The Niebuhr Legacy

The Niebuhr Family

The brothers created a legacy of intellectual excellence that family members sustain to this day.

Elisabeth Sifton
Elisabeth Sifton, the daughter of Reinhold Niebuhr, is one of American publishing's most well-known literary editors. Currently the senior vice president of Farrar, Straus and Giroux and editor-at-large of Hill and Wang, Sifton has contributed reviews and commentary to The New Republic, The Nation and Slate.com, among many other publications. She has edited an array of authors, including the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow, the National Book Award-winning poet John Ashbery, and the Harvard historian Adam Ulam.

Sifton is the also the author of the celebrated non-fiction essay, The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War. The book, honored as a New York Times Notable Book, explores the political and social circumstances in which her father composed the prayer; and the remarkable group of progressive thinkers—such as Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stanford Cripps, and others—that were part of Niebuhr's circle. The book is partly a memoir, partly a history, and partly a meditation on liberal ideals in the progressive American tradition. Arthur Schlessenger called it, "a major contribution to the intellectual history of modernity." And critic Harold Bloom said of the Serenity Prayer, "it could not be more appropriate for the United States at this very bad time in our national political and religious life."

Sifton has served on the board of directors of the Union Theological Seminary and the Harvard University Press. She received an honorary doctorate degree from Elmhurst College in 2004.

Gustav Niebuhr
During a 20-year career in journalism—most recently as the religion editor at The New York Times and, prior to that, at The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution—Gustav Niebuhr has established a reputation as a leading writer about American religion. His work has been published in books, magazines, and on the Internet. He also contributes occasional commentaries on religion for the National Public Radio program All Things Considered.

Niebuhr's Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America, was published in 2008. Elie Wiesel said of the book, "Anyone involved or at least interested in dialog among individuals, communities, and nations will benefit from its wisdom and humanity." Gustav Niebuhr has been an associate professor of religion and the media, a dual appointment in the department of religion and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, since 2004.

R. R. Niebuhr
Richard Reinhold Niebuhr, the son of H. Richard Niebuhr, is the Hollis Professor of Divinity Emeritus at Harvard Divinity School. He studied at Harvard and Union Theological Seminary, and—like his father and uncle—earned a Ph.D. from Yale Univesity. He authored a comprehensive study of the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, among other works.

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