Louisville History Symposia

Louisville History Symposia

2013: Civil War and Memory

 The fifth annual Louisville History Symposium looked at shifting viewpoints after the Civil War and its lasting impact on politics and culture even up to the current 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Brandeis University Fine Arts professor Nancy Scott spoke on sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens memorial to Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the Unions African American 54th Regiment in Boston, during the keynote talk.

History, art and literary scholars from UofL, University of Maryland, Middle Tennessee State University and Lewis and Clark College also presented talks. Kentucky-related topics include Kentucky filmmaker D.W. Griffiths epic The Birth of a Nation, journalist and former Kentucky Military Institute student Ambrose Bierce, and Union veteran turned U.S. Rep. Samuel McKee. Other topics will be the Museum of the Confederacy, Sherman's March and Civil War exhibits in 19th century fairs.

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2012:Victory Achieved, Freedom Denied: From Civil War to Reconstruction in Kentucky

 The fourth scholarly symposium focused on the latter years of the Civil War and Kentuckys post-war identity, the issues of race and equality, and the lives of women and solders.

After the Union victory, the United States faced two fundamental tasks during the reconstruction period (1865-1877). One was the need to redefine and renormalize relations between the former Confederate states and the rest of the nation. The other was to redefine the role of race, the meaning of freedom and the place of African Americans in a society in which slavery was no longer legal and in which those formerly enslaved were presumably free and equal.

Kentucky was often at odds with national policy during this tumultuous time. The Civil War also disrupted normal political alliances within the state and created a vacuum in which competing interests strove for dominance. The result was a triumphant party comprised of conservatives and former Confederates who, failing to conquer Kentucky by the bullet, did so by ballot. By 1877, Kentucky was viewed as Southern in thought and sympathies and the promise of freedom for all Kentuckians had been betrayed.

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2011: Pathways to Freedom: Kentucky and the Civil War

 At the beginning of the sesquicentennial commemorating the Civil War, the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences and its Arts and Culture Partnership Initiative hosted a two day scholar and community forum, March 10-11, 2011.

While past forums have focused on Louisville and the Ohio Valley, the 2011 symposium focused on the war in Kentucky as it and the nation struggled toward a new birth of freedom.

Perhaps in no other state did the word freedom find so many connotations as in Kentucky. To Southern sympathizers it meant freedom to secede. To Unionists it meant freedom from federal meddling and military control. To slave holders it was the freedom to hold human chattel, while for their enslaved it meant freedom from bondage. All Kentuckians desired freedom from skirmishes and guerrilla warfare. With so many crosscurrents not every freedom could be achieved. At the end of four years of bloody conflict the single freedom from slavery was achieved. This forum explored the pathway to that freedom.

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"Louisville, the Ohio Valley, and the Civil War" Symposium 2010

 The University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences and its Arts and Culture Partnerships Initiative hosted the second scholarly symposium on Louisville history on the theme of Louisville’s important role in the first two years of the Civil War.  Located astride the boundary between slave and free states, Louisville’s location was strategic in planning and executing that war.

Unlike most Southern cities, Louisville had a sizable immigrant population.  Unlike Northern cities it had enslaved individuals.  This admixture buffetted the city and pulled it in opposite directions.  The division was evident when Main Street merchants, who traded with the Deep South, were pro-Confederate while young professionals were pro-Union.  After a brief bout of neutrality, Louisville emerged as a pro-Union city but retained its slaves.