Aug 28, 2017
In Thunder in the Mountains, Dan Sharfstein, a law and history professor at Vanderbilt, examines the causes and consequences of the Nez Perce War of 1877. He balances the story of Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, a forerunner in the Reconstruction efforts, against that of Chief Joseph, a young Nez Perce leader in northeastern Oregon who defied Howard’s army as they tried to force his tribe to leave their ancestral land. Howard, a one-armed Union Army general, gained notoriety for developing an expansive plan for our government’s responsibility to the newly freed slaves. He was credited with providing resources and support for millions, and maintaining a zealous belief in equality for former slaves. But when the Reconstruction failed in the mid-1870s, Howard turned away from his progressive vision and returned to the army where, a few years later, he led the forces against Chief Joseph and his people. Ironically the two men were both known as early champions for equal rights in America. Their ultimate conflict represents a pivotal struggle over who gets to claim the American dream and the meaning of freedom and justice. The war that Howard and Joseph fought is one that continues today.
Recorded live at Town Hall Seattle Thursday, April 13, 2017