Former Library Company Fellow François Furstenberg speaks about his book, In the Name of the Father: Washington’s Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation, released in paperback by The Penguin Press.
François Furstenberg grew up in Boston and Washington, D.C. After graduating from Columbia University, he worked for several years in Paris before earning a Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University. He was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in U.S. history at Cambridge University for one year, after which he moved to Montreal, where he is currently assistant professor of history at the Université de Montréal.
In the Name of the Father is Professor Furstenberg’s first book. It draws on the research he conducted at the Library Company and on many images from the collections of the print department and examines how the young American nation was bound together by the words, image, and myth of George Washington. It immerses us in the rich, riotous world of “civic texts,” the patriotic words and images circulating throughout the country in newspapers, almanacs, books and primers, paintings, and even the homeliest domestic ornaments.
In the Name of the Father teems with vivid stories of American print culture, including a consideration of Parson Weems, the hack biographer-cum-bookseller who authored the first blockbuster Washington biography. Professor Furstenberg shows us how the civic texts of the early republic infused Americans with national spirit and how they created what Abraham Lincoln so famously called “the mystic chords of memory.” But he also examines the darker side of the process of nation-creation: how early American nationalism ultimately reconciled itself with slavery, with consequences that haunt us still.