The Secrets of Mary Bowser

May 23, 2013

(Flickr/Germanna CC)
A re-enactor portrays Mary Elizabeth Bowser, a spy for the Union during the war, during an unrelated Black History Month event.
Lois Leveen, the Newberry’s 2013 Arthur and Lila Weinberg Fellow, discusses the research behind The Secrets of Mary Bowser, her novel based on the true story of a former slave who became a Union spy in the Confederate White House.
 
Dr. Leveen provides insight into the lives of free and enslaved blacks in urban, industrialized Richmond; into the thriving black community in antebellum Philadelphia; and into how blacks and whites worked together in the pro-Union underground that operated in Richmond during the war. The author also explores what it means to teach—and learn— African American history through fiction. What happens when ordinary people do extraordinary things?
 
Award-winning author Lois Leveen earned degrees in history and literature from Harvard, the University of Southern California, and UCLA, and taught at UCLA and at Reed College. She is a regular contributor to Disunion, the New York Times coverage of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
 
 
Recorded live on Thursday, May 23, 2013 at the Newberry Library.
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