May 30, 2007 New Biography of Robert E. Lee To Be Discussed on June 12

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Robert E. Lee was a more complex and contradictory man than his iconic image suggests. In her new biography, historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor presents dozens of previously unpublished letters to draw a new portrait of Lee’s beliefs, his military ability and the times he lived in. Pryor will discuss and sign her new book, “Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters,” at noon on Tuesday, June 12, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The program, part of the Books & Beyond author series sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. The Library’s Manuscript Division, the largest source of material for the book, is co-sponsoring the event. Pryor uses Lee’s newly discovered family letters as departure points for a series of surprising “historical excursions,” telling his life story through an innovative blend of analysis, historiography and rich period detail. She looks into Lee’s troubled childhood, the hardening of his anti-abolitionist views, his decision to join the South, his celebrated but controversial battlefield performance and his final wrenching years. The author also delves into lesser-known aspects of Lee’s life, such as his pioneering role in engineering science, the fluctuation in his religious beliefs and the way he shaped his own leadership style. Pryor has combined careers as an award-winning historian and a senior diplomat in the American Foreign Service, most recently as senior advisor to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe of the U.S. Congress. Her 1987 biography, “Clara Barton, Professional Angel,” is considered the authoritative work on the founder of the American Red Cross. The Center for the Book was established by law in 1977 to use the Library’s resources to promote books and reading. More than 70 book talks presented by the center can be viewed on its Web site at


PR 07-125
ISSN 0731-3527