Lois Leveen


June 27, 2013

Full of Crop

After years of searching, I finally answered a nagging question about Mary Bowser.

Alas, the answer tells more about us (as in, 21st-century readers and history aficionados) than about her.

Check out "The Spy Photo that Fooled NPR, the US Army Intelligence Center, and Me."

Mary Bowser NOT

No one is perfect. Certainly not me. As everyone who reads The Atlantic online now knows.

And if any of you are Wikipedia contributors, please start updating that Mary Bowser entry!

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June 27, 2013

From the Poets in My Past

Paule Marshall's "From the Poets in the Kitchen" is one of my favorite essays about writing. I assigned it in the seminar connecting the art of Carrie Mae Weems to contemporary African American women's literature, which I led at Portland Art Museum this spring.

One of the seminar participants exclaimed that Marshall was one of her dearest friends. Thrilling, given that I wrote about Marshall's beautiful novel BROWN GIRL, BROWNSTONES in my PhD dissertation way back.

So imagine how excited I was to get this picture in the mail.

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June 16, 2013

Allen CME Welcomes Mary Bowser

What would you do if you'd just be freed (along with 4 million other people) from generations of chattel slavery?

For a group of ex-slaves in Tennessee, the answer was to found a church. And by church, I don't mean one congregation. I mean the CME, which originally stood for the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, but today stands for the Christian Method Episcopal Church, a primarily black denomination that grew out of the post-Civil War south.

As you can imagine, Mary Bowser's story resonates powerfully within this church community. So I was honored to speak at Allen Temple CME last month.

The senior pastor, Rev. Dr. LeRoy Haynes, Junior, welcomed me with this moving introduction.
He's a former history professor at Southern Methodist University, so it was a bit like winning a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval to have him praise the novel.

Plus, it is not every day someone connects my work to WEB DuBois.
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May 24, 2013

C-SPANtabulous part TWO

If you want to understand what "truth" and "conjecture" mean to historians, and to historical novelists, check out this amazing program http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/311968-1.

Lois Leveen, Liz Varon, Ed Ayers

So proud to have brought Mary Bowser back to the place where she spied!

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May 16, 2013


Last month, I had an amazing time speaking with Ed Ayers and Liz Varon, author of Southern Lady, Yankee Spy (an academic biography of Bet Van Lew), about Mary Bowser, and intersections between the historian's craft and the historical novelist's craft. Oh, and we happened to have this conversation in the Museum of the Confederacy, which is located in the former Confederate White House (aka the Gray House).

Sorry you missed it?

Fear not -- the whole thing was recorded by C-SPAN and broadcasts this weekend: May 18 Sat @ 6pm & 10pm ET and May 19 Sun @ 11am ET on C-SPAN 3.
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