Skip to main content

Bale Boone Symposium Explores 'Legacies of Civil War'

by: Whitney Hale

(Feb. 3, 2015) — As the sesquicentennial of the Civil War draws to a close this year, University of Kentucky Gaines Center for the Humanities will examine the war's impact on history and culture in the years that followed as part of the 2015 Bale Boone Symposium on the "Legacies of the American Civil War" Feb. 4, 10 and 12.

"Legacies of the American Civil War" will bring together national recognized historians and cultural scholars in an exploration of  the war’s impact on American life not simply in the past, but also in the present and future. All the events featured below are free and open to the public.

2015 InvitationThe 2015 Bale Boone Symposium will open with a keynote lecture presented by eminent historian Ed Ayers, president of University of Richmond. The American Civil War redefined the United States but it did not resolve all that the war was meant to resolve. The legacies of slavery, the relationship between the states and the federal government, and the meaning of loyalty remain unsettled a century and a half later.

Ayers' talk, "The Incomplete Civil War," will begin 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall.

In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Ayers remains active as a scholar and educator. Previously he served as Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. The author/editor of more than 10 books including the Bancroft Prize-winning "In the Presence of Mine Enemies," Ayers also directed the online history project “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War.” For his outstanding work in the classroom, he was named the 2003 National Professor of the Year for Research and Doctoral Universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Support and Advancement of Education. Ayers also received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia in 1991 and was named the 2002 recipient of the James Harvey Robinson Prize for Outstanding Aid to Teaching History by the American Historical Association.

The culture surrounding the Civil War takes center stage the next week as the symposium presents a lecture by Coleman Hutchison, associate professor of English at University of Texas at Austin. Hutchison will explore how the song "Dixie" gave a region a nickname, and how that nickname helped to shape the region’s cultural identity.

Within weeks of its first performance on Broadway in 1859, "Dixie’s” problematic image of African American longing for the plantation South became a metonym for the region as a whole. According to Hutchinson, the tumult of the Civil War and Reconstruction ensured, in turn, that the metonym would far outlive that time period.  Indeed, 150 years later, the song and the nickname continue to shape how people think about the U.S. South, functioning variously as a shorthand for regional pride, racism, folk tradition and backwardness. As part of his presentation, Hutchison will chart the cultural power of the word "Dixie" and its crucial connection to the Civil War-era.

"Variations on the Word Dixie: Civil War Cultural Memory and a Song of the South" will begin 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, at the UK Athletics Auditorium in the William T. Young Library.

Hutchison, who holds a doctorate from Northwestern University, teaches and writes about U.S. literature and culture to 1900. He has interests in poetry, print culture, regional and national literatures, popular and folk music, and histories of sexuality. His work has appeared in American Literary History, Common-Place, Comparative American Studies, CR: The New Centennial Review, Journal of American Studies, The Emily Dickinson Journal, PMLA and Southern Spaces, among others. Hutchison published the first literary history of the Civil War South, "Apples and Ashes: Literature, Nationalism, and the Confederate States of America." In addition to editing the Cambridge History of American Civil War Literature, he is working on two books: "The Ditch is Nearer: Race, Place, and American Poetry, 1863-2009" and a popular biography of “Dixie.”

Later that same week, the symposium will close with a talk by historian David Blight, director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. The shooting war ended in 1865.  But when have the deepest legacies of the Civil War ceased in American history and memory? Blight will examine this question from the perspective of why the Civil War still has such a hold on the nation's imagination, but also discuss especially the conflict's legacies in race relations, federalism and historical consciousness.

Blight's lecture "When did the American Civil War End? Legacies in Our Own Time" will begin 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at the Hilary J. Boone Center.

A professor of American history, Blight has written several books including "A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation" and "Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory." His newest books include annotated editions, with introductory essay, of Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography, "My Bondage and My Freedom," Robert Penn Warren’s "Who Speaks for the Negro" and the monograph, "American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era," which received the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Award for best book in non-fiction on racism and human diversity. He has also been a consultant to several documentary films, including the 1998 PBS series "Africans in America" and "The Reconstruction Era" in 2004.

Historically, the Bale Boone Symposium brings together the citizens of Lexington, Gaines Fellows and other members of the university community to explore themes and genres in the arts and humanities.

The 2015 Bale Boone Symposium, "Legacies of the American Civil War," is co-sponsored by the UK Department of History. The symposium is also a recipient of support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 The Gaines Center for the Humanities is part of part of the Academy for Undergraduate Excellence within the UK Division of Undergraduate Education.

For more information on the 2015 Bale Boone Symposium "Legacies of the American Civil War," contact the Gaines Center at 859-257-1537.