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Out of the Shadows

Professor Christopher Waldrep's latest book focuses on the Battle of Vicksburg, the longest campaign of the Civil War -- one that has often lingered in the shadows of an earlier, more famous battle.

While the summer of 1863 is largely remembered for the bloody three-day battle fought in Gettysburg, Penn., Waldrep points out that Vicksburg, which began one day later, was the true turning point in Civil War history. "Vicksburg's Long Shadow, the Civil War Legacy of Race and Remembrance" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005) offers a careful examination of the battle's legacy.

"Of course Abraham Lincoln delivered a famous speech at the Pennsylvania battlefield, but the Battle of Vicksburg was more significant in terms of how the Civil War turned out," Waldrep says. "First, it established General Grant's reputation … one that was floundering at the time. Even more importantly, the battle divided and therefore weakened the Confederacy when the Union troops took control of the Mississippi Valley." Tens of thousands of slaves, who lived on plantations in the valley, were freed following the Union victory at Vicksburg.

Waldrep, the Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Endowed Chair in History, is an expert on the history of violence in America and U.S. constitutional and legal history. He recently edited "The History of Violence in America" and "The History of Lynching in America," both forthcoming from New York University Press.

San Francisco high school history teachers will soon reap the benefit of Waldrep's scholarship. The History Project, a joint effort with the San Francisco Unified School District, will provide the opportunity for public high school teachers to study with SFSU historians. Joel Kassiola, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, credits Waldrep with leading the History Department in securing $251,000 from the U. S. Department of Education to fund the program.

-- Denize Springer


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