Assistant Professor, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., 2003-Current
Area of Research: Early American, American Indian, and Revolutionary American History
Education: Ph.D. in History, Princeton University, 2000
Major Publications: Silverman is the author of Faith and Boundaries: Colonists, Christianity, and Community among the Wampanoag Indians of Martha's Vineyard, 1600-1871, (Cambridge University Press, 2005). He has published several essays relating to that project, including"Indians, Missionaries, and Religious Translation: Creating Wampanoag Christianity on Seventeenth-Century Martha's Vineyard," which won the Lester J. Cappon award for best article of 2005 in the William and Mary Quarterly. Silverman is currently working on Brothertown: American Indians and the Problem of Race, (Cornell University Press), about the development of American Indian race consciousness in the colonial and early national periods told through the histories of the multitribal, Christian Indian communities of Brothertown and New Stockbridge.
Awards: Silverman is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
American Council of Learned Societies Oscar Handlin Fellowship. Grant for the 2007- 2008 academic year toward the book project, Brothertown;
Winner of the Lester J. Cappon Award for best article of 2005 in the William and Mary Quarterly;
American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Fellow. Grant for one month of research at the American Antiquarian Society toward the book project, Brothertown. Summer 2005;
Elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 2004;
New England Regional Fellowship Consortium. Grant for eight weeks of research at the Massachusetts Historical Society, Connecticut Historical Society, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Rhode Island Historical Society, and Mystic Seaport Museum, toward the book project, Brothertown. Summer 2003;
Phillips Fund for the Study of Ethnohistory, American Philosophical Society. Grant for research at the Hamilton College archives and the Wisconsin Historical Society, toward the book project, Brothertown. Summers of 2003 and 2004;
Mellon Post-Dissertation Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass. 2002, year-long residential research fellowship, toward the book project, Faith and Boundaries;
Colonial Society of Pennsylvania, essay prize for"Deposing the Sachem to Defend the Sachemship: Indian Land Sales and Native Political Structure on Martha's Vineyard, 1680-1740." Spring 2001;
Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. 1999-2000;
W. B. H. Dowse Fellowship. The Center for the Study of New England History. Grant of $1,000 for one month of research at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Fall 1998.
Silverman has previously been a lecturer at Princeton University and Assistant Professor at Wayne State University.
Silverman also comments frequently on television, and has been seen on NOVA (Pocahontas Revealed), History Channel (Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower), and CNN (Wolf Blitzer Reports, on the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian).
Two overlapping goals have shaped my writing on American Indian history: first, I strive to explore American Indian lives at the local level with the kind of detail and sophistication that we normally associate with social histories of Euro-American communities; secondly, I wish to consider how Native peoples' distinct cultures shaped their experiences without slighting the influence of their participation in an expansive colonial world. The problem, of course, is to find the sources to meet my ends. Fortunately, in my two book projects (the second of which is in progress), I've managed to stumble across uncommonly rich archives pertaining to some fascinating Native communities. My first book on the Wampanoag Indians of Martha's Vineyard extended from my chance decision to canvass the island's repositories during a rainy vacation day. In the county courthouse and the local historical society, I discovered volume upon volume of land deeds, court dockets, estate inventories, merchant account books, and other records related to and sometimes written by the island Wampanoags, occasionally in the Wampanoag language. These materials, supplemented by an equally rich cache of off- island missionary writing, allowed me to trace the Wampanoags' religion, social life, politics, and economic practices in the context of their experiences with colonialism over a three hundred year period. Currently, I'm researching the emergence of Indian race consciousness in the early American Northeast through the stories of the multitribal, Christian Indian communities of Brothertown and Stockbridge. This work rests predominantly on writings by those Indians' own leaders, including such figures as the Mohegans Samson Occom and Joseph Johnson, and the Mahican Hendrick Aupaumut. We Indian historians often pride and chide ourselves that we have to work twice as hard as most of our colleagues, but we (or at least I) rarely pass on the opportunity to mine a generous archive.
Much to my surprise, the most gratifying part of my work has involved exchanges with modern day Indian communities. I began research on my first book by contacting the Education Director of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah. She, in turn, put me in touch with tribal elders and other historically-minded Wampanoags to discuss my findings in light of the tribe's own traditions. As we grew more comfortable with each other--and after I learned some hard lessons about the community's protocols--we touched on an ever expanding list of sensitive yet essential historical issues, including Wampanoag Christianity, Wampanoag land loss, Wampanoags and alcohol, and especially exogamous marriages and their effects on Wampanoag claims to Indian identity. I received quite an education during these gatherings. The elders raised questions that I never would have considered, exposed me to alternative ways of reading my data, and taught me profound lessons about their connections to the past and to each other. Along the way, I made friendships with a handful of Wampanoag people that have enriched my personal and professional lives.
Most of my work among the Wampanoags took place on their turf, but the highlight of our relationship for me came when a Wampanoag Tribal Council member visited my undergraduate class on Colonial North America to discuss contemporary Indian decolonization efforts. Before launching his talk, he explained that the knowledge he was about to share had been handed down to him from his Wampanoag ancestors and that therefore he wished to begin by singing them an honor song. And so he did, drumming and chanting so loud that the dean across the hall probably fell out of his chair. The only comment I could muster was that the university's namesake, George Washington, must have been spinning in his grave. I'll consider my work, including my collaborations with Native people, successful if he continues his rotation.
By David J. Silverman
About David J. Silverman
"Rockin' class- this teacher is always there at 7:50 a.m w/ a cup of starbucks and a joke. *interesting fact* our good teacher was once a historical re-in-actor at Colonial Williamsburg. he also impersonates historical figures. the"southern" colonial voice reminds me of Us. Sam (the rooster cartoon character)."...
"AWESOME Prof - loves the subject, loves to teach, and loves his students (but in a good way)."..."I've never heard a better lecturer in my life."..."My favorite professor EVER. Knows his stuff and wants you to learn it, too. Very passionate and personable. I wish I could take more classes with him!"..."Silverman is awesome!! he loves teaching, and loves talking about history, and he'll answer any questions."...
"Silverman gives wonderful lectures. He uses accents to quote historic figures and brings history to life!"..."Great class! the lectures were at 8am & I always went. he made them so interesting that i actually stayed awake."..."Great professor, seems to be a very nice and helpful man"..."Silverman is the best professor I had this semester. Best lectures ever, and his accents are fabulous." -- Anonymous Students
Associate professor, Howard University, 2004-present
Area of Research: U.S. foreign relations; U.S.-Latin American relations; resistance to U.S. power.
Education: Ph.D., History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001
Major Publications: McPherson is the author of Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations (Harvard University Press, 2003), which won the A. B. Thomas Award for Best Book of the Year from the Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies and was named Outstanding Academic Title for 2004 by Choice Magazine. He has since published three more books. The first, Intimate Ties, Bitter Struggles: The United States and Latin America since 1945 (Potomac Books, 2006) is a concise, up-to-date narrative with primary documents. The second is an edited volume titled Anti-Americanism in Latin America and the Caribbean (Berghahn Books, 2006). The third, co-edited with Ivan Krastev, is titled The Anti-American Century (Central European University Press, 2007).
He is presently at work on Occupation and Resistance: The United States in Latin America, 1912-1934, on resistance to U.S. occupations in the Caribbean and Central America from 1912 to 1934. This second project takes him to various U.S. archives and to France, England, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.
Awards: McPherson is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Yankee No! awarded A. B. Thomas Award for Best Book, Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies, 2005. Yankee No! named 2005 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine. Course Development Grant, Howard University, 2007;
Fulbright Fellowship, Dominican Republic, 2006 Fulbright lecturer, Dominican History, UASD, Dominican Republic, 2006;
Humanities Research Grant, Howard University, 2005-2006;
Grant to enhance History Department's multimedia, Howard University, 2004;
Research Grant, University of Florida, Gainesville, 2004;
Research Grant, Herbert Hoover Library, Iowa, 2004;
Research Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, New York, 2004;
New Faculty Research Grant, Howard University, 2003-2005;
Travel Grant, Fund for Academic Excellence, Howard University, 2003;
International Affairs Program, Howard University, 2002;
Research Grant, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Texas, 2001;
Three Mellon Travel Awards, Duke-UNC Latin American Studies Program, for national and international travel, 2000;
Dissertation Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for Research in U.S., Panama, and Dominican Republic, 1999-2001;
Matching Grant, Social Science Research Council, 1999-2000;
Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship to cover tuition and health care, Department of Education, 1999-2000;
Research Grant, John F. Kennedy Library, Massachusetts, 1999;
Mowry Award from UNC History Department for summer research, 1999;
Research Assistantship, UNC History Department, 1998-1999;
Mowry Award, UNC History Department and Tinker Field Research Grant from UNC Institute for Latin American Studies for travel to Cuba, 1998;
Finalist, Outstanding Teaching Assistant, UNC History Department, 1997;
International Predissertation Fellowship, Social Science Research Council for Research and training in U.S., Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic and workshops in Lima, Peru, and Scottsdale, Arizona, 1997-1998.
McPherson has also appeared as a commentator on television and has published op-ed pieces and refereed book chapters and articles in The Americas, the Latin American Research Review, Diplomatic History, the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Diplomacy and Statecraft, and Gender and History. He has written over a dozen book reviews and has presented at over two dozen national and international conferences ranging from Prague, Budapest, and Beirut to San Juan, Veracruz, and Santo Domingo.
He has also been a television panelist, for"This is America with Dennis Wholey," PBS-TV. Topic:"America Today: Historical Perspectives." Aired first, live, on 11/23/2002.
My path to the study of Latin American resistance to U.S. power has involved following the tensions of identity, personally and intellectually.
I grew up Québécois, attending French-language schools through my undergraduate years and preparing for a journalism career. Suddenly I turned toward U.S. history and crossed the border for graduate degrees. Why I chose to do so remains somewhat of a mystery. To me, Canada was-and still is-an inviting, multicultural, egalitarian society, and the United States in contrast loomed as a dangerous, divided, unequal behemoth. Yet it was this turmoil in a land of virtuous ideals, recognized in the writings of U.S. historians such as Richard Hofstadter, Gary Nash, and Daniel Boorstin, that steered me south. Though these writers came from widely different political persuasions, their accessible, democratic sensibilities gave me hope. The clash of identities within U.S. nationalism made for vibrant academic traditions.
In my adoptive country, I migrated back toward intellectual equilibrium by choosing to study how foreigners saw the United States. I was fascinated by anti-Americanism, a concept that offers a window into the tensions of global and national identities. There were the tensions within Latin America's perceptions of the northern neighbor, what I have termed its ambivalence, a mixture of attraction and repulsion often acting simultaneously on the Latin American consciousness and forcing it to compartmentalize emotions and choose battles carefully. Tensions equally marked U.S. national identity when facing anti-Americanism: wanting to known"why they hate us" but refusing to change the behaviors that spurred that hate.
All of this was before 9/11. I published Yankee No! in 2003 but had done the bulk of the research before that terrible event. That day recast the relevance of a topic that was headed for obscurity. Soon, however, I realized that the so-called ready audience for anti-Americanism studies was perhaps not so ready. Publishers were more than willing to take it on as a topic, and so were most colleagues, conference organizers, and students. Yet there was skepticism, mostly from those who wondered if anti-Americanism was a"useful category of analysis." Even the U.S. government seemed of two minds. On one hand, it held conferences on foreign perceptions and graciously invited me to a few of them. On the other, the Bush White House, engaging in modern-day McCarthyism, included anti-Americanism among the many topics that would not be funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities-a decision that meant years of blacklisting for me.
Through it all, I remain optimistic that an audience will always exist for what"they" have thought of"us" and why it mattered. Now engaged in a study of Latin American resistance to U.S. military occupations from 1912 to 1934, I hope to continue to produce a usable past. More important, I have found a good fit between historian and history. Being an insider-outside in the United States has forced me to confront my assumptions and know myself better, and I hope that U.S. citizens can use foreign criticisms in the same way, not to"bash America" or defend it"right or wrong" but to engage in a dialogue with the world about who they are and why they matter.
By Alan L. McPherson
About Alan L. McPherson