A Fire Never Extinguished

2014 Fall Conference

Breakout Sessions

Rebecca_Harding_DavisFriday Afternoon, 3:00 pm – 4:15 pm

Douglass, Davis, and Twain: Examples of the Civil War’s Enormous Impact on American Literature and Culture. The writings of Frederick Douglass, Rebecca Harding Davis, and Mark Twain illustrate the transformation of America by the Civil War. Harvard University’s John Stauffer considers how the war transformed literature and prompted “culture wars” that persist today. Led by: John Stauffer, Professor of English and African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Exploring the Legacy of the War at UVM’s Special Collections. Jeffrey Marshall leads a tour of the University of Vermont’s Special Collections, highlighting collections that relate to the legacy of the Civil War. Led by: Jeffrey D. Marshall, Director of Research Collections and University Archivist, University of Vermont

Fleming Museum Gallery Talks. The staff of the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum guide participants through a trio of exhibits related to the conference. Collectively titled “Witness and Response,” the three exhibits include an exhibition of Civil War artifacts from the University’s collections, a traveling show of Civil War cwuvmmay01_1-fulldrawings, and a show by contemporary artist Kara Walker. Led by: Janie Cohen, Director, Fleming Museum; Margaret Tamulonis, Manager of Collections and Exhibits, Fleming Museum

Moving Beyond Bravery and Sacrifice:
Interpreting Civil War National Parks for a Diverse America.
The efforts of the National Park Service to interpret slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War clashes with the Southern memory of the War.  Led by: Dwight Pitcaithley, Chief Historian (retired), National Park Service

Breakout Sessions, Saturday Morning, 10:30 am11:45 am

The Civil War Roots of American Politics. The Republican Party was created on the eve of the Civil War to oppose the Southern slave owners who controlled the national government. Boston College professor Heather Cox Richardson, author of the just-published To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party, explains how the decade following the Civil War was the single most important period for the evolution of American politics as Republicans and Democrats both laid down the general principles that continue to survive today. Led by: Heather Cox Richardson, Professor of History, Boston College

Seeking Usable Pasts. Yale history professor David Blight examines how we seek “usable pasts,” memories that serve our present-day needs, as Winslow_Homer_-_Home,_Sweet_Homeopposed to embracing the more difficult realities of the past in scholarship and books. Using the example of the American Civil War, he discusses how and why history and memory are different. Led by: David Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of American History, Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center, Yale University

Soldiers in Stone: Memorializing Vermont’s Civil Warriors. The memorializing of Vermont’s soldiers began during the war, and the first stone monuments were erected as it ended. Two decades later, a spate of monument building took over the state and nation, including at Gettysburg.  And from Vermont stone, monuments were made to stand on great battlefields far away. The talk explores Vermont’s memorializing of its soldiers; why, how, and where; and what words of remembrance were spoken. Led by: Howard Coffin, Vermont Civil War historian and author

Why Art Matters in Understanding the Civil War. Dig into the layers of meaning painters and photographers invested in their work as they grappled with the Civil War. From the subtle anti-war sentiments of Winslow Homer’s Home, Sweet Home to George Barnard’s staged views of a ravaged Charleston, artists encoded their works with personal and political commentary stretching well beyond literal reportage. Led by: Eleanor Jones Harvey, Senior Curator of 19th-Century American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Breakout Sessions, Saturday Afternoon, 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

Susie King Taylor, black educator and army nurse Aug. 6, 1848 - Oct. 6, 1912Making a Scene, or, How We Behold Race and the Culture of Freedom in Post-Civil War America. Our conversations about race, culture, and freedom are enriched by the ways in which nineteenth-century artists and writers of color documented the America that they encountered. Powerful images and excerpts by the landscape painter Robert Seldon Duncanson, diarist-teacher Charlotte Forten, and Civil War nurse Susie King Taylor guide our discussions of the Civil War and its ongoing influence on contemporary discussions of America, freedom, and possibility.  Led by: Lois Brown, Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of English and African American Studies, Wesleyan University

Reflections on Race in America: Lincoln and Obama. Throughout his two presidential campaigns, Barack Obama repeatedly made reference to Abraham Lincoln. Like Lincoln, Obama is an eloquent writer and speaker, and his writings and speeches have dealt with race, just as Lincoln’s did. Middlebury College’s Murray Dry explores the writings of each to measure America’s progress in race relations and to learn something about our country’s current challenges regarding that subject. Led by: Murray Dry, Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science, Middlebury College

Shooting West: Why Cowboys Mattered in the Post-War Years. CowboycropFar from being separate and distinct, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and westward expansion are integrally related. Boston College professor Heather Cox Richardson explains how the War and Reconstruction dramatically affected the development and character of the American West even as western development exacerbated the political, social, and cultural differences between the South and the North. Led by: Heather Cox Richardson, Professor of History, Boston College

Vermont’s Post-War Leaders: Forged in the Crucible of War. Among the Civil War’s profound consequences for Vermont was its long-term effect on the state’s political and economic leadership. Service in the Union Army, and particularly its officer corps, acquainted ambitious Vermonters with one other. For many decades, honorable service in the War was considered testimony of good character and reputation, and was a great asset in politics and business. Explore the formation of Vermont’s Gilded Age elite during the Civil War, and how their war experience shaped Vermont for years to come. Led by: Paul Searls, Professor of History, Lyndon State College

Images: Rebecca Harding Davis, circa 1865; Civil War letter from Albert A. May to Friend, October 8, 1861, UVM Special Collections; Home, Sweet Home by Winslow Homer, circa 1863; Susie King Taylor, black educator and army nurse August 6, 1848 – Oct. 6, 1912; The Cow Boy by J.C.H. Grabill, Sturgis, Dakota Territory,  circa 1888.

Learn about the Breakout Session Speakers


VHC-40-logo_vert_hires2Presented by the Vermont Humanities Council in collaboration with the Vermont Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, with partnership and support from the National Park Service, the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, Billings Farm & Museum, The Bay and Paul Foundations, Fleming Museum, the Friends of the UVM Special Collections, and the Center for Research on Vermont.


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