Beginning this fall, four Tennessee cities will serve as hosts to Making Sense of the American Civil War, a scholar-led reading and discussion program.
This program is organized as a five-part series of conversations that aim to get below the surface of familiar stories about the Civil War battles to explore the complex challenges brought on by the war.
“We are partnering with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association to bring another great program to Tennessee communities,” said Melissa Davis, Humanities Tennessee’s director of the Tennessee Community History Program. “I’m pleased that this program delves deeply into experiences from multiple perspectives, and includes a wide variety of reading selections.”
The reading and discussion program is a five-part series focused on truly making sense of the breadth and depth of the American Civil War. The five conversations that make up the program are as follows:
Imaging War: This first part of the series compares fiction and firsthand testimony with the novel March by Geraldine Brooks that tells its story through the character of Reverend March from Louisa May Alcott’s beloved Little Women, and an excerpt from Alcott’s journal. The readings illuminate how the war challenges individuals’ beliefs and reveals personal experiences amongst the nation’s chaos.
Choosing Sides: The primary documents discussed in this conversation ask the reader to imagine confronting one’s notion of justice, honor, duty, loyalty—even hypocrisy—in making personal political decisions on the eve of the Civil War era.
Making Sense of Shiloh: There’s more than one side to every story, and the horrific Battle of Shiloh is no exception. This conversation dives deeper than the facts and figures of the battle itself to explore the shattering impact the battle had upon Americans by looking at a variety of battlefield perspectives.
The Shape of War: Three readings demonstrate the variety of interpretations of Antietam then challenges the reader to shift the focus from the course of the battle and its ramifications to the suffering of the individuals and the way death was confronted.
War and Freedom: This final set of readings focuses on the emancipation of four million slaves, and addresses both the politics of emancipation and the long, fitful course toward liberty and security by freed people.
The program will begin in Tennessee at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library on Sept. 18, 2012. The five-part series will continue over a ten-week period and will then begin in early 2013 in Memphis, Clarksville, and Morristown on the following schedule:
Sept. 18 – Nov. 13, 2012 Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library
Jan. 10 - March 28, 2013 Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library
Jan. 22 - March 19, 2013 Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library
Feb. 7 – April 4, 2013 Morristown-Hamblen Public Library
Making Sense of the American Civil War is presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.
The Tennessee program is presented by Humanities Tennessee, an organization created in 1973 that is dedicated to developing a sense of community through educational programs in the humanities across Tennessee. The series is part of Civil War, Civil Rights, Civil Discourse, a project of Humanities Tennessee that seeks to equip Tennesseans to think deeply about the context of social and political divisions from the Civil War to the present. For more information, visit humanitiestennessee.org.