Editorial: History Book Festival hits high note
The Cape Region is famous for its fall festivals, with Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival and True Blue Jazz, Sea Witch and Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival topping the autumn events.
This year, The History Book Festival in Lewes joined that list. Only in its second year, The History Book Festival drew thousands for four days of talks about history books and the people who write them.
The festival’s list of featured books was breathtaking, from a new history of the battle of Valley Forge and one about the Indian Wars in the American West to “Lighting the Fires of Freedom,” a modern history of African-American Women in the Civil Rights movement and “Tinderbox,” about the rise of the Gay Liberation movement. Then there were “The Royal Art of Poison” and “Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher,” as well as “The Rise of Yeast,” to name only a few.
Representing our region were a book about Delaware’s John Dickinson and another about the vanishing watermen of Tangier Island. Keynote presenter Blanche Wiesen Cook was interviewed before a sold-out crowd to discuss the third volume of her history of Eleanor Roosevelt, whom Cook noted had one of the largest FBI files ever compiled by J. Edgar Hoover. Her intriguing interview was accompanied by pianist and composer David Cieri, whose music was featured in a PBS documentary about the Roosevelts.
Four full days of presentations unfolded, nearly all before standing-room-only crowds, with participants drawn from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia as well as Delaware. Their questions elicited fascinating responses from authors who have lived intensely with the history they write about, outstanding researchers and writers who were startling in the depth of their knowledge.
The History Book Festival demonstrated without a doubt that people with widely varied perspectives share a deep and ongoing interest in stories that enlighten us about the past and the many ways our past reaches into the present. Congratulations to the organizers of the festival, who had the vision to undertake this project, and the energy and drive to see it through.