One of the world's most distinguished historians, C. Vann Woodward was born in Vanndale, Arkansas, and educated at Emory University and the University of North Carolina, where he received his Ph.D. in 1937. After teaching at Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Florida, and Scripps College for a time, in 1946 he joined the faculty at The Johns Hopkins University, where he began producing the many young Ph.D.s who have followed him into the profession. In 1961 he became Sterling Professor at Yale University, where he remains today as emeritus professor. He has been the Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, Harmsworth Professor at Oxford University, and Commonwealth Lecturer at the University of London. Past president of all the major historical associations, he holds the Gold Medal of the National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and is a member of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society. His honors also include a Bancroft Prize for Origins of the New South, 1876--1913 (1951) and a 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Mary Chesnut's Civil War (1981). A premier historian of the American South and of race relations in the United States, Woodward studies the South in a way that sheds light on the human condition everywhere. In recent years he has turned his attention increasingly to comparative history.
Mary Chesnut was a Southern-aristocrat daughter of the governor of South Carolina and the wife of a U.S. senator who helped draft the South's secession ordinance and then served the Confederate government during the Civil War. Chesnut was also a gifted writer. She began her daily journal in 1860 and revised it after the Civil War. While the basis for A Diary from Dixie (1905) is her daily journal, her composition process was more akin to that of fiction. She willed her diary to her friend Isabella Martin, who cut it to a third of its original length before publishing it in 1905. Ben Ames Williams, a novelist, edited a more complete version in 1949, including much of the interesting gossip and rumors that had been cut from the first edition. The historian Vann Woodward edited yet another version from original manuscripts, Mary Chesnut's Civil War (1981). The Diary gives an invaluable record of Confederate society and war efforts, as well as a frank picture of the Chesnuts' marriage. Although her views on African Americans are far from enlightened by modern standards, Mary Chesnut hated slavery and the necessity for women to pretend innocence about the mulatto children in their households. Along with its engaging picture of Confederate life, Chesnut's Diary reveals the dilemma of women of wit and intelligence in a repressive society.