Articles by David C. Ward

Langston Hughes by Edward Henry Weston, 1932

Why Langston Hughes Still Reigns as a Poet for the Unchampioned

Fifty years after his death, Hughes’ extraordinary lyricism resonates with power to people

The National Portrait Gallery commissioned a poem from the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa for the museum's new exhibition, "The Face of Battle."

A New Poem is Commissioned to Honor the Soldiers Who Fight America’s Wars

Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa writes “After the Burn Pits” for the National Portrait Gallery

The cracked-plate portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Alexander Gardner, 1865, albumen silver print

A Smithsonian Historian Wanders the “Bardo,” Exploring the Spiritual World of the 19th Century

George Saunders’ new novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo” recalls the melancholy that hung over a nation at war

Abraham Lincoln by George Peter Alexander Healy, 1887

The Tradition of Presidential Portraiture, Explained

The transition of office holders includes the official commissioning of the portrait of the outgoing First Lady and President

In her new book, the acclaimed Thunder & Lightning: Weather, Past, Present and Future, Lauren Redniss  is intrigued by how people have coped with, survived, or failed in extreme weather situations.

The Innovative Spirit fy17

How the 2016 MacArthur Genius Award Recipient Lauren Redniss Is Rethinking Biography

The visual biographer of Marie and Pierre Curie turns to her next subject, weather, lightning and climate change

Bob Dylan by John Cohen, 1962

Poetry Matters

Is Bob Dylan a Poet?

As the enigmatic singer, songwriter and troubadour takes the Nobel Prize in literature, one scholar ponders what his work is all about

Langston Hughes powerfully speaks for those excluded.

Breaking Ground

What Langston Hughes’ Powerful Poem “I, Too" Tells Us About America's Past and Present

Smithsonian historian David Ward reflects on the work of Langston Hughes

Pablo Picasso by Albert Eugene Gallatin, 1934

Commentary

Why It Takes a Great Rivalry to Produce Great Art

Smithsonian historian David Ward takes a look at a new book by Sebastian Smee on the contentious games artists play

Karl Marx by John Collier, 1977

Commentary

Karl Marx, My Puppy ‘Max,’ Instagram and Me

A historian tries hard to understand modern society and buys a #cutepuppy

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Commentary

Should We Hate Poetry?

It was precisely because poetry wasn’t hated that Plato feared it, writes the Smithsonian’s senior historian David Ward, who loves poetry

Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter by Alexander Gardner

Poetry Matters

Can the Civil War Still Inspire Today's Poets?

As epic verse about the American past falls victim to modernism, a poet who is also a historian calls for a revival

This portrait of Patti Smith, a photograph by Lynn Goldsmith, was taken in 1976, a year after Horses, Smith’s breakout album.

Poetry Matters

Poet and Musician Patti Smith’s Endless Search in Art and Life

The National Portrait Gallery’s senior historian David Ward takes a look at the rock 'n' roll legend's new memoir

Martha McDonald performs in the 2014 work The Lost Garden at The Woodlands in Philadelphia.

What Artist Martha McDonald Might Teach Us About a Nation Divided

This fall, a one-woman show staged in one of Washington, D.C.’s most historic buildings will recall the sorrow of the Civil War

"Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter." A soldier finds his final resting place, July 1863.

Why Can’t We Turn Our Eyes Away From the Grotesque and Macabre?

Alexander Gardner’s photographs of Civil War corpses were among the first to play to the uncomfortable attraction humans have for shocking images

Robert Frost by Clara Sipprell, gelatin silver print, 1955.

Poetry Matters

What Gives Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” Its Power?

On the 100th anniversary of the poem’s publication, a Smithsonian poet examines its message and how it encapsulates what its author was all about

An 1862 Alexander Gardner photograph shows the bodies of dead Confederate artillerymen at Antietam.

Vivid Images of Civil War Casualties Inspire a Scholar's Inner Muse

Alexander Gardner’s photography, a record of sacrifice and devastating loss, prompts a new creativity from the show's curator

Anthropocene

A Poem Dedicated to Earth in the Age of Humans

National Portrait Gallery historian David Ward writes a new ode for the Anthropocene

Lee surrendering to Grant at Appomattox

Which General Was Better? Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee?

The historic rivalry between the South's polished general and the North's rough and rugged soldier is the subject of a new show at the Portrait Gallery

T.S. Eliot

How Did the Cruellest Month Come to Be the Perfect 30 Days to Celebrate Poetry?

A Smithsonian historian makes the case why springtime is the best time to reawaken a thirst for verse

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The Civil War

Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and the War That Changed Poetry, Forever

The two titans of American poetry chronicled the death and destruction of the Civil War in their poems

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