate professor in the departments of African American Studies and History and the programs of American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University, where she teaches a range of courses in 19thand 20thcentury African American history, women’s history, and southern history. She has also taught at Boston College, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Princeton.  She earned her Ph. D. in History from Princeton University and her BA in History and Women’s Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill.  She is the author of Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching.  She is currently completing her manuscript, Truth Be Told: Rape and Mutiny in Civil War Louisiana.  Professor Feimster is widely recognized at Yale for her outstanding teaching; she was awarded the Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching in 2013, and the Yale Provost Prize for Teaching in 2014.

Stephen L. Carter

William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law

Stephen L. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1982. Among his recent courses are Contracts, Evidence, Law and Religion, the Ethics of War, Slavery and the Law, and Libertarian Legal Theory. He is the author of fifteen books, including, among others, The Violence of Peace: America’s Wars in the Age of Obama (2010); God’s Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics (2000); Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy (1998); The Dissent of the Governed: A Meditation on Law, Religion, and Loyalty (1998); The Confirmation Mess: Cleaning up the Federal Appointments Process (1994); and The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion (1993). His most recent volume, published in 2018, is Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer who Took Down America’s Biggest Mobster. He recently delivered the W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures at Harvard, which he is writing up for publication.

Professor Carter is also the author of six novels, including The Emperor of Ocean Park, which spent eleven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, a fictional account of a trial of Lincoln in the Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors. In addition to his scholarship, he has published hundreds of opinion pieces. He was a long-time columnist for the Daily Beast and currently writes regularly for Bloomberg, mainly about law, but also about ethics and about popular culture. In addition, he formerly blogged about professional football for the Washington Post.

Professor Carter is a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School. He served as a law clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall at the United States Supreme Court, and earlier for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson, III, of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He is a fellow of several learned societies and a life member of the American Law Institute. He is a trustee of the Aspen Institute, where for fifteen years he moderated seminars. He has received eight honorary degrees.  Professor Carter memorably taught in Yale for Life’s 2016 offering of “A New Birth of Freedom: How the Civil War Era Made a New America,” to great acclaim.

Guest Faculty – “China, From Present to Past: 2019-1000 C.E.”

Annping Chin

Senior Lecturer in History

Annping Chin was born in Taiwan in 1950, to a mainland Chinese family that had moved there in 1948. She came with her family to Richmond, Virginia in 1962. She studied mathematics at Michigan State University and received her Ph.D. in Chinese Thought from Columbia University. She has written three books: Children of China: Voices from Recent Years (Knopf, 1989), based on interviews with Chinese children living in the People’s Republic of China; Tai Chen on Mencius (Yale University Press, 1990), a study of eighteenth century Chinese intellectual history; and most recently, Four Sisters of Hofei(Scribner, 2002), a history of China’s last century through the lives of four highly educated and accomplished women. She has also co-authored, with Jonathan Spence, Chinese Century: A Photographic History of the Last Hundred Years (Random House, 1996).  Her fields of study include Confucianism, Taoism, and the Chinese intellectual tradition.

She describes her recent work as follows:

“In the last two decades, studies of excavated texts (bamboo and silk) have become a driving force in the revival of traditional scholarship in China. These are often collective efforts – large and time-consuming projects – involving archaeologists, philologists, historians, and philosophers. They also draw together experts from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the West. These scholars gather to talk and debate the textual problems and the consequences these texts have on our understanding of early China. I have been reading bamboo-slip manuscripts since 1998 when the first of such texts was published, and in the last ten years I feel I have become a member of that scholarly community. I was asked to participate in seven international conferences and to present papers in six and be a discussant in one. I have also organized a workshop on bamboo-slip texts at Yale in April of 2004. Around ten leading scholars from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong participated in this workshop.

My interest in the bamboo-slip manuscripts also intersects with my work on Confucius, for the most important and the most exciting of the excavated texts deal with moral and political philosophy, and one set, dated to 300 B.C., constitutes the earliest manuscripts we have of Confucius either discussing an even earlier text or having a conversation with his disciples about moral cultivation or government policies. These new discoveries are an integral part of my recent book on Confucius, which was published in November, 2007, with Scribner, and of another project on the history of the Analects, which is under contract with Princeton University Press.”

She was on the faculty at Wesleyan University and is currently teaching in the History Department at Yale University.

Denise Y. Ho

Assistant Professor of History

Denise Y. Ho is assistant professor of twentieth-century Chinese history at Yale University.  She is an historian of modern China, with a particular focus on the social and cultural history of the Mao period (1949-1976).  She is also interested in urban history, the study of information and propaganda, and material culture.  Ho teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on modern and contemporary China, the history of Shanghai, the uses of the past in modern China, and the historiography of the Republican era and the PRC.
She is the author of Curating Revolution: Politics on Display of Mao’s China (2018).  Using a wide variety of primary sources, including Shanghai’s municipal and district archives and oral history, Curating Revolution depicts displays of revolution and history, politics and class, and art and science.  Analyzing China’s “socialist museums” and “new exhibitions,” Ho demonstrates how Mao-era exhibitionary culture both reflected and made revolution.  Current work continues Professor Ho’s interest in the material culture of the Mao era.  She is also researching a second book entitled Border Crossings: Hong Kong and Shenzhen at Empires’ Edge.
In addition to her scholarly research, Professor Ho has been a commentator on contemporary China for The Atlantic, The China Beat, China File, China Policy Institute,Dissent Magazine, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Nation, and Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, among others.
Denise Y. Ho received her B.A. in history from Yale College and an A.M. and Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.  She is currently one of twenty-one fellows in the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Daniel Mattingly

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Daniel Mattingly is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He studies comparative politics, with a focus on political economy, authoritarianism, and Chinese politics. His current research examines communal and ethnic politics, local governance, and the history of state building in China. He received his B.A. from Yale and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

He describes his current book project as follows:

The Art of Political Repression in China

How do autocrats control the countries they govern? More broadly, when and why do people obey authority, even when it runs against their material interests to do so?

My book project is about the artful ways in which autocrats use repression to encourage obedience with policies that exact heavy personal costs. In it, I examine several remarkable efforts by the Communist Party to control Chinese society, including protest control, land seizures, and the One Child Policy.

I argue that in China local officials use seemingly autonomous social institutions as tools of repression. Officials cultivate local civil society groups, co-opt their leaders, and infiltrate them. These strategies help officials quietly observe, nudge, and co-opt — and in the process control society without seeming to do so.

Eric Greene

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Eric Greene is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. He received his B.A. in Mathematics from Berkeley in 1998, followed by his M.A. (Asian Studies) and Ph.D. (Buddhist Studies) in 2012. He specializes in the history of medieval Chinese Buddhism, particularly the emergence of Chinese forms of Buddhism from the interaction between Indian Buddhism and indigenous Chinese culture. Much of his recent research has focused on Buddhist meditation practices, including the history of the transmission on Indian meditation practices to China, the development of distinctly Chinese forms of Buddhist meditation, and Buddhist rituals of confession and atonement. He is currently writing a book on the uses of meditative visionary experience as evidence of sanctity within early Chinese Buddhism. In addition to these topics, he has published articles on the early history of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, Buddhist paintings from the Silk Roads, and the influence of modern psychological terminology on the Western interpretation of Buddhism. He is also presently working on a new project concerning the practice of translation – from Indian languages to Chinese – in early Chinese Buddhism. He teaches undergraduate classes on Buddhism in East Asia, Zen Buddhism, ritual in East Asian Buddhism, and mysticism and meditation in Buddhism and East Asia, and graduate seminars on Chinese Buddhist studies and Chinese Buddhist texts.

After completing his Ph.D. in 2012, Eric took a position at the University of Bristol (UK), where he taught East Asian Religions until coming to Yale in 2015.

Lucas Bender

Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages & Literatures

Professor Bender’s primary area of research concerns early and medieval Chinese literature (roughly 200 BCE to 900 CE), especially in its relationship to other areas of Chinese intellectual and religious life. He received my Ph.D. in 2016 from Harvard University, where his dissertation project argued that the work of the great Tang-dynasty poet Du Fu (712–770) has played a central role in the reimagination of poetry’s relationship with ethics over the last millennium of Chinese history. During the next few years, he plans to revise this dissertation into a book while working concurrently on a second project that examines the split that occurred near the end of the Chinese classical period between textual traditions that would come to be understood as roughly “literary” and “philosophical.” He has a longstanding interest as well in Chinese religions, and alongside forthcoming articles on medieval Classicism (sometimes called “Confucianism”), He hopes in the future to publish on the poetry and literary theory that can be found in the medieval Daoist and Buddhist canons.

At Yale, he has a joint appointment in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and in the Humanities Program. He has an abiding interest in comparative religion and comparative philosophy, and is particularly fascinated by the relationships that have been thought to obtain in China and the West between literary works and ethical cultivation, and in the tragic visions of human life that literature often seems best equipped to explore. He teaches courses, therefore, in Chinese literature, Chinese thought from the Han dynasty through the Song, comparative topics, and Directed Studies.