A Thread Book Hour featuring Kerri Miller's "Talking Volumes" interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow. His newest book is titled, "Grant."
A biography, "Grant" explores the personal ups and downs of President Ulysses S. Grant.
In a recent interview, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said that it was a "lack of an ability to compromise" that led to the Civil War.
A statement that's simply not historically accurate, Chernow said.
"There had been for 70 or 80 years of nothing but attempts to compromise," he said. "There were compromises actually built into the Constitution."
For many years states were allowed to decide whether they wanted to be free states or slave states, and in 1850 Northern states were even required to turn in runaway slaves under the Fugitive Slave Act.
In the end, there's no possible compromise that could be made, Chernow said.
"If you go back to the period, the South not only made no bones about the fact that the war was about slavery, the South was proud of the fact that it was," he said.
Confederate statues — which are being hotly debated, and removed today — started going up in Grant's second term as president, in part as a backlash to Reconstruction.
These statues can act as a civic endorsement of the South's battle to preserve inequality between whites and blacks, though people don't always feel that way because we are being taught two different versions of history.
The one where the Civil War was about slavery, and the version where it was about "state's rights," Chernow said.
"Can you imagine 750,000 Americans were so concerned about state's rights that they were willing to die for state's rights? Does that seem plausible at all?"
Chernow has also written about Alexander Hamilton, which was turned into to a blockbuster Broadway musical.
The "Talking Volumes" event was recorded before a live audience at the Fitzgerald Theater on October 31, 2017.
To listen to their conversation, click the audio player above.