Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth (Chauncey Lecture 2015)

Time Period
1861 to 1876
Media Type
Civil War
Politics & Government
Terry Alford

On June 11, Terry Alford delivered the 2015 Hazel and Fulton Chauncey Lecture, entitled "Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth."

With a single shot from a pistol small enough to conceal in his hand, John Wilkes Booth catapulted into history on the night of April 14, 1865. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln stunned a nation that was just emerging from the chaos and calamity of the Civil War, and the president's untimely death altered the trajectory of postwar history. But to those who knew Booth, the event was even more shocking-for no one could have imagined that this fantastically gifted actor and well-liked man could commit such an atrocity. In Fortune's Fool, Terry Alford provides the first comprehensive look at the life of an enigmatic figure whose life has been overshadowed by his final, infamous act.

Terry Alford is a professor of history at Northern Virginia Community College. He is the author of Prince Among Slaves, which was made into a PBS documentary in 2007, and Fortune's Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth.

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

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