About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Calhoun: American Heretic

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual book talk with Robert Elder, author of Calhoun: American Heretic.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Thursday, February 25, at 7 p.m., we invite you to the panel discussion on “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” which is the theme of this year’s Black History Month. The panel will discuss the Black family as the foundation of African American life and history and examine its place in history, literature, the arts, and social policy.

And on Friday, February 26, at 7 p.m., we’ll host current and former members of the Harlem Globetrotters in a program called “Spinning the Globe: The History and Legacy of the Harlem Globetrotters.” Drawing on National Archives records, this panel discussion will focus on the history and legacy of the Globetrotters.

* * *

In the first sentence of the acknowledgments section of Calhoun: American Heretic, Robert Elder states: “The first debt that any biographer of John C. Calhoun owes is to the editors of Calhoun’s published papers, who painstakingly collected, edited, and published those documents over the course of more than half a century.” That sentiment may be expressed by biographers of many of the great figures of our history, and I am proud that a great number of these projects—including the 28 volumes of the Papers of John C. Calhoun—have received funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, a part of the National Archives. The NHPRC supports a wide range of activities to preserve, publish, and encourage the use of documentary sources, created in every medium ranging from quill pen to computer, relating to the history of the United States.

John C. Calhoun—Vice President under two Presidents, Cabinet Secretary under three Presidents, and Senator—has reemerged as a subject of historical debate. Robert Elder brings us a closer look at this contentious figure in his timely biography, described by Jonathan Horn, in his Wall Street Journal book review, as “a timely and thought-provoking biography of the South Carolina statesman whose doctrines and debates set the stage for the Civil War.”

* * *

Robert Elder teaches American history at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His research focuses on the cultural, intellectual, and religious history of the American South in the 19th century. His first book, The Sacred Mirror, about evangelicalism and identity in the Deep South, was published in 2016, and he has published articles, essays, and reviews in venues such as the Journal of Southern History, the Journal of American History, and the Journal of Southern Religion.

Moderating the conversation today will be Rachel Shelden, the director of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center and an associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University. Her research and teaching interests include slavery and abolition, the Civil War, the U.S. South, and political and constitutional history, and she is the author of Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War.

Now let’s hear from Robert Elder and Rachel Sheldon. Thank you for joining us today.