RV traveling along a map of the southern United States

Around Campus

On the road again

Perched over the steering wheel of an RV they call Bertha, Ed and Abby Ayers are seeing America again and asking new questions about how we remember the past.

UR’s former first couple — Ed Ayers is now Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus — are on the road to see how Americans today remember the first six decades of the 19th century, a period that is the subject of Ed Ayers’ current book manuscript.

As of this writing, the couple have visited the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Maryland, making stops at museums, memorials, and other significant sites, some famous and others forgotten.

Ed Ayers is documenting the trips on the blog The Discovery of America, which is part travelogue and part reflective essay with his trademark lyricism. Of a visit to New Echota State Historical Site in Georgia, where the infamous Trail of Tears began, he writes, “It derived its haunting power from its incompleteness. ... Today, wide spaces where streets might have been lie between reconstructed buildings ..., the empty spaces filled with wildflowers carrying their own messages of dreams and promises broken.”