BEST SELLING AUTHOR, HISTORIAN, & CONSULTANT
Kate Clifford Larson is an author, historian, and consultant. Her third and latest book, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2015), sheds new light on the tragic and relatively unknown life of President John F. Kennedy’s disabled sister. Larson’s first book, Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (Ballantine/One World, 2004), established Larson as the leading Harriet Tubman expert. Her critically acclaimed biography has been optioned by HBO for an untitled Tubman biopic starring Emmy Award winning actress Viola Davis (ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder), with screen writer Kirk Ellis (PBS’s John Adams). Her second book, The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln (Basic Books), was released in 2008, and she served as a part-time consultant to The American Film Company’s The Conspirator. Directed by Robert Redford and starring Robin Wright and James McAvoy, the critically acclaimed film explored the real life story of Mary Surratt and her involvement in John Wilkes Booth’s plot to assassinate the president.
With two degrees from Simmons College and an MBA from Northeastern University, Larson spent several years working for a boutique investment banking firm in Boston. After the birth of both of her children, she decided to pursue a life-long passion for history, earning a doctorate in American History from the University of New Hampshire, specializing in 19th and 20th century U.S. Women’s and African American History. She has been a consultant, curator and interpretive specialist for numerous museum, community and public history initiatives related to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in Maryland, Delaware, and New York, including the 125 mile Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, an All-American Road, the National Park Service Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Park Special Resource Study, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center in Maryland, and the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, NY. Much of this work helped build the foundation for two National Historical Parks in Tubman’s honor, formally established by President Obama in December 2015.
Her passion continues to be researching and writing about women’s lives. With the release of Rosemary, Larson reveals, again, that even the most hidden and obscured history can be teased out from the shadows.
How will you stay the best?
All those much-better-than-me historians, whom I admire so deeply, challenge me every day to be a better historian. I rely on some of those former mentors and teachers to help me maintain a level of distance and objectivity about my subjects so that I am always focused on following the evidence. And I am always trying to improve my writing. I believe that the academy has been slow in encouraging academics to write for a more general reader audience. There is so much exceptional scholarship out there – incredible stories worthy of Hollywood blockbuster films – but few people learn about them because they are shared with the academic community rather than the general public. With that said, the integrity and standards demanded by the academy are crucial to what I do and what historians do – illuminating our past with principled research and ethical standards.
What fascinates you?
American history and all its warts and messiness. I am endlessly fascinated by the courage, integrity, and remarkable ingenuity and tenacity of some of our forebears in the face of formidable obstacles. And I often think about who will be the subject of historical biographies one-hundred years from now?