Retired U.S. Naval Academy historian to keynote Mississippi event

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2023

A U.S. Naval Academy professor of history emeritus is this year’s featured speaker for Mississippi State’s John F. and Jeanne A. Marszalek Lecture Series.

Professor Craig L. Symonds of Annapolis, Maryland, will present “Black Americans in the Second World War” on Thursday [March 9], 2 p.m. in the Templeton Music Museum, Mitchell Memorial Library. Additionally, MSU English lecturer and history doctoral student Amber Morgan Gill will present “The Fabric of Our Nation: A 19th Century Night Shirt Reveals the Complex Value of Material Objects.” The event is free and open to the public.

Held each March, the Marszalek Lecture Series recognizes an MSU graduate student and an established, nationally known historian to bring attention to their works and encourage the use of primary sources in historical research, according to MSU Associate Dean for Archives and Special Collections David Nolen.

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“The Marszalek Library Fund and Lecture Series allows for the purchase of primary source materials that cover the Civil War and Reconstruction; Jacksonian America; and/or race relations. The lecture allows for a student researcher to present their research in an event that also features an established scholar speaking about their own research,” Nolen said.

Symonds taught at the U.S. Naval Academy for 30 years and served as Department of History chair. From 2017 to 2020 he was the Ernest J. King Distinguished Professor of Maritime History at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He is a four-time recipient of the federal government’s Superior Civilian Service Medal, and in 2014 he received the Dudley W. Knox Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Naval Historical Foundation.

He is author of 17 books, including “Lincoln and His Admirals,” which won the 2009 Lincoln Prize. His other Civil War era books include biographies of Joseph E. Johnston (Norton, 1992), Patrick Cleburne (University Press of Kansas, 1997), and Franklin Buchanan (Naval Institute Press, 1999), as well as “The Civil War at Sea” (Oxford University Press, 2009). His newest book is “Nimitz at War: Command Leadership from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay” (Oxford University Press, 2022).

Gill received her bachelor’s degree in art in 2010 from Jacksonville State University and her master’s in English literature in 2020 from Mississippi State. She currently is a lecturer for the MSU English department and is in her second year of coursework toward a Ph.D. in history. Her research interests include 19th century popular culture, nationalism and the Civil War.

Nolen said the series offers MSU students, faculty and staff the chance to hear from important scholars.

“We hope students will gain an opportunity to hear original research presented by both a student and a seasoned scholar,” he said.

The Marszalek Library Fund and Lecture Series were established in 2002 when the Marszaleks donated $20,000 to establish the fund within MSU Libraries for the purchase of primary source materials. Materials purchased with this fund may be of any type other than monographs or journals. John Marszalek is a W.L. Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at MSU and former executive director of the U.S. Grant Association and Grant Presidential Library, both housed at the university. Currently a Grant Association board member, he was instrumental in bringing Grant’s papers to the university and in the construction of the presidential library within Mitchell Memorial Library. He also is an award-winning author and recipient of numerous book prizes.

“Through the Marszaleks’ generosity, the library is able to add to its collections, and the research and teaching mission of the university is positively impacted by both the fund and the lecture,” Nolen added.

For more information about the lecture series visit