Calendar of David Library Events

Winter/Spring 2015

James Gigantino IIWednesday, February 25, 7:30 PM – LECTURE: “Rethinking Slavery’s Slow Death in New Jersey, 1775-1865,” James Gigantino II, Ph. D.  -- Contrary to popular perception, slavery persisted in the North well into the nineteenth century. This was especially the case in New Jersey, which did not pass an abolition statute until 1804. New Jersey’s “gradual” abolition law freed children born to enslaved mothers only after they had served their mother's master for at least two decades.  Therefore, slavery continued in New Jersey through the Civil War.  This realization shatters the perceived easy dichotomies between free states and slave states at the onset of the Civil War, as well as challenges our understanding of the impact of the American Revolution on the North.  James Gigantino is an Assistant Professor of History and an affiliated faculty member in African & African American Studies at the University of Arkansas.  He is the author of The Ragged Road to Abolition:  Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865. 

Long Hill String BandTuesday, March 10, 7:30 PM – PERFORMANCE: “Oh, Those Good Old Canal Songs,” the Long Hill String Band -- American music in the 1800’s was melodic, energetic, and bound to start toes a’tappin’.  Settlers carried tunes from their homelands and created new music that embodied their hardships, joys, and stories from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War and beyond. The Long Hill String Band has performed at the National Civil War Museum, the Millbrook Village Days and the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area. With fiddle, banjo, mountain dulcimer, mandolin, bass, and guitar, and voice, they evoke the times when America was growing by leaps and bounds.   This program of American Heritage music will include canal tunes, reels, jigs, waltzes, square dance tunes, and “familiars” like “Oh Susannah!” and “Buffalo Gals.”  Singing, humming, toe tapping and clapping by the audience are part of the fun.  Karl Varnai and his fellow band members will also share some of the history of the times and the tunes that they will be playing. This program is a co-presentation of DLAR and the Friends of the Delaware Canal.

Richard S. Dunn, Ph. D.Tuesday, March 24, 7:30 PM – LECTURE:  “A Tale of Two Plantations: A New Approach to American Slavery,” Richard S. Dunn, Ph. D. - Since the 1970s, Richard S. Dunn has been tracking the 1,103 slaves who lived at Mesopotamia plantation in Jamaica between 1762 and 1833, and the 973 slaves who lived at Mount Airy plantation in Virginia between 1808 and 1865, reconstructing the lineages of slave families from both plantations through four or five generations. In Jamaica, many more slaves died than were born, and the planters imported huge numbers of new slaves from Africa to replace the dead workers. In Virginia, the slave population doubled every twenty-five years, and the planters sold huge numbers of "surplus" slaves, or moved them to distant work sites.  The people at Mesopotamia and Mount Airy suffered a terrible predicament, trapped into forced labor, with meager possibilities for personal achievement. Bare traces of their existence have been handed down to us by their captors, and represent mostly what slaveholders chose to inscribe. But by interpreting such records against the grain, these simple family diagrams and biographical sketches highlight personhood, connection, and belonging rather than proprietary accounting. Consequently, they open many fruitful lines of investigation.  Dr. Dunn taught at Princeton, the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, and for 39 years at the University of Pennsylvania.  At Penn, he founded the Philadelphia Center for Early American Studies (renamed the McNeil Center in 1998), and directed the Center from 1978 to 2000.  He and his wife Mary Maples Dunn are former Co-Executive Officers of the American Philosophical Society.  His latest book,  A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, was just published at the end of 2014.

Don N. HagistSunday, March 29, 3:00 PM -  BOOK LAUNCH:  “The Revolution’s Last Men: the Soldiers Behind the Photographs” by Don N. Hagist – In 1864, as the Civil War threatened to tear apart the United States, a book called The Last Men of the Revolution was published.  It featured photographs and interviews of six old men who were believed to be the only veterans of the American Revolution still living at that time.  The book captivated the public’s imagination at the time of its original publication, but, through a combination of the subjects’ fading memories and the interviewer’s patriotic agenda, the profiles accompanying the photographs distort history.  In his new version of this landmark work, independent researcher and author Don N. Hagist has updated the profiles of each of these veterans using service records, pension files and other materials now available.  Hagist’s book, The Revolution’s Last Men, includes accurate biographies of each of the six men, several additional newly-discovered photographs, drawings of how the men might have looked when they were soldiers in the American Revolution, and many unexpected discoveries uncovered in the recent research.  This event will include a talk by the author about his process, as well as a book sale reception to celebrate the publication of this exciting new work.                                                                                                                                     

Christian M. McBurneyWednesday, April 8, 7:30 PM – LECTURE: “Kidnapping the Enemy:  The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee & Richard Prescott,” Christian M. McBurney  -- On December 13, 1776, a party of British dragoons surprised and captured Major General Charles Lee, second-in-command of the Continental Army.  In order to have a British captive of the same rank, Rhode Island’s William Barton planned and executed the capture of Major General Richard Prescott.  Barton’s raid was the outstanding special operation of the Revolutionary War and still ranks as one of the greatest in American History.  But did the pride Barton earned from the mission ruin his life?  McBurney is the author of three books on the American Revolution, including his newest, Kidnapping the Enemy, about the missions to capture Charles Lee and Richard Prescott.     

Danielle S. Allen, Ph. D.Tuesday, June 2, 7:30 PM - LECTURE - “'The Pursuit of Happiness': On John Adams and Egalitarianism in the Declaration of Independence,” Danielle S. Allen, Ph. D.  – Professor Allen is an American classicist and political scientist.  She is the UPS Foundation Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies’ School of Social Science.  Her latest book, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, has been called “a tour de force of close textual analysis” by Gordon Wood and “a wise and rich book,” by Cornel West. In her talk at the David Library, Professor Allen will consider John Adams, who she believes played a much more significant role in the development of the Declaration of Independence than is conventionally recognized. “Among his central contributions was to provide the definitive grounding for the Declaration’s egalitarianism in the concept of ‘happiness,’” she notes, adding, “This was a move away from the slave-holding sections’ preferred commitment to ‘property.’”

The lecture by Richard K. Beeman, originally scheduled for April 22 at Bucks County Community College, has been cancelled.

With the exception of the April 22nd lecture which will be held at Bucks County Community College, all events will take place in the Feinstone Conference Center at the David Library of the American Revolution, 1201 River Road, 1.3 miles north of the Washington Crossing Bridge.  It is necessary to make advanced reservations for all events, as seating is limited.  To do so, call 215.493.6776 ext. 100, or send an email to  David Library events are admission free.