Bruce Jackson has a had a long, varied, and brilliant career as a teacher, photographer, folklorist, writer, and filmmaker. Colin first encountered his work while researching the prisons in Arkansas. Bruce visited prisons in the 1960s and 70s, trips that produced photos for his books Killing Time, Cummins Wide, and Inside the Wire.
Bruce was born in New York City, joined the Marines as the Korean War was ending, and studied in New Jersey and Indiana before winding up in the English Department at the University of Buffalo, where he still teaches. He also tried his hand at engineering and took the law exam before winning a Guggenheim and a fellowship from Harvard, both of which allowed him to travel to Arkansas to do his prison research.
During his career, Bruce has met everybody from Johnny Cash to Michel Foucault. Recently, he's worked with the Wooster Group, which has been home to actors as varied as Spalding Gray and Willem Dafoe. As he tells Colin, he calls himself "lucky." Thankfully, his somewhat accidental creative process has produced original and revealing work.
William Freehling has been around. His first book, Prelude to Civil War, was published in the 1960s. Prelude won the coveted Bancroft Prize as well as the Nevins Prize for best dissertation that year. Since then, Bill has published other books about slavery, politics, and the Civil War. Now, he has a new book, Becoming Lincoln, which looks at the successes and many failures that characterized Lincoln's early life and career.
Bill lives in Virginia, but his career has taken him literally across the country, from Harvard (where he got his undergraduate degree and studied with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.) to Berkeley, where he got his doctorate studying under Kenneth Stampp. He has taught in Michigan, Maryland, and Kentucky, but originally he is from Chicago.
Bill and Colin talk about how in many ways, the Civil War was a victory of Mid-Westerners conquering the South. What does Lincoln's role in the period tell us? For one, it says that our failures are very often more important learning experiences than our victories.
John Coski is the author of The Confederate Battle Flag: America's Most Embattled Emblem, which was published in 2006. A graduate of the doctoral program at the College of William and Mary in 1987, he has been at the Museum of the Confederacy--now officially part of the American Civil War Museum--in downtown Richmond for thirty years. Over a beer at Cafe Zata in South Side, John talks about his book and the more recent events concerning the flag: more specifically, how the Charleston massacre of a few years ago spurred new debates about what the Confederate flag means.
On a lighter note, Colin and John talk about the delights of the Byrd theatre and the James Bond franchise. John is also a Beatles fan, and he and Colin get to the heart of Fab Four fandom by asking: what songs would make for the best one disc version of the White Album?