In Memoriam

Courtesy of Billy Hungeling

Eugene D. Genovese
October 08, 2012

Eugene D. Genovese, a historian who wrote about slavery in the American South, died on September 26 after a long illness. He was 82. Early in his career he identified himself as a Marxist, but he later denounced that affiliation and veered toward conservatism.

During the Vietnam War, which he actively opposed, he became the subject of a free-speech debate after he said at a 1965 rally that he would welcome a Vietcong victory. At that time, he was a professor at Rutgers University; later he was chair of the history department at the University of Rochester and taught at several other universities, including a consortium in Georgia.

His analysis of slavery in his most noted book on the subject, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (1974), was inspired by the theories of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist, on how the ruling class maintains its authority, said an obituary released to the news media by Mr. Genovese's friends and family. The relationship between master and slave illustrated paternalism, which, from the master's perspective, "was not about kindness, but control," the family account said. Slaves rechanneled that paternalism "to meet their own needs."

For more than three decades, Mr. Genovese was married to Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, a professor of humanities and a women's-studies scholar at Emory University. She died in 2007.

Michael Heim, translator of Günter Grass, Milan Kundera, and other authors, died on September 29 of complications of melanoma. He was 69. A professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of California at Los Angeles, Mr. Heim translated works from eight languages, among them two of Mr. Kundera's novels, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, from the Czech. After Mr. Heim's death, it was revealed that he was the donor who had given the PEN American Center more than $700,000 nine years ago to establish the PEN Translation Fund, which has supported some 100 book-translation projects.

Eric J. Hobsbawm, an economic historian of the 19th century and longtime Communist Party member, died on October 1 in London. He was 95. A professor of economic and social history at the University of London, he wrote a trilogy covering the period 1789 to 1914: The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, and The Age of Reason. After he retired from the London institution, he taught at Stanford and Cornell Universities, among others.

Barry Commoner, a leader in the environmental and social-justice movements, died on September 30 in New York City. He was 95. He worked for more than three decades at Washington University in St. Louis, where he founded the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems. In 1981 he moved, with the center, to the City University of New York's Queens College and worked there for almost two more decades.

Henry F. May, a professor of American history emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley who wrote about the late 18th century and the World War I era, died on September 29. He was 97. He taught at Berkeley from 1952 until he retired, in 1980, and was chair of its history department during the Free Speech Movement of 1964.