University of Rochester



Albion TourgeeThe Albion Tourgée Seminar meets monthly during the academic year on selected Thursday evenings to discuss scholarly papers on American cultural history. Although designed for faculty, students, and local alumni of the graduate program in history of the University, anyone in the greater Rochester area interested in the topic at hand is welcome to attend. The seminar will be held at the home of Karen McCally and Daniel Borus from 7-9 pm, and will include refreshments conducive to animated discussions. Click here for directions.

The seminar is named for one of the most luminous of University alumni, Albion W. Tourgée (1838-1905). Civil War veteran, lawyer, judge, journalist, novelist, and unwavering advocate of racial equality, Tourgée was a leader of the forces of radical Republicanism in North Carolina and a fierce opponent of the Ku Klux Klan. He also wrote perhaps the best novel to emerge from Reconstruction, A Fool's Errand (1879), which was a huge commercial success as well. With the waning of Radical fortunes in North Carolina, Tourgée returned north to Chautauqua County New York in 1881, where he nonetheless continued to press the cause of racial equality. In 1896 he served as plaintiff's counsel in Plessy v. Ferguson and his passionate brief in the case is credited with providing Justice John Marshall Harlan with the phrase "color-blind" justice prominent in his famous dissent. In his later years, Tourgée extended his egalitarian radicalism to the struggle between capital and labor as well ("The power of wealth is just as properly subject to restraint as that of the biceps and is even more liable to abuse"). In sum, Tourgée was, as he himself might have put it, among the most distinguished fools for equality and justice in American history.

Papers for the seminar will be posted here at least a week in advance of each session, and participants are urged to read them beforehand, since the sessions will assume as much. For inquiries about the Seminar, please contact Daniel Borus ( or Robert Westbrook (


October 2, 2014 - Rebecca Edwards, "Jump Ball: Basketball, Community, and Memory in Southeastern Connecticut." If you are interested in this paper, contact Rebecca Edwards at

November 6, 2014 - Jonathan Strassfeld, "Philosophical Hegemony: The Analytic Movement in America." If you are interested in this paper, contact Jonathan Strassfeld at

December 4, 2014 - Adam Stauffer, "'For No One Likes to Be Humbugged': The California Gold Rush in the Age of Barnum." If you are interested in this paper, contact Adam Stauffer at

January 29, 2015 - Robert Westbrook, "Dwight Macdonald: Democracy and Discrimination." If you are interested in this paper, contact Robert Westbrook at

February 26, 2015 - John Portlock, "'It's Hard Enough Being Negro': Bayard Rustin and the Pacifist Roots of the Civil Rights Movement." If you are interested in this paper, contact John Portlock at

March 26, 2015 - Michael Read, "'Till They Again See Their Flesh and Blood': Contesting Prisoners and Power, 1744-1768." If you are interested in this paper, contact Michael Read at

April 30, 2015 - Karen McCally, "Free Labor Revised: John R. Commons, Property, and the American Welfare State"