This is a lecture sponsored by Humanities Texas and published online in July 2016. David Oshinsky’s lecture was funded by the Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative in observance of the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize. The lecture was delivered as part of Humanities Texas's 2016 "Post-War America, 1945–1960" teacher institute in Austin. Who could have imagined that Ron Chernow's fine biography of Alexander Hamilton would inspire a blockbuster Broadway musical?
American Prisoners of War" includes compelling firsthand narratives from World War II POWs Robert Preston Taylor, Rufus W. Smith, and Roy Maxwell Offerle; World War I POW Pat O'Brien; Vietnam War POW Congressman Sam Johnson; and Andersonville prisoner Prescott Tracy, as well as resources on American prisoners of the Korean War and a selection of POW-related film and radio documentaries. Most of the veterans featured are from Texas.
Acclaimed singer and actress Etta Moten Barnett was born in Weimar, Texas, in 1901. By the age of ten, she was singing in the choir of her father’s church. Thirty-three years later, at the invitation of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, she became the first African American woman to sing at the White House. Barnett's career led her to Hollywood, where she appeared in films such as Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1933 and Flying Down to Rio, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
In the 1920s, writer Winifred Sanford's stories of the Texas oil boom captured the anxieties of a state on the verge of modernization. Born in Minnesota, Sanford moved to Wichita Falls in 1920, as her husband sought his fortune in the new oilfields of North Texas. At first, Sanford found the small town stifling. But she soon realized the oil boom made Texas more complex than it had first seemed. Swift change made for great stories. Sanford published her first short story in 1925.
Librarian and historian Nettie Lee Benson rose from a bookish South Texas childhood to assemble one of the world’s leading archives for research on Latin America. Born in 1905, Benson grew up on a family farm outside Sinton, not far from Corpus Christi, and earned her undergraduate degree from The University of Texas at Austin. In 1925, she took a teaching job in Monterrey. There, as she later explained, she “drank the waters of Mexico,” and her lifelong interest in Latin America blossomed. Benson became director of UT’s Latin American Collection in 1942.