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The trajectory of my life changed in the most mundane of ways. It was on the first day of classes during my junior year in college. While seated at a desk in a classroom in the Armory at the University of Illinois, I awaited eagerly for what would be my first upper-division history course: Professor Robert McColley’s course on Early National America, which covered the period roughly from the 1780s to the 1820s. After introducing the class, the professor handed out a list of topics and assigned one of them to each of us. My topic was William Blount (1749-1800). Who was William Blount, I wondered. The assignment was to write a research paper that would be due at the end of the semester.
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