For the past two months, the Poughkeepsie Library District has been marking the sesquicentennial of America’s direst internal struggle by hosting a traveling exhibition titled “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” a project of the American Library Association and the National Constitution Center, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The exhibit’s run has been accompanied by a brilliant series of public events that included a performance at the Bardavon of Aaron Copeland’s Lincoln Portrait by the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, with narration by David Strathairn. There were also a lecture on “The Civil War as a Constitutional Crisis,” a reenactment of a fire-and-brimstone Abolitionist sermon once preached in Poughkeepsie and a one-man play about Lincoln by Stephen Wing.
The exhibition winds up its local stay this weekend, and its sendoff will be no less spectacular than the other events that marked its tenure: a talk by a celebrity historian with a fascinating personal history, who these days happens to be a Pleasant Valley resident (and chronicled his move there in his 2002 memoir Country Matters). Born in England, Michael Korda is the nephew of actress Merle Oberon and film directors Zoltán and Sir Alexander Korda and is probably best-known for his long stint as editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster. But his Oxford University training was in history; and though his books have covered such topics as the Battle of Britain and the Hungarian Revolution, T. E. Lawrence and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American Civil War is an area of special interest for Korda.
In 2004, he published a biography of Ulysses S. Grant that was praised for humanizing a hitherto-inaccessible, notoriously taciturn personality. A decade later he turned his attention to the Union general’s opposite number with his biography of “perhaps one of American history’s least understood legends,” Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee (Harper, 2014). Korda will be drawing heavily on his research for this most recent work as he wraps up the Civil War exhibition at the library with a lecture this Sunday titled The Southern Perspective.
Michael Korda will appear at the Auditorium, located at 105 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, beginning at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 4. The traveling Lincoln exhibit can be viewed through January 4 at the Adriance Memorial Library’s Mary Wojtecki Rotunda Gallery, located at 93 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, during regular library hours: from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For further information, call (845) 485-3445, extension 3702, or visit www.poklib.org.
Historian Michael Korda talk: The Southern Perspective, Sunday, January 4, 2:30 p.m., free, Poughkeepsie Library District Auditorium, 105 Market Street, Poughkeepsie; (845) 485-3445, www.poklib.org.