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 at age 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. He also won the 1946 Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Jackson (1946). He married Marian Cannon in 1940 and they had four children: Stephen, Katharine, Christina and Andrew. After their divorce in 1970, Schlesinger married Alexandra Emmet in 1971 and they had a son, Robert.

Schlesinger described himself as “agnostic” in Robert Kennedy and His Times (1978). In a blurb for 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)

Freedom From Religion Foundation