Mercyhurst has always prided itself with having students, alumni, faculty, staff and everyone in between make names for themselves and influence others through their work outside of Mercyhurst’s campus.
Benjamin Scharff, Ph.D., Chair of the History Department, is no exception. On Nov. 17., he will be giving an important presentation at the Blasco Library. Scharff’s presentation is titled “To Pursue Happiness in Their Own Way: Indian Removals and the Failure of the American Promise.” With his specialty being in Native American history, Scharff’s research has been ongoing for years.
“I haven’t conducted extensive new research for this presentation, but instead have drawn upon research I’ve conducted for my own works along with that I do for my normal courses, most significantly when I offer my Native American History course and my Early Republican America course,” Scharff said.
The title of the presentation just goes to show just how important the topic Scharff is covering is. “The first part of this title is a quote from Andrew Jackson in support of his Indian Removal policy,” Scharff said. “I see it as a play on the Declaration of Independence’s ‘promise’ of the pursuit of happiness for all Americans, and the corruption of that promise with regards to our nation’s Native American policy.”
Scharff believes strongly that this is a crucial topic to cover and discuss. “Jackson claimed that, once removed, native peoples would be free to pursue happiness ‘in their own way’ outside the boundaries of the nation, rather than be included within it,” Scharff said. “I will cover a longer history of removal that predates this seminal event, dating back to prehistory.”
Scharff is not just excited to be teaching about such an important topic; he is also very glad to be doing it in person in front of a live audience.
“As a public historian, I’m looking forward to engaging the public (my expected audience) in a spirited, if difficult, discussion about our nation’s history,” Scharff said. “I’m also very excited to engage in an in-person event, something that I’ve not been able to enjoy in a long while.”
Over the past year, Mercyhurst has had a lot to be proud of in regards to the History Department. Chris Magoc, Ph.D., worked alongside Preservation Erie last year to create the African American Shared Heritage Trail. Averill Earls, Ph.D., was just awarded the Judith R. Walkowitz Prize for the Best Article in the History of Gender and Sexuality by the North American Conference on British Studies. And now, Scharff is here to make history students, faculty and alumni alike proud. This is an extremely important topic to cover and the Mercyhurst community is incredibly proud of Scharff for doing so.