Silberman Lecture

Curt C. Silberman

The Curt C. and Else Silberman Foundation Lecture with the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

About the Curt C. and Else Silberman Foundation

The foundation honors Curt C. Silberman (1908-2002) a jurist, educator, community leader, and organizer of numerous Jewish organizations and social agencies in Germany and the United States. As a young lawyer in Germany, Curt witnessed the disintegration of that country’s fragile democratic institutions and the suffering of his generation that ensued. He was determined that the memory of that suffering not paralyze, but educate future generations. He devoted his life to fighting for the rights of the victims of Nazi persecution, and to assuring that the roots of prejudice and the Holocaust, and the lessons thereof, are understood, so as to serve for the betterment of society. It is this legacy that guides the work of the Curt C. and Else Silberman Foundation.


Historian Eric Foner, Historical Society trustee and Silberman Foundation representative Debra Friedmann, Historical Society executive director John Suau, and Archivist of the United States David Ferriero at the 2015 Curt C. and Else Silberman Foundation Lecture, held at the National Archives.


2015 Lecture & Reception
November 12, 2015
William T. McGowan Theater
National Archives

“Reconstruction and the Fragility of Democracy,” by Eric Foner
Reconstruction (1863-1877) is perhaps the most striking example in American history of the fragility of democracy. The era witnessed a remarkable expansion of political participation, with the advent, for the first time in our history, of large numbers of black men as voters and officeholders. Yet it also witnessed a violent counter-revolution that, by the turn of the century, had wiped out the possibilities of interracial democracy for more than a half century to follow. Professor Foner’s talk discussed the causes of both the expansion of democracy and its overthrow, and what this tells us about the history of democracy in the United States. Eric Foner, the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, is a leading historian of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and has written more than 10 books on the topic. In 2011 his The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010) won the Pulitzer Prize for History, the Lincoln Prize, and the Bancroft Prize.