Good morning and welcome to the University of Richmond for the first major event of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The Robbins Center is beginning to fill up and there is certain excitement in the air. As I mentioned we are expecting over 2,000 people today; keep in mind that this is a weekday. I just finished talking with Professor Charles Dew of Williams College. I asked him about the significance of beginning Virginia’s commemoration with 1859 as opposed to the Civil War Centennial which began with the firing on Fort Sumter. Professor Dew believes that this will highlight the issue of slavery as the sectional conflict – the one issue that ultimately could not be dealt with within the political framework. He believes that the integration of race and slavery is long overdue in our popular understanding of the war. Ultimately, he hopes that this renewed focus will bring African Americans back into our national discussion of the war.
As for the format of this conference, Professor Dew couldn’t be more pleased. He noted that historians have a tendency to talk shop and in a way that alienates the general public. The lack of formal presenations will hopefully make for some interesting give and take between panelists and, ultimately, the audience. We shall see. Stay tuned.[Note: Please keep in mind that these posts are being written on the fly. There may be serious spelling and other grammatical issues.]