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Jill Lepore

  • When Black History Is Unearthed, Who Gets to Speak for the Dead?

    September 28, 2021

    An article by Jill LeporeWhen Deidre Barnes was a kid in North Carolina, horsing around in the back seat of the car with her little brother, her grandfather drove by the woods in a white neighborhood in Durham. “You got cousins up in there,” he called back from the driver’s seat, nodding at a stand of loblolly pines in a tangle of kudzu. Barnes and her brother exchanged wide-eyed glances: they had cousins who were wild people? Only later, looking hard, did they spy a headstone: “Oh, it’s a cemetery.” A few years ago, Barnes read in the newspaper that the place was called Geer. “My grandmother’s maiden name is Geer,” she told me. “And so I asked her, ‘Do we have people buried there?’ ” I met Barnes at the cemetery on a warm, cicada night, with Debra Gonzalez-Garcia, the president of the Friends of Geer Cemetery.

  • The Inner Front

    May 18, 2021

    A podcast by Jill Lepore: During World War II, Nazi radio broadcast the voice of an American woman who came to be known as Axis Sally. She spoke, via shortwave radio, to American women, attempting to turn them against their country and the American war effort.

  • The Last Archive: The Rise Of Doubt

    May 6, 2021

    In this era of misinformation, and claims of "fake news," the truth is essential — and in question. Noted historian Jill Lepore joins us to talk about the second season of her podcast "The Last Archive," which tracks the rise of doubt through the last 100 years of American history. Lepore is also a Harvard professor, author, and staff writer at The New Yorker.

  • When Constitutions Took Over the World

    March 22, 2021

    An essay by Jill Lepore: In 1947, Kurt Gödel, Albert Einstein, and Oskar Morgenstern drove from Princeton to Trenton in Morgenstern’s car. The three men, who’d fled Nazi Europe and become close friends at the Institute for Advanced Study, were on their way to a courthouse where Gödel, an Austrian exile, was scheduled to take the U.S.-citizenship exam, something his two friends had done already. Morgenstern had founded game theory, Einstein had founded the theory of relativity, and Gödel, the greatest logician since Aristotle, had revolutionized mathematics and philosophy with his incompleteness theorems. Morgenstern drove. Gödel sat in the back. Einstein, up front with Morgenstern, turned around and said, teasing, “Now, Gödel, are you really well prepared for this examination?” Gödel looked stricken. To prepare for his citizenship test, knowing that he’d be asked questions about the U.S. Constitution, Gödel had dedicated himself to the study of American history and constitutional law. Time and again, he’d phoned Morgenstern with rising panic about the exam. (Gödel, a paranoid recluse who later died of starvation, used the telephone to speak with people even when they were in the same room.) Morgenstern reassured him that “at most they might ask what sort of government we have.” But Gödel only grew more upset.

  • Panel discussing the 19th Amendment Centennial and The Equal Rights Amendment, L-R: Julie Suk, Jill Lepore, Michael Klarman.

    Experts trace the history of the Equal Rights Amendment

    March 13, 2020

    To commemorate International Women’s Day, a team of experts met at Harvard Law School on March 9 to trace the history of the Equal Rights Amendment to date, and to argue for its importance going forward.

  • The Challenge of Preserving the Historical Record of #MeToo

    March 12, 2019

    Around the height of the #MeToo revelations, in the fall of 2017, I interviewed an archivist at a prominent research library for a piece about social-media preservation. It quickly became apparent that he knew less about the subject than I did; he saved Facebook posts by painstakingly copying and pasting them into Word, comment by comment, and manually pressing print. ... The notion that the memory of #MeToo needs preserving—both because it matters and because it could disappear—is also the premise of a much larger archival effort. In June, the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, arguably the paramount repository of works on American feminism, announced its intention to collect the millions of tweets and hundreds of thousands of Web pages—news articles, legislation, changing H.R. policies, public apologies—that composed #MeToo and remain as its evidence. (Harvard faculty members of the steering committee for the #MeToo project include Jill Lepore, a staff writer for this magazine, and Jeannie Suk Gersen, a contributing writer.)

  • Why I Changed My Mind 4

    Why I Changed My Mind

    March 8, 2019

    A panel discussion at HLS brought together four faculty members to share their moments of reckoning, when they had to re-examine some of their most closely held ideas.