Charles Lindbergh: The Complicated Story of an Infamous Life

Brandeis University

Daniel Breen is Senior Lecturer in Legal Studies at Brandeis University, and a recipient of the Louis Brandeis Award for Excellence in Teaching. While his primary academic interests lay in the law and politics of the Early Republic, he also holds a Ph.D. in American History and enjoys lecturing on a wide variety of subjects. Professor Breen is currently working on an article about the secession movement in New England during the Jefferson and Madison administrations.

 

Overview

December 12, 2022, 4:00 pm

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Was there ever an American whose public reputation fell as low as Charles Lindbergh’s did, after soaring so high? His solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927 was as courageous and admirable as his racism and anti-Semitism–expressed without apology, even as Europe was falling under the domination of Hitler’s Germany–were appalling. Fifty years after his death, how should we remember Lindbergh? In this presentation, we will try to approach that question by considering the main events of Lindbergh’s life: a life as eventful, and sometimes maddening, as any in the twentieth century.

 

Recommended Reading:

Lindbergh, by A. Scott Berg

The Flight of the Century: Charles Lindbergh and American Aviation, by Thomas Kessner

The Immortalists: Charles Lindbergh, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and their Daring Quest to Live Forever, by David Friedman

 

Discussion Questions:

1. If the 1920s was a “decade of heroes,” Lindbergh was surely the greatest. What were the qualities of Lindbergh that made so much of the American public so enraptured by him?

a. Today, nearly a century after the Spirit of St. Louis made its famous flight, would those same kinds of qualities produce the same kind of mass admiration?

2. Lindbergh firmly believed that some “races” were more advanced than others, and publicly warned that the greatest danger facing America was the “influence” of Jews on American cultural and political institutions. Given those views, is there ANY way to salvage Lindbergh’s historical standing? Or is it possible to separate Lindbergh the aviation pioneer and environmentalist, from Lindbergh the Anti-Semite face of the “America First” movement?]

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