The Atlantic

FDR's Message to Charlottesville—and to Donald Trump

In his speech at Charlottesville in 1940, Franklin Roosevelt united America; in his remarks about Charlottesville in 2017, Donald Trump divided it.
Source: Bettman / Getty / Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Last week, “Charlottesville” became shorthand for racism, violence and a president’s moral blindness. But for a long time, the college town was remembered for a very different moment, when a president facing fascist aggression showed moral clarity.

The last time the world paid so much attention to Charlottesville, it was the summer of 1940, and Europe was on fire. In a few short months Hitler had conquered much of western Europe, and France itself was on the verge of succumbing.

On June 10, the day

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min readWellness
The Real Danger of Booze-Making Gut Bacteria
Microbes can produce so much alcohol that people become drunk—and sustain liver damage—without touching any booze.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
It’s Too Late for David Cameron to Apologize
The former prime minister’s newly released book, For the Record, points to a leader trying to reshape the narrative of a seismic moment in Britain’s history, and the role he played in it.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Why I Cover Campus Controversies
Each fall semester, America’s long-running debate about campus politics begins again. And I’ll take part this year as I have in years past, especially when the debate concerns matters of free speech. Critics say my energies are misplaced. There is no