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November, 7, 2011
Visiting Scholar lecture, Otterbein College, Columbus, OH


Gene Dattel discussed why the book and movie has been so astoundingly popular. He explored The Help's sources to reveal where fact ends and fiction begins. Dattel also showcased parallel themes with other classic novels and movies which have dealt with the important intersection of the black maid in the white household. Important works — Uncle Tom's Cabin, To Kill a Mockingbird, and W.E.B. DuBois's The Search for the Silver Fleece — were connected to The Help.

He provided revealing insights about the complexity of race and the Civil Rights era from an American, not just Southern, perspective and shared personal anecdotes from his own experience. Dattel focused on whether The Help has fleeting entertainment appeal or has lasting impact. He traced the book's themes to their historical, sociological, and economic origins and offer a framework for discussing today's racial issues.

He explained why Abileen Clark's (one of the book's main characters) destiny as a maid in the 1960s was determined in 1800 in Hartford, New York, and Boston, as much as the South.

Gene Dattel, author of Cotton and Race in the Making of America, studied history at Yale and law at Vanderbilt. He then embarked on a twenty-year career in financial capital markets as a managing director at Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley. A consultant to major financial institutions and the Pentagon, he established a reputation as a foremost authority on Asian economies. His The Sun that Never Rose (1994) remains the definitive work on Japanese financial institutions in the 1980s. Mr. Dattel is now a New York/Connecticut-based financial historian who lectures widely. Additional information may be obtained at genedattel.com. Mr. Dattel spoke on Monday, November 7, 2011 at Towers Hall, room 112 from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm.