Historian Philip Dray joins us for the hour to talk about two of his books:
“At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America,” (published in 2003) is an extraordinary account of lynching in America, by acclaimed civil rights historian Philip Dray, which shines a clear, bright light on American history’s darkest stain—illuminating its causes, perpetrators, apologists, and victims. Philip Dray also tells the story of the men and women who led the long and difficult fight to expose and eradicate lynching, including Ida B. Wells, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and W.E.B. Du Bois. If lynching is emblematic of what is worst about America, their fight may stand for what is best: the commitment to justice and fairness and the conviction that one individual’s sense of right can suffice to defy the gravest of wrongs. “At the Hands of Persons Unknown” follows the trajectory of both forces over American history. (We’ll ask Philip Dray what he thinks of the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama).
In his new book, “The Fair Chase: The Epic Story of Hunting in America,” Philip Dray tells the story of hunting in America, showing how this sport has shaped our national identity. From Daniel Boone to Teddy Roosevelt, hunting is one of America's most sacred-but also most fraught-traditions. It was promoted in the 19th century as a way to reconnect "soft" urban Americans with nature and to the
legacy of the country's pathfinding heroes. Fair chase, a hunting code of ethics emphasizing fairness, rugged independence, and restraint towards wildlife, emerged as a worldview and gave birth to the conservation movement. But the sport's popularity also caused class, ethnic, and racial divisions, and stirred debate about the treatment of Native Americans and the role of hunting in preparing young men for war.
Philip Dray is a historian who has written or co-authored seven books on American history and culture. Dray is the author of “At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America,” which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His book “Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen” was a New York Times Notable Book and received the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship. Dray lives in Brooklyn, New York.