University of Minnesota

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost presents the
2019 Guy Stanton Ford Memorial Lecture

Nancy Isenberg

An American historian, professor, and author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

The Problem of Democracy: Past and Present

Historian Nancy Isenberg’s lecture, “The Problem of Democracy: Past and Present” examines whether John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams can teach us something essential about our political system. Why are their insights prescient and relevant to today’s political climate? Unlike many of their peers, the Presidents Adams dissected dangerous tendencies in American democracy: the worship of elected leaders, the impulse to set party identity above constitutional checks and balances, and the easy recourse to a deceptive language of inclusivity that invokes grand principles without substance.

"Class defines how real people live. They don't live the myth. They don't live the dream."

— Nancy Isenberg, White Trash. The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America



Nancy Isenberg is the T. Harry Williams Professor of American History at Louisiana State University. She is author of the New York Times bestseller White Trash. The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (Viking, 2016). She is also author of Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr (Viking, 2007), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize in biography. White Trash was a finalist for the LA Times book prize in history, the Anthony Lukas Book Prize for nonfiction from the Columbia School of Journalism, and the John Kenneth Galbraith Award from PEN America. She was #4 on Politico Magazine’s 2016 list of the “50 Most important thinkers.” With Professor Andrew Burstein, she has written Madison and Jefferson (Random House, 2010), a Kirkus “Best Book of the Year.” Their next coauthored book is The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality (forthcoming from Viking in 2019).


Nancy Isenberg

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Carlson Family Stage at Northrop
at 2:00pm

Free admission, Open to the public
Doors open at 1:30 p.m.

Northrop Auditorium
84 Church St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

For those unable to attend in person, we will be livestreaming the event here

Please let us know if we can help you with any access services by contacting U of M Tickets and Events at 612-624-2345 or at

  • Guy Stanton Ford, 1938-1941

    Guy Stanton Ford, professor of history, was president of the University of Minnesota from 1938 to 1941. With his earlier service as graduate school dean, he helped to transform the University of Minnesota into one of the nation's top research and graduate institutions.

    After his death in 1962, Ford's family, friends, and colleagues established an endowment fund for the Guy Stanton Ford Memorial Lecture. This lecture, now held once every two years, brings to the University of Minnesota distinguished scholars from many different areas of inquiry, reflecting Ford's own broad intellectual interests.