James McGrath Morris, author, biographer

Air Dates: July 18-20, 2020

This Week – JAMES MCGRATH MORRIS                      Historian, Biographer, & Author of "The Ambulance Drivers"

Topics: The Current Controversy About Monuments & The Opportunities for Civil Discourse

July 16, 2020 – This week's guest on REPORT FROM SANTA FE is James McGrath Morris, historian, biographer, and author of "The Ambulance Drivers," discussing the current controversy about monuments - renaming them, reimagining them, or removing them - and how monuments can more accurately reflect our living culture.

Morris wrote an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican suggesting that Santa Fe might consider renaming DeVargas Mall since it is named after a conquistador, that it would be a good business opportunity for the mall to reconsider its name. He received many and varied responses to his modest suggestion, most of them very negative.

He believes it touched a nerve and shows us how hard it is to have a civil discourse about these things. “In this turmoil or chaos,” Morris notes, “a lot of people see an opportunity, a golden opportunity for us to have a civil discourse and find appropriate ways to record and memorize and memorialize the past.”

As a historian, Morris stresses that “The privilege of writing about history is you come to recognize we have been here before...So the lesson in history is that we need to come together in forms of civil discourse in order to solve the problem. That throwing bricks at each other, literally and metaphorically, is not the way to get to the future.”

James McGrath Morris is a biographer and writer of narrative non-fiction. He is currently writing a biography of writer Tony Hillerman, the author of ground-breaking mysteries set in the Navajo Nation.

Aside from his last book The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and A Friendship Made and Lost in War, Morris’s books include the New York Times bestselling Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First Lady of the Black Press, which was awarded the Benjamin Hooks National Book Prize; Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power—which the Wall Street Journal deemed was one of the five best books on American moguls and Booklist placed on its 2010 list of the ten best biographies; The Rose Man of Sing Sing: A True Tale of Life, Murder, and Redemption in the Age of Yellow Journalism—a Washington Post Best Book of the Year; and, Jailhouse Journalism: The Fourth Estate Behind Bars.

Morris is the former president of Biographers International Organization, of which he was among the original founders. In 2019, he received the BIO Award, which is given to a writer who has made a major contribution to the advancement of the art and craft of biography.