Slavery and the Civil War in American History and Memory
Brie Swenson Arnold, William P. and Gayle S. Whipple Associate Professor of History
April 2, 9, 16, 23
Controversy is once again swirling in the US over issues and events with deep connections to slavery and the Civil War. Communities are hotly debating removal of Confederate flags and monuments; politicians and pundits routinely reference Civil War causes and leaders; and popular music, movies, and museums grapple with how to tell the stories of slavery and the Civil War. Over the course of this forum, Whipple Associate Professor of History Brie Swenson Arnold will explore the United States’ complicated history and memory of slavery and the Civil War. The series begins with an overview of the origins, expansion, and lived experiences of American racial slavery. It continues with a session on the origins and course of the Civil War, a conflict centered on slavery. Weeks three and four turn to examining how Americans have variously portrayed slavery and the Civil War in national memory and popular culture—including in holidays like Memorial Day and Emancipation Day, Civil War sites and monuments, and films like The Birth of a Nation (1915), Gone with the Wind (1939), Roots (1977), Glory (1989), Lincoln (2012), Twelve Years a Slave (2013), and Free State of Jones (2016). Throughout, the series will shed light on broader issues in US politics, culture, and society—particularly Americans’ efforts to come to terms with their nation’s complicated history of race and racism.