Jill Lepore discusses ‘These Truths’ at Brooks Memorial Library

BRATTLEBORO — Bestselling author and Harvard University professor Jill Lepore will discuss her most recent work, These Truths: A History of the United States, at Brooks Memorial Library, 224 Main St., in Brattleboro on Saturday, April 27, at 7 p.m.

Lepore's title signals the thrust of her historical investigation. As she writes in her introduction, “The American experiment rests on three political ideas - 'these truths,' Thomas Jefferson called them - political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people,” each a “self-evident” law of nature.

The David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard and staff writer at The New Yorker places this topic of truths, and the people who set out to define them, at the center of the American story, revealing how the ongoing tension in public life between fact and fiction is more relevant than ever.

Lepore reminds us that the manipulation of truth is not a new phenomenon bred of the digital age. These Truths commences with Columbus's 1492 voyage to the New World to illustrate how the story of America has long been a tale of the struggle to control facts, truths, and even the historical record itself.

Lepore reframes the American story by telling it through the eyes of figures too often missing from the standard narratives.

Unlike other one-volume histories of the U.S., These Truths spotlights the women who have played active roles in American history. Among the numerous portraits are women's rights activist Pauli Murray, who worked alongside Thurgood Marshall and heavily influenced his decisions in landmark civil rights cases, and Phyllis Schlafly, leader of a resurgent 1970s conservative movement against equal rights that, Lepore argues, has had a greater impact on the trajectory of the party system than virtually anything else in the last half century.

Lepore also threads the theme of slavery and racial injustice through all 500 years of the American tale, offering fresh treatments of familiar figures like the former slave Frederick Douglass and poet and boxer Rodolfo Gonzales, a leader of the 1960s Chicano movement for Mexican American rights.

With these portraits, Lepore offers thought-provoking illustrations on how Jefferson's “truths” of equality and natural rights have often been “sacred and undeniable” only to a limited few.

With a dedicated focus on the influence of technologies of communication on the course of American politics, from the newspaper and the telegraph to the radio and the Internet, she also illuminates how rampant political truth-spinning and “fake news” saw their genesis in the 1930s.

Lepore's many books include The Secret History of Wonder Woman, a national bestseller, and Book of Ages, a finalist for the National Book Award.

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