Keynote: William B. Hart, The Past as the Small and the Mighty

Keynote

The Past as the Small and the Mighty: One American Historian’s Perspective on Atlantic-World History

Dr. William B. Hart, History Department, Middlebury College

American historians have begun to merge two seemingly disparate approaches to the study of the American past: “microhistory,” the study of seemingly “small” things – e.g., an individual, a community, an event – intended to probe and illuminate to great detail not just the entity under study but also larger historical forces that impacted that entity; and “Atlantic-world history,” the study of “mighty” spatial, geographical, and temporal currents that reveal historical processes on a near global scale.  This talk, focused on the American Colonization Society, a nineteenth-century reactionary reform movement that involved racially purifying American society, will show that we cannot fully understand colonization without adopting both microhistorical and Atlantic-world perspectives.  The former reveals local attitudes toward race, nation, and identity, informed by Africa’s persistently haunting hold on the white American imagination.

Bio:

Prof. Bill Hart earned his PhD in American Civilization at Brown University and has been a faculty member of the History Department at Middlebury College since 1993.  Prof. Hart’s scholarly specialization is race, religion, and identity on the American frontier, with a special emphasis on Indian-Black relations. Over the years, he has taught a broad range of history courses, from “The Atlantic World, 1400 – 1900,” “Revolutionary America,” and “African-American History.” In Spring 2015, Prof. Hart curated the photo exhibition, “Many Thousand Gone: Portraits of the African-American Experience, 1840–1968,” at the Middlebury College Museum of Art. He has also held a number of fellowships, including most recently a Friends’ of the Princeton Library Research Grant (2016).  Prof. Hart has also been an on-camera spokesperson and adviser for a number of documentaries, including “Black Indians: An American Story” (2001), and the PBS series, “The War that Made America” (2006). He is currently writing a biography of Martin Freeman, the second black graduate of Middlebury College (1849), who became the first black college president in the nation (Avery College, Pittsburgh, PA, 1856–1863), and a faculty member at and President of Liberia College (1889), Monrovia, Liberia.

 

One thought on “Keynote: William B. Hart, The Past as the Small and the Mighty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.