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Making Sense of the American Civil War

From the moment Americans found themselves pulled into a civil war of unimaginable scale and consequence, they tried desperately to make sense of what was happening to them. The American Civil War was not a single thing, or a simple thing. And yet emancipation—the end of the most powerful system of slavery in the modern world—takes its place as the central story of the war. The readings selected for this five-part series give us a glimpse of the vast sweep and profound breadth of Americans' war among and against themselves. We will encounter a large cast of characters, a broad range of perspectives, and a dense a web of circumstances. The texts, written or uttered by powerful voices from the past and present, include works of historical fiction and interpretation, speeches, diaries, memoirs, biographies, and short stories. Readings also include an introductory essay, which provides context `for the entire series and for each of the five sessions. If you want to be an active partner in this exploration, please join us for this "Let's Talk About It, Oklahoma" reading and discussion series. Books are available for those who want to partner with us actively and be present throughout the series. The three books, one of which is an anthology of writings and speeches, provide us with the readings for the five sessions.

Oklahoma City University invites participants to make these books come alive in the readings of this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone will come together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating by attending the sessions is encouraged to pre-register and borrow the reading selections by calling Harbour Winn at 208-5472, emailing him at [email protected], or scheduling to drop by the Dulaney-Browne Library, Room 211 or 207. (Note the offices are located in the five-story building southwest of Walker Center.)

The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning September 9 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through November 5. Books, services, and other materials for this series of programs are provided by “Let's Talk About It, Oklahoma,” a project of the Oklahoma Humanities Council with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Funding for this series was provided by a grant from the Inasmuch Foundation and Kirkpatrick Family Fund.


9/10/2013 Geraldine Brooks's March

"March" tells its story through the characters of another novel: "Little Women", Louisa May Alcott’s story of sisters and a mother, published in 1868, only three years after Appomattox. Brooks tells the story of the father and husband of those women, the Reverend March. In Alcott’s story, he is beloved but significant mainly by his absence. In "March", we see the story through his eyes, eyes that do not always comprehend clearly what they perceive as he serves as a chaplain to soldiers at war.

9/24/2013 America's War's Choosing Sides

This session takes us directly into the world Geraldine Brooks imagined. Selections from the “America’s War” anthology allow us to see through the eyes of people who had to decide for themselves where justice, honor, duty, and loyalty lay: Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Sarah Morgan, and others.

10/8/2013 America's War's Making Sense of War

The horrifying Battle of Shiloh changed Americans’ understanding of the Civil War. The third session uses Shiloh to confront the experience of war by featuring creative voices from then and now in the anthology: Ambrose Bierce, Ulysses Grant, Shelby Foote, Bobbie Ann Mason, and others.

10/22/2013 James McPherson's Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam

The fourth session features a study of Antietam, a pivotal point in the war. The most widely recognized Civil War historian of the last quarter century, McPherson works on a specific canvas. The historian does what novelists and writers of memoirs do not: tell the story in as objectively as possible, with documentation.

11/5/2013 America's War's War and Freedom

The final session concerns the most unanticipated outcome of the American Civil War: the immediate, uncompensated emancipation of four million people who had been held in slavery for over two centuries. Selections from Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Walker, and others. And yet, the war’s full significance was not complete in 1865, and it is not complete yet.

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