Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Tim Boyd

Death Becomes Him

In The Faithful Executioner, Joel Harrington examines the meaning of justice, honor, and the law in Reformation-era Europe

July 31, 2013 During the late sixteenth century, the city of Nuremberg was a bustling commercial metropolis at the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. As one of the first cities to convert to Lutheranism in the 1520s, it was also on the front lines of the Reformation. In The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, Vanderbilt historian Joel Harrington considers this world as it is revealed in the extensive diary of Frantz Schmidt, the city’s public executioner for more than forty years. Harrington will appear at the twenty-fifth annual Southern Festival of Books, held in Nashville October 11-13. All festival events are free and open to the public.

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South of Eden

Robert J. Norrell’s new novel of race, violence, and injustice in 1960s Alabama is a thoughtful and captivating tale in the best tradition of the Southern courtroom drama

March 20, 2013 Eden Rise by Robert J. Norrell, a history professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, contains both a lively narrative and a deep historical understanding of the atmosphere of the small-town South at the height of the civil-rights movement. Set in 1960s Alabama, the novel’s plot centers on a murder trial, and the book is a fine addition to the genre of Southern courtroom dramas that capture the tension between the objective reality of racial injustice and the subjective desire of most of the white population to deny it, justify it, or cast themselves as its true victims.

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A House of God, Divided

Stephen R. Haynes’s study of the 1960s campaign to desegregate the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis provides a balanced perspective on a vital element of the civil-rights movement

January 14, 2013 Any good history of desegregation highlights the unique circumstances of a particular incident without losing sight of the general social transformation it was a part of. Rhodes College professor Stephen R. Haynes has managed to do exactly that in his new book, The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation, which provides a thorough and engaging overview of the struggle to integrate the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis. Haynes will appear at The Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis on January 22 at 6 p.m.

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Jefferson’s Shadow

Jon Meacham talks with Chapter 16 about his new biography of Thomas Jefferson and the politics of optimism that made him beloved

December 6, 2012 In a new biography of Thomas Jefferson, Jon Meacham considers not only Jefferson’s political career but also the ways he operated in both the political and intellectual spheres of the early American republic. In recent years, biographers have cast a more critical light on Jefferson’s career, often focusing on the disconnect between his intellectual ideals and his political behavior. While acknowledging that the third president was far from perfect, Meacham makes the case for seeing Jefferson as a pragmatist rather than a hypocrite. Meacham will discuss Thomas Jefferson at the Nashville Public Library on December 13 at 6:15 p.m. as part of the Salon@615 series. The event is free and open to the public.

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JFK’s Legacy

Caroline Kennedy talks with Chapter 16 about the historical value of newly published tapes from her father’s White House

October 3, 2012 Fifty years ago this month, the Cuban Missile Crisis set off the most nerve-wracking two weeks of the Cold War. Six months later, civil-rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, gripped the world’s attention. Not long after that, a coup against the South Vietnamese government threatened to drag the U.S. into war. These crises have been well-covered by historians, but Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy, a new collection of President John F. Kennedy’s recordings of his private conversations, offers a fascinating glimpse into how the decisions in these critical situations were made. Caroline Kennedy, co-author of the book and daughter of the late president, recently spoke with Chapter 16 prior to her appearance at 1 p.m. on October 9 at the Nashville Public Library as part of the Salon@615 series. She will also appear on October 10 at 6 p.m. at The Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis. Both events are signings only.

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Who Spoke for the Negro?

Vanderbilt University’s digitized database of Robert Penn Warren’s conversations with civil-rights activists provides students and scholars with a chance to “listen in” on the movement

May 23, 2012 In 2008, the Robert Penn Warren Center at Vanderbilt University held a civil-rights symposium for scholars and for those who participated in the movement. The event commemorated both the fortieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the unveiling of a new, digitized collection of interviews with civil-rights leaders conducted by Warren during the 1960s. The Warren Center has now launched an updated version of the site, and Chapter 16 recently spoke with Mona Frederick, executive director of the center, about the collection and the opportunities for research it provides.

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