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UMass Sesquicentennial

University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Contact us:

History Dept., Herter Hall Room 612
University of Massachusetts
161 Presidents Drive
Amherst, MA 01003-9312

Tel. 413.545.1330
Fax. 413.545.6137


UMass History Annual Writer-in-Residence

The History Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is dedicated to the idea that an understanding of the past is essential to a free and enlightened citizenry.  As a measure of that commitment, the Department of History's Writer-in-Residence program facilitates sustained conversation with widely-read authors whose historical work engages broad public audiences.

Each year, with major funding from Five Colleges, Inc., we bring a writer of national prominence to campus for a week-long residency in order to give focused attention in our graduate training to writing for a range of audiences and in a variety of venues well beyond the monograph or scholarly article.  Our guest visits courses and seminars, meets with students and faculty over coffee, lunches and dinners, and gives a public lecture on campus or in Amherst. The residency is embedded within our signature seminar, Writing History. In this way, graduate students from UMass Amherst expand their ability to write for a wider array of readers, sharing the insights of our discipline both within the academy and well beyond.


2016 Writer-in-Residence: Rebecca Onion

Public Lecture:
"Truth, Lies, Clicks, and Shares: How History is Faring on the World Wide Web"

Wednesday, March 2nd, 4pm, Cape Cod Lounge, UMass Student Union - RSVP

How has the shape of the public conversation about history changed in the age of the social Web? What can historians, and interested onlookers, learn about history’s public sphere from the new world of history online? Join us in celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Writer-in-Residence Program with a public lecture by Dr. Rebecca Onion.

Rebecca Onion received her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, and her BA from Yale. Her book, "Innocent Experiments: Childhood and the Culture of Public Science in the United States," will be published in 2016 by the University of North Carolina Press. She writes about history and culture for print and online media outlets, most notably Dr. Onion will join the History Department at UMass Amherst as the Writer-in-Residence for Spring 2016. She will be at UMass from Monday, February 29th through Saturday, March 5th. Official Website.

2015 Writer-in-Residence: Amy Wilentz


Public Lecture: "Haiti's Earthquake and the Limits of Charity"

Tuesday, March 24th, 4pm, Cape Cod Lounge, UMass Student Union
Simulcast at the UMass Springfield Center
Tower Square, 1500 Main St., Springfield, MA

See poster here

Amy Wilentz is the winner of the Whiting Writers Award, the PEN Martha Albrand Non-Fiction Award, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award. In 2014, she won the National Book Critics Circle Award (Autobiography) for her book Farewell, Fred Voodoo. Wilentz has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, the Village Voice, the London Review of Books and many other publications. She is a long-time contributing editor at The Nation. She teaches in the Literary Journalism program at the University of California at Irvine. Official Website



2014 Writer-in-Residence: Adam Hochschild

Public Lecture: "Rewriting the Spanish Civil War"
Wednesday, March 26th, 4 PM, Cape Cod Lounge
See poster here.
Watch Hochschild's talk here.

Program Partners:
Five Colleges, Inc.
UMass English Department
UMass W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies
UMass Modern European Studies Program
Hampshire College School of Critical Social Inquiry
Hampshire College School of Interdisciplinary Arts
Amherst College Department of Spanish


Adam Hochschild is the author of seven books, including King Leopold’s Ghost and Finding the Trapdoor, a collection of his shorter pieces. His 2005 book, Bury the Chains, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the L.A. Times Book Prize.

Hochschild began his journalism career as a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle. Subsequently he worked as a magazine editor and writer, at Ramparts and Mother Jones. His work has been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine and other newspapers and magazines. His magazine writing has won awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists and elsewhere. Hochschild has consulted for the BBC and has taught writing workshops for working journalists in the U.S., Britain, Zambia, South Africa and India.

2013 Writer-in-Residence Robin Kelley

Robin Kelley is an American historian whose research and teaching interests range widely, covering the history of labor and radical movements in the U.S., the African Diaspora, and Africa; intellectual and cultural history (particularly music and visual culture); urban studies, and transnational movements.

Some of his most popular books include: Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, and Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America. His essays have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The African Studies Review, The Journal of American History, and many others.  He visited UMass in March 2013 to meet with classes and give public talks on “The Long Rise and Short Decline of American Democracy” and his current book project on Grace Halsell, a white journalist known for her experiments in racial and cultural crossing. Watch Robin Kelley's talk "The Long Rise and Short Decline of American Democracy" (3/5/13) here.

2012 Writer-in-Residence Tony Horwitz

Tony is a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and worked as a staff writer for The New Yorker before becoming a full-time author.  Four of his books have been national and New York Times bestsellers: A Voyage Long and Strange, Blue Latitudes, Confederates in the Attic, and Baghdad Without A Map. He lives with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their sons, Nathaniel and Bizu, on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

In March, Tony visited UMass courses in the History, Afro-American Studies, and Journalism departments, as well as meeting with the undergraduate History Club and graduate Public History students.  He gave a public lecture on the subject of his new book, Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War.

2011 Writer-in-Residence Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University.   She is the co-founder of the magazine Common-place and a board member of the National Portrait Gallery and the Society of American Historians.  Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement, American Scholar, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Journal of American History, and American Quarterly.  She has one the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best non-fiction book on race, the Bancroft Prize, and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize.  Her book The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History (Princeton, 2010) was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice.





2010 Writer-in-Residence Debby Applegate

Debby Applegate is best known for her book The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, which earned her a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2007.  She has taught at Yale and Wesleyan University and serves on the board trustee of The New Haven Review.  Applegate is an alumna of Amherst College '89.  She completed her Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale.





2009 Writer-in-Residence Russell Shorto

Russell Shorto is the author of The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America and, more recently, Descartes' Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason.  He is also a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and heads The John Adams Institute in Amsterdam.





2008 Writer-in-Residence Charles C. Mann

Charles C. Mann is a correspondent for Science and The Atlantic Monthly, and a three-time finalist for the National Magazine Award.  However, he is best known for his books 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which won the National Academies Communication Award, and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. As the UMass Depertmant of History's Writer-in-Residence, Mr. Mann  met with a number of undergraduate and graduate classes in the History, Journalism, and Anthropology departments. His public lecture discussed how to bring historical and scientific research to non-academic audiences.



2007 Writer-in-Residence Charles Sennott

Charles Sennott, the 2007 Writer-in-Residence, is an award-winning journalist and a former Middle East and European bureau chief for the Boston Globe. During his long career as a reporter and on-air analyst, he covered international stories such as the first World Trade Center bombing and the oil industry in Saudi Arabia.  He has also produced an array of multimedia works.  He is currently the Vice President and Executive Editor of GlobalPost news. Sennott completed his undergraduate degree in History at UMass Amherst and an M.S. at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.




2006 Writer-in-Residence Dennis McNally

Dennis McNally, who completed his PhD at UMass Amherst, is the longtime publicist for The Grateful Dead and the band's official biographer.  He is also the author of the book, Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, a work based on his doctoral dissertation.