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American Forum - Big Oil and the Environment

Paul Barrett

October 2, 2014, 12:00PM

Paul Barrett

PAUL BARRETT'S book, Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who'd Stop at Nothing to Win, is the gripping story of one American lawyer’s obsessive crusade—waged at any cost—against Big Oil on behalf of the poor farmers and indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest. Steven Donziger, a self-styled social activist and Harvard educated lawyer, signed on to a budding class action lawsuit against multinational Texaco (which later merged with Chevron to become the third-largest corporation in America). The suit sought reparations for the Ecuadorian peasants and tribes people whose lives were affected by decades of oil production near their villages and fields.  During twenty years of legal hostilities in federal courts in Manhattan and remote provincial tribunals in the Ecuadorian jungle, Donziger and Chevron’s lawyers followed fierce no-holds-barred rules. Donziger, a larger-than-life, loud-mouthed showman, proved himself a master orchestrator of the media, Hollywood, and public opinion. He cajoled and coerced Ecuadorian judges on the theory that his noble ends justified any means of persuasion. And in the end, he won an unlikely victory, a $19 billion judgment against Chevon--the biggest environmental damages award in history.  But the company refused to surrender or compromise. Instead, Chevron targeted Donziger personally, and its counter-attack revealed damning evidence of his politicking and manipulation of evidence. Suddenly the verdict, and decades of Donziger’s single-minded pursuit of the case, began to unravel.  


Barrett is the author of two other acclaimed books: American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion and The Good Black: A True Story of Race in America. He is assistant managing editor of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine and writes for the New York Times Sunday Book Review. 

Vesla M. Weaver

Television Broadcast: November 16, 2014

VESLA M. WEAVER serves as assistant professor of political science and African American Studies at Yale. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor of politics at the University of Virginia and a Miller Center faculty associate. Weaver is interested in understanding racial inequality in the United States, how state policies shape citizenship, and the political causes and consequences of the U.S. criminal justice system's growth. Her newest book (with Amy Lerman), Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control, explores the effects of increasing punishment and surveillance in America on democratic inclusion, particularly for the black urban poor. Weaver is also the co-author of Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America.


American Forum - The Great Historians: With 2014 Pulitzer, Bancroft Winners

Ari Kelman, Alan Taylor

September 17, 2014, 11:00AM

Ari KelmanAlan Taylor

Television Broadcast: December 28, 2014

ARI KELMAN is the McCabe Greer Professor of History at Penn State University. His book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek, won the 2014 Bancroft Prize, an award given each year by the trustees of Columbia University for books about diplomacy or the history of the Americas. ALAN TAYLOR is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor at the University of Virginia. His book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for History. His earlier book, William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic, won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for History, in addition to that year’s Bancroft Prize.


Governors Haley Barbour and Evan Bayh, co-chairs of the Miller Center’s Milstein Commission on New Manufacturing, will hold a news conference to release Building a Nation of Makers: Six Ideas to Accelerate the Innovative Capacity of Manufacturing SMEs. This event will be held in Washington, DC, at the National Press Club. Please RSVP to


American Forum - “Stronger than all the armies”

Bob Moses, Thomas F. Jackson, Robert S. Smith, Risa L. Goluboff, Phil Tiemeyer

June 8, 2014, 1:00PM

Bob MosesThomas F. JacksonRobert S. SmithRisa L. GoluboffPhil Tiemeyer

Original television broadcast: June 8, 2014

As the 50th anniversary approaches of enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an American Forum special mini-documentary featuring leading scholars from around the U.S. examines how the landmark law ending racial segregation also radically opened new opportunities for women, gays and lesbians, Native Americans, and other ethnicities.  Featuring in-depth interviews with four leading scholars of the civil rights era and American law, this edition first recounts how the Civil Rights Act was passed in the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy despite aggressive opposition from powerful southern white supremacists in Congress and the longest filibuster in U.S. history.  The program also explores how a law originally intended to end legally-mandated racial segregation in the south also became the catalyst--and legal basis--for guaranteeing civil rights and ending discrimination for myriad other groups of Americans, infusing energy into the women's movement, inspiring Hispanics, farm workers, gays and lesbians, and decades later the current quest for legalization of gay marriage.  

Featuring civil rights legend Bob Moses; Thomas F. Jackson, University of North Carolina-Greensboro; Robert S. Smith, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Phil Tiemeyer, Philadelphia University;  Risa L. Goluboff, University of Virginia School of Law; and host Douglas A. Blackmon, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning history Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.  The episode also explores Supreme Court decisions suggesting trouble ahead for the U.S. law viewed as the most historic of the 20th century.  Before the final vote on the law in 1964, the architect of its passage in the Senate, Illinois Sen. Everett M. Dirksen invoked words of the writer Victor Hugo  to describe the bill's importance: "Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come."  

This special American Forum also kicks off a series of rebroadcasts during summer 2014 marking the 50th anniversary of FREEDOM SUMMER and the peak of the Civil Rights Movement era.  

Click on any of these titles to see those programs:

Todd Purdum: Fifty Years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Peniel Joseph: Stokely Carmichael and the Summer that Changed History 

Bob Moses and Julian Bond: Freedom Summer 50 Years Later

Steven Davis and Bill Minutaglio: JFK and the Anger of the 1960s

William Jones: JFK, the March on Washington, and the Breakthrough for Civil Rights




“Leadership and Metropolitan Areas”
Elizabeth GerberUniversity of Michigan

Leadership and the States
James BattistaUniversity of Buffalo


Domestic Policy Leadership
E. Scott AdlerUniversity of Colorado

Foreign Policy Leadership
Philip PotterUniversity of Michigan


Leadership in American Politics

June 2, 2014 - June 3, 2014

Joint effort between The Miller Center and the Batten School.

Raymond C. ScheppachBill Leighty

RAYMOND C. SCHEPPACH, professor of the practice of public policy at the U.Va. Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and former executive director of the National Governors Association, will be joined by BILL LEIGHTY, former chief-of-staff to Governor Mark Warner, for a broad ranging discussion of gubernatorial leadership.

This session is the public keynote to the invitation-only academic conference, “Leadership in American Politics,” led by JEFFERY A. JENKINS, professor and director of graduate studies in the politics department and Miller Center faculty associate, and CRAIG VOLDEN, professor of public policy and politics at the Batten School.


Leadership and the Bureaucracy
John PattyWashington University in St. Louis

“Leadership and the Courts”
Charles Cameron, Princeton University

Leadership: A Provisional Definition
William HowellUniversity of Chicago


American Forum - Politics in 2014

May 27, 2014, 12:00PM

This is a special episode of American Forum dedicated to examining upcoming political challenges. 

Jeff EngelAndrew CardDavid FarberMelani McAlister

Jeff Engel, When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War.
Downloads: Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 12

Andrew Card, former White House Chief of Staff
David Farber, History, Temple University  
Melani McAlister, International Affairs, George Washington University

If you would like to attend this or any panels associated with the Fellowship Conference, please RSVP to

Conference - “2014 National Fellowship Conference”

Panel 4: Cross-Border Transformations: War and Revolution in International History

Douglas O’Reagan, Jim Hershberg, J. Luis Ramos, Frank Ninkovich, Tico Braun

May 9, 2014, 9:15AM

Douglas O’ReaganJim HershbergJ. Luis RamosTico Braun

Welcome Remarks from Gov. Baliles


Douglas O’Reagan, History of Science, University of California, Berkeley [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“Science, Technology and Diplomacy: American, British, and French Efforts to Extract German Science and Technology During and Following the Second World War”
Mentor: Jim Hershberg, George Washington University

J. Luis Ramos, History, University of Chicago [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“The Other Revolution: Politics, Culture, and the Transformation of U.S.-Mexican Relations after the Mexican Revolution, 1919–1930”
Mentor: Frank Ninkovich, St. John’s University

Moderator: Tico Braun, University of Virginia

If you would like to attend this or any panels associated with the Fellowship Conference, please RSVP to

Conference - “2014 National Fellowship Conference”

Panel 3: Bucking the System? Determinants of International Politics

Adam Liff, Rebecca Brubaker, William Hitchcock, Alastair Iain Johnston, Susan Hyde

May 8, 2014, 3:00PM

Adam LiffRebecca BrubakerWilliam HitchcockAlastair Iain JohnstonSusan Hyde

Adam Liff, Politics, Princeton University [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“Shadowing the Hegemon? National Identity, Global Norms, and the Military Trajectories of Rising Powers”
Mentor: Alastair Iain Johnston, Harvard University

Rebecca Brubaker, International Politics, University of Oxford [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“From the Un-Mixing to the Re-Mixing of Peoples: Understanding U.S.-Led Support for Minority Returns Following the Ethnic Conflict in Bosnia”
Mentor: Susan Hyde, Yale University

Moderator: William Hitchcock, University of Virginia

If you would like to attend this or any panels associated with the Fellowship Conference, please RSVP to

Conference - “2014 National Fellowship Conference”

Panel 2 (lunch panel): Methods and Modes of Resisting the State

Laura Blessing, Andrea Campbell, Sean Beienburg, John Dinan, Risa Goluboff

May 8, 2014, 12:45PM

Laura BlessingAndrea CampbellSean BeienburgJohn DinanRisa Goluboff

Laura Blessing, Politics, University of Virginia [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“The New Politics of Taxation: The Republican Party and Anti-Tax Positions”
Mentor: Andrea Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sean Beienburg, Politics, Princeton University [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“Constitutional Resistance in the States, 1880–2010”
Mentor: John Dinan, Wake Forest University

Moderator: Risa Goluboff

If you would like to attend this or any panels associated with the Fellowship Conference, please RSVP to

Conference - “2014 National Fellowship Conference”

Panel 1: Metropolitan Histories of the 20th Century

Brent Cebul, Anthony Ross, Kelly Richter, Kim Phillips-Fein, Jim Sparrow, Meg Jacobs, Claudrena Harold

May 8, 2014, 9:30AM

Brent CebulAnthony RossKelly RichterKim Phillips-FeinJim SparrowMeg JacobsClaudrena Harold

Anthony Ross, History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor  [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“‘The Ownership Society’: Mortgage Securitization and the Metropolitan Landscape Since the 1960s”
Mentor: Kim Phillips-Fein, New York University Gallatin School

Brent Cebul, History, University of Virginia [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“Developmental State: The Politics of Business, Poverty, and Economic Empowerment from the New Deal to the New Democrats“
Mentor: Jim Sparrow, University of Chicago

Kelly Richter, History, Stanford University   [ DOWNLOAD PAPER ]
“Uneasy Border State: The Politics and Public Policy of Latino Illegal Immigration in Metropolitan California”
Richter is an immigration policy fellow funded by John and Rosemary Galbraith.
Mentor: Meg Jacobs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Moderator: Claudrena Harold, University of Virginia

If you would like to attend this or any panels associated with the Fellowship Conference, please RSVP to


2014 National Fellowship Conference

May 8, 2014 - May 9, 2014

The annual spring conference brings the fellows together with their mentors to present the fruits of their fellowship year.  You can read more about the fellows and their projects here, or click the links below to specific panels to read a sample of their work.  If you would like to attend any of the panels listed below, please RSVP to

Peniel E. Joseph

Television Broadcast: May 25, 2014

PENIEL E. JOSEPH, history professor at Tufts University, joins us to discuss his new biography, Stokely: A Life, about the charismatic and controversial black activist Stokely Carmichael, who stepped onto the pages of history when he called for “Black Power” during a speech one Mississippi night in 1966. In Stokely, Joseph presents a groundbreaking biography of Carmichael, using his life as a prism through which to view the transformative African-American freedom struggles of the 20th century.  Joseph is also the author of the award-winning Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama. He is the founder of a growing subfield in American history and Africana studies that he has characterized as "Black Power Studies," which is actively rewriting postwar American and African-American history.


Scholars have recently explored from many angles the intersection of domestic and international politics and policies during the civil rights revolution. This was a time when anti-colonial movements inspired U.S. activists, when widely publicized civil rights crises became acute cold war foreign policy headaches for Presidents, when defenders of racial hierarchy world-wide incorporated anti-Communism into their arsenals of resistance. Our invited scholars approach these debates from fresh perspectives that examine how the United Nations became a crucial site of contestation over the meaning and enforcement of civil rights and human rights. What can attention to cold war politics, global freedom movements, and debates in the UN about human rights tell us about the shape and scope, the successes and failures of the US rights agenda?


John Kennedy proposed the civil rights bill and Lyndon Johnson ushered the Act through Congress amidst militant civil rights protests and violent white reaction nation-wide, at the height of the Cold War, with a divided and “deadlocked” Congress. What can the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Project reveal about presidential leadership in this period of crisis and opportunity? Were cold war pressures – to protect America’s image of free world leadership – in fact as significant as many argue, especially in light of the compelling moral and domestic political pressures leaders faced? Perhaps more importantly, how did each Administration define and try to shape the meaning of civil rights and the relative strength of the bill’s and the Act’s various titles?  How did these Administrations see the relationship between civil rights and the war against what JFK called “social and economic oppression?” What qualities of presidential leadership are evident in the two Administration’s civil rights tapes?


Co-sponsored by the Miller Center; Center for the Study of Race and the Law; and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity, UVa

On July 2, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, widely celebrated as the crowning achievement of a revolution in U.S. race relations that ramified into many spheres of domestic and international relations. One year earlier, John Kennedy had proposed a more moderate civil rights bill, which was nevertheless the most far-reaching piece of civil rights legislation proposed in 88 years.

This symposium will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with an exploration of the Act’s origins, impact, and significance within several broad contexts, including the social movements and public policy transformations that the Act symbolized, promoted, and institutionalized. 

Todd Purdum

Television Broadcast: May 18, 2014

Washington journalist TODD PURDUM recounts the dramatic political battle to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the 50th anniversary of its passage. In his latest book, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, Purdum recreates the legislative maneuvering and the all-too-human figures who managed, in just over a year, to create a bill that prompted the longest filibuster in the history of the U.S. Senate yet was ultimately adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support. Purdum evokes the high purpose and low dealings that marked the creation of this monumental law, drawing on extensive archival research and dozens of new interviews that bring to life this signal achievement in American history.  Photo Credit: Gasper Tringale

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