Recognizing an Imperfect Past at the Georgia Historical Society

Undergraduate instructors, public historians, and independent scholars that have an interest in the continuing and often bitter debates about how American history is remembered and commemorated throughout the country should definitely consider applying to this NEH funded workshop, Recognizing an Imperfect Past, at the Georgia Historical Society. This Summer Institute will take place over a 2-week period (June 11-23) in Savannah, Georgia.

From the website:

This two-week program will engage scholars—college and university professors—in an exploration of how we as a country recognize, remember, and memorialize controversial people and events in the American past as viewed with a presentist lens, and what role scholars can play in the classroom and the public arena in shaping and leading this national discussion going forward. With some of the leading scholars on history and memory, we will explore slavery and its legacy, the Confederacy, the Jim Crow era, lynching, twentieth-century politicians, and the Civil Rights movement and discuss how communities grapple with the memorialization of controversial figures and subjects in the public space. What does it mean to talk about moving or taking down statues of figures once deemed heroic and worthy of public commemoration? Are public monuments themselves history, or works of art that demonstrate the values of a particular time and place? Why is it important that we study, teach and remember subjects that are often painful, divisive, and controversial? Readings, scholarly lectures, research in primary sources, and select site visits will help to cultivate a deeper understanding among NEH Summer Scholars of the contested ground between history and memory and the ways in which we as scholars can play a meaningful role in engaging students and the American public in a national conversation about this important subject. This NEH Institute aligns squarely with the NEH’s initiative, The Common Good: Humanities in the Public Square, which connects the study of humanities to the current conditions of national life.

I am super excited about having been asked to join the faculty alongside some top-notch scholars, including: David Blight, E.M. Beck, Alexander X. Byrd, Karen L. Cox, Glenn T. Eskew, and Anne Sarah Rubin.

On Thursday, June 15, I will deliver a presentation on the Civil War and the myriad and contentious ways that history and memory have created conflicting narratives about that event and its causes and legacy. Following the presentation I will co-lead the Summer Scholars on a walking tour of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District monuments, in order to engage a larger discussion of the memorialization of the Confederacy and what role monuments and historical markers play in teaching or preserving history.

I continue to give this subject a good deal of thought, especially given the book of essays that I am currently preparing for publication that focuses on how the Civil War is being interpreted at museums and historic sites. A number of the essays have prompted me to re-think certain things or pushed me to engage with new questions.

This is going to be an incredible experience for all involved, but spaces are limited so take the initiative and fill out an application sooner than later. Look forward to seeing you in Savannah.

3 comments… add one
  • Meg Groeling Nov 21, 2016

    “Gratz!” as we sometimes say in the gaming world, and much congratulations from me personally. I will look at the application immediately.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 21, 2016

      Thanks, Meg. It’s always an honor to be invited to take part in these gatherings, but I am much more excited about the opportunity to learn and be challenged by those in attendance.

  • This sounds so interesting and so useful. I shall look into it — though don’t know if we’ll be free to attend or not.

Leave a Comment