The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Board of Trustees has added two new historians to its ranks.
Walter Edgar and Edward Ayers will serve as trustees, according to a Colonial Williamsburg press release, and will be consulted when it comes to making history engaging.
“Colonial Williamsburg’s mission to share the events and ideas of our nation’s founding is as critical as ever,” said Henry C. Wolf, chairman of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Board of Trustees. “Ed and Walter are not only among the nation’s most respected historians, they are two of its leading advocates for the relevance and accessibility of public history. We deeply value the insight they will contribute as members of the board.”
Ayers is president emeritus at the University of Richmond and Tucker-Boatwright professor of the humanities. In 2012 he received the National Humanities Medal for his efforts to make history more accessible for the public.
Edgar is a distinguished professor of history emeritus and Claude Henry Neuffer professor of southern studies emeritus at the University of South Carolina. He also founded the university’s public history program.
Both men are authors, with Ayers winning the 2018 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize for his book “The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America.”
They also host their own audio history programs, with Edgar hosting “Walter Edgar’s Journal” and “South Carolina from A to Z” on South Carolina Public Radio. Ayers co-hosts the syndicated radio program and podcast “Backstory.”
“Through innovative programming and outreach, Colonial Williamsburg strives to engage ever-wider audiences with our shared American story,” said Mitchell B. Reiss, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “In addition to their scholarship, Ed and Walter have leveraged media and technology to share their passion for history far beyond the classroom, and we value their guidance as we expand the reach of our core educational mission.”
Edgar was a captain in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971, retiring in 1995 as an Army Reserve colonel. Since then, he has received a lifetime achievement award from the South Carolina African-American Heritage Association, been named the 2008 college educator of the year in South Carolina by the Sons of the American Revolution, and received the Founder’s Medal from the National Society of the Daughters of American Revolution.
Between 2001 and 2007, Ayers served as the University of Virginia Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He is also a founding member of the board of the American Civil War Museum and served as president of the Organization of American Historians.
“Public history allows us to experience the past and develop a better understanding of ourselves, one another and our shared story,” Ayers said. “Technology is a valuable tool in that journey, yet only at a site like Colonial Williamsburg can we learn firsthand from the men and women who founded the nation. I look forward to supporting the foundation’s work as it evolves to inspire the next generation of history enthusiasts.”