Elm Staff Writer
The Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience welcomed a new Patrick Henry Fellow for the 2018-2019 academic year.
According to Adam Goodheart, director of the Starr Center, the Patrick Henry Fellowship was established to support both the WC students and the selected scholar, helping those inside and outside the history department to gain an appreciation for our shared past.
This year’s fellow is Dr. Robert Parkinson. He is an alumnus of University of Tennessee, received his doctorate from University of Virginia, and currently teaches at Binghamton University.
“The [Patrick Henry] Fellowship is really devoted to fostering projects that have the aim of being great literature as well as great scholarship. We really believe that there is a literary craft involved in writing about the past and that good historical writing is something that should be able to speak to everybody,” Goodheart said.
Prior to coming to Chestertown, Parkinson held fellowships at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture at the College of William and Mary, as well as the International Center of Jefferson Studies at Monticello, according to his Binghamton University profile.
His current project at the Starr Center is “The Heart of American Darkness: Savagery, Civility, and Murder on the Eve of the American Revolution.” This project revolves around a story he discovered while writing his book, “The Common Cause: Creating Nation and Race in the American Revolution,” about the massacre of nine Mingo Indians by Michael Cresap at the mouth of the Ohio River.
“‘The Heart of American Darkness’ takes the story of the American Revolution beyond the typical places that people think of to the Ohio River Valley,” Goodheart said.
According to Parkinson, his work attempts to recreate the geographical insanity of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” to elaborate how the area shaped revolutionary and modern America.
“The Ohio River is the germ of empire, a dream of commonwealths. When we think about the Ohio River, it is the boundary between north and south, freedom and slavery. It’s at the heart of where we think the heart of America is. I think the darker side of Manifest Destiny, exploitation, and colonial conquest is always with us. There’s something we should come to terms with and come to understand,” Parkinson said.
Additionally, Parkinson will teach a seminar in the spring semester. His topic is unconfirmed, but he mentioned war and race in the Chesapeake Bay area as a possibility. This topic will create an opportunity to explore the Chesapeake like Parkinson did with the Ohio River, as a birthplace of both America’s uniting and dividing ideologies.
“History is not about dead people because they’re dead. It’s about us. The reason history is never over or finished or complete is because we continue to ask new questions about the past informed by the things we think are important now. They’re all going to remain dead, it’s what we think about them that is alive,” Parkinson said.
Parkinson will give a talk on his research on Thursday, Sept. 13, in Hynson Lounge at 5:30 p.m.