McNeil Center Announces New Benjamin Franklin Distinguished Lectures


This fall the McNeil Center for Early American Studies will debut the first endowed lecture series in the field of early American Studies: the Benjamin Franklin Distinguished Lectures.

During the week commencing November 4, 2024, David Waldstreicher, Distinguished Professor of History at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, will deliver three lectures with the collective title, “Three Ages of Slavery and the Future of U.S. History.” The lectures will be published as an edition by Penn Press, home of the award-winning monograph series Early American Studies and field-leading periodical Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

The McNeil Center will also host a reception and dinner in Waldstreicher’s honor. An esteemed scholar, and frequent contributor to outlets such as The Atlantic and The New York Times Book Review, Waldstreicher is also the author of several books, including Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery, and the American Revolution (2004) and, most recently, The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet’s Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence

These endowed lectures, established thanks to the generosity of the Estate of Margy Ellin Meyerson, will be delivered annually by an eminent scholar of early American studies and draw inspiration from the life and achievements of Benjamin Franklin. An archetypal polymath, and founding father of the University of Pennsylvania, Franklin is one of the best-known early Americans and an important figure in the research of many scholars in the field. Lecturers will use Franklin as a springboard for addressing topics of concern to scholars and the broader public alike.
The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, established in 1978, facilitates scholarly inquiry into the histories and cultures of North America in the Atlantic world before 1850. The McNeil Center expects to draw an audience for the new series from the community of early Americanists in the mid-Atlantic region, the Penn community, and members of the public interested in America’s founding era.