John Demos is the Samuel Knight Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University. His previous books includeThe Unredeemed Captive, which won the Francis Parkman Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award, and Entertaining Satan, which won the Bancroft Prize. He lives in Tyringham, MA.
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Nearly two decades in the writing, The Heathen School is the award-winning historian John Demos's vivid story of how a small New England school for "heathens" embodies the larger story of America.
In Cornwall, Connecticut, a picturesque village best known today for its antique covered bridge, there once was an old "heathen school" created to "civilize" children from around the world. There were boys and young men from Hawaii, India, and China, as well as some Jews from Europe and of course plenty of Native Americans; they were to be educated and sent back to their own lands to help their own peoples. The students soon became virtual celebrities at a moment when America was just starting to see itself as an international power. Yet when two Cherokee students fell in love with local girls, things turned out quite differently than planned, setting off crises that would ultimately shape the fate of the Cherokee Nation. The Heathen School is a moving story of families and communities, as well as a profound exploration of American identity.