Fergus M. Bordewich
Fergus M. Bordewich is a journalist, author and historian. His seven nonfiction books include The First Congress: How George Washington and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Governmentr (Simon & Schuster, 2016), America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas and the Compromise That Saved the Union (Simon & Schuster, 2012), Washington: The Making of the American Capital (Amistad/Harper Collins, 2008), My Mother's d, a memoir (Doubleday, 2001) and an illusion illustrated children’s book, Peach Blossom Spring (Macmillan, 1990).
At City College, Bordewich was a staffer on Observation Post, participated in student government and helped organize protests against the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City and grew up in Yonkers. While growing up, he often traveled to Indian reservations with his mother, LaVerne Madigan Bordewich, who was executive director of the Association of American Indian Affairs. This experience helped shape his life-long preoccupation with American history, the settlement of the continent, and issues of race and political power.
As a child, Bordewich was intrigued by stories that fugitive slaves had founded the Yonkers neighborhood of Runyon Heights, where many residents were African-American. His mother “was a national figure involved in civil rights, and she cited the supposed fugitives as models who defied injustice in pursuit of freedom,” he said. But, while researching his fourth book, Bound for Canaan, The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America (Harper Collins, 2005), he learned that the Runyon Heights story was a myth, “one of the classic Underground Railroad legends.” But the plight of fugitive slaves had formed “the warp and woof of my own childhood,” he says. The Underground Railroad “was the first interracial political movement in American history,” he says; “…the first mass movement of civil disobedience after the American Revolution, the first movement born from evangelical religion…the seedbed of the American women’s movement.”
Bordewich has traveled extensively in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East. He served as editor and writer for the Tehran Journal in Iran 1972-73, a press officer for the United Nations 1980-82, and an advisor to the New China News Agency in Beijing 1982-83. He edited an illustrated book of eyewitness accounts of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. His books frequently have been chosen as best books of the year. In 2012, America’s Great Debate was named Best History Book of the year by the Los Angeles Times and one of the Best Books of the Year by the WashingtonPost. Bound for Canaan was named one of the American Booksellers’ Association’s “best nonfiction books” and one of the New York Public Library’s “ten books to remember” of 2005.
Bordewich is a frequent book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, American Heritage, the Atlantic, Harper’s, New York, GEO, Reader’s Digest and Smithsonian, where he is a regular contributor.