Freedom Song: Battle Hymn of the Republic with Dr. John Stauffer

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It was sung at Ronald Reagan's funeral, and adopted with new lyrics by labor radicals. John Updike quoted it in the title of one of his novels, and George W. Bush had it performed at the memorial service in the National Cathedral for victims of September 11, 2001. Perhaps no other song has held such a profoundly significant — and contradictory — place in America's history and cultural memory than the The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Dr. John Stauffer will review his latest book, The Battle Hymn of the Republic:
A Biography of the Song That Marches On, coauthored by Benjamin Soskis, and show how this Civil War tune has become an anthem for cause after radically different cause.  Their sweeping study of the Battle Hymn, traces the song's evolution from antebellum revivalism, with the melody of the camp-meeting favorite, Say Brothers, Will You Meet Us. Union soldiers in the Civil War then turned it into John Brown's Body. Then Julia Ward Howe, uncomfortable with Brown's violence and militancy, wrote the words we know today.

Dr. Stauffer is a leading authority on antislavery, social protest movements, and interracial friendship, and is Chair of History and Literature (Fall 2013), and Professor of English, American Studies, and African and African American Studies at Harvard University.  He is author of several books and more than 45 articles, including this critically acclaimed work on The Battle Hymn.


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