The West Roxbury Branch Library hosted an introductory overview of the lecture series “American Identity” last Monday. Starting on June 27, the program kicks into gear with the first of nine DVD lectures on the lives of a cross section of well known Americans.
The half-hour talks are given by Patrick Allitt, Professor of American History at Emory University, and are part of a course he created for The Teaching Company.
The program was brought to the library by longtime West Roxbury resident and retired Boston University professor Dolores Burton, who also chose the nine lecture subjects out of the 42 people covered in Professor Allitt’s course.
“I originally wanted to do something on the Impressionists,” said Burton. “But we would’ve had to show the entire series and it was too long to fit into the library’s schedule. So we’re doing ‘American Identity’ because you can look at these on a stand-alone basis. They’re straightforward, very solid lectures.”
Burton first thought of presenting the lectures thematically, for instance under the headings of religion or entrepreneurship. But she eventually decided to mix it up, to offer a variety of outstanding and very different Americans.
“We’re going to start with Eli Whitney,” she said, referring to the blacksmith-turned-inventor.
Other lectures will be on educator Horace Mann, explorer John Wesley Powell, spiritual leader Black Elk, anarchist Emma Goldman, race leader Booker T. Washington, trade unionist Samuel Gompers, humanitarian Herbert Hoover, and feminist Betty Friedan.
Burton, who purchased the entire course and donated it to the library, sees the Monday night series as “a kind of lifelong program for people who want to continue learning really substantive material on an informal basis – in groups.
“This is very much adult education,” she added.
For the next nine Mondays (with the exception of July 4), Burton will give a brief introduction, then show the lecture, and have a follow-up discussion.
“Professor Allitt really knows how to take a lecture, and stop to give an anecdote or stop and quote from an original source,” she said. “He reads very well, and he knows how to restate something in case you didn’t get it.”
“American Identity” programs begin at 6:30 and last approximately 90 minutes. Lemonade and cookies will be served. For more information, call 617-325-3147.