Professor of History Dan Fountain attended the Gilder Lehrman Seminar at Yale from June 10-14. One of the major themes the seminar addressed was how the US has commemorated the Civil War and current debates about Confederate commemorative sites. This was a multidisciplinary seminar for full-time faculty members in history and related fields. It was co-sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The seminar was led by David W. Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of American History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. Blight is the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, which received numerous awards including the Bancroft Prize, the Frederick Douglass Prize, and the Merle Curti Prize; American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, which received the Anisfield-Wolf Award for best nonfiction book on racism and human diversity; and A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation. His other books include Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War; Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee; and the edited volumes, When This Cruel War Is Over: The Civil War Letters of Charles Harvey Brewster; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; and The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. DuBois. Blight was elected a member of the Society of American Historians in 2002. Since 2004, he has served as a member of the board of trustees of the New-York Historical Society. He also has served on the board for African American Programs at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. Blight was on the board of advisors to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and was involved in planning numerous events to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. He has led or co-led many seminars for CIC faculty members on slave narratives and the scholarship and public history of slavery.
Seminar participants were able to assess the historical memory of the most divisive event in American history—the Civil War. Participants considered works on Civil War memory, discuss theoretical texts on the nature and significance of collective memory across time and cultures, and dive deeply into three anniversary moments in this history of the memories: the 50th (1911–1915); the 100th (1961–1965); and the 150th (2011–2015). The seminar also considered the recent and current crises and debates over Civil War monuments and symbols from the 2015 massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, to the recent protests and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and beyond. Above all, the seminar aims to provide a forum in which to comprehend and analyze why the slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction epoch has remained an unending dilemma in American historical consciousness.
The seminar was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.