Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943

McGiffert Lecture Series

The McGiffert Lecture honors the late Michael (Mike) McGiffert who served as editor of the William and Mary Quarterly (WMQ) at the Omohundro Institute from 1972–1997 and also taught at William & Mary. Mike, who saw editing as a form of teaching, was known as an active mentor to historians.

Each McGiffert lecture is delivered by an author whose work won one of the WMQ awards in the past year.

On Tuesday, October 4, 2016, join us in Blow Memorial Hall, room 201, at 4:00 for a lecture by Cappon winner Sarah Barringer (Sally) Gordon entitled “The First Wall of Separation between Church and State: Slavery and Disestablishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Virginia.” A reception will follow the talk.

Professor Gordon is the Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies the legal history of religion in America, especially the history of constitutional protections of religious liberty and separation of church and state. Her first book, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill, 2002), was followed by The Spirit of the Law: Religious Voices and the Constitution in Modern America (Cambridge, MA, 2010). She is currently at work on a study of separation of church and state from independence through Reconstruction, titled “Freedom’s Holy Light: Disestablishment in America, 1776–1876.” Her talk at the OI is drawn from that project, and is designed to revisit and revise long-accepted narratives of how separation of church and state became politically popular in the 1780s.

For more information on the lecture, contact Martha Howard at or 757-221-1115.