Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

On this date in 1917, Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr., was born in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude in 1938, when he was 20. He was a historian who was interested in liberal politics and the American presidency and who wrote more than 20 books including The Age of Jackson (1945), The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom (1949) and The Cycles of American History (1986). He became an associate professor at Harvard in 1946, but resigned to serve as a special assistant to John F. Kennedy until Kennedy's death in 1963. In 1965, he published a book about his time at the White House: A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which received the 1966 Pulitzer Prize and the 1965 National Book Award. Schlesinger also won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Jackson (1946). He married Marian Cannon in 1940 and the two had four children: Stephen, Katharine, Christina and Andrew. After their divorce in 1970, Schlesinger married Alexandra Emmet in 1971 and they had one son, Robert.

Schlesinger described himself as "agnostic" in Robert Kennedy and His Times (1978). In a blurb for the book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (2004) by Susan Jacoby, Schlesinger gave his support for freethought and the separation of state and church. He wrote: "In view of the tide of religiosity engulfing a once secular republic, it is refreshing to be reminded by Freethinkers that free thought and skepticism are robustly in the American tradition. After all, the Founding Fathers began by omitting God from the American Constitution." D. 2007

"As a historian, I confess to a certain amusement when I hear the Judeo-Christian tradition praised as the source of our concern for human rights. In fact, the great religious ages were notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary sense. They were notorious not only for acquiescence in poverty, inequality, exploitation and oppression but for enthusiastic justifications of slavery, persecution, abandonment of small children, torture, genocide."

—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "The Opening of the American Mind," The New York Times, 1989.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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