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Library Supporters Gather to 'Make Sense of the American Civil War'

By: Marcey Evans

Dr. Timothy Huebner of Rhodes College discusses the American Civil War with Library guests."Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war…”

These words, spoken by America’s sixteenth president Abraham Lincoln, detailed the plight of a nation divided. This quandary was the subject of “Making Sense of the American Civil War,” a five-part reading and discussion series about the Civil War and its effects on America.

Crowds of people attended the series, which started in January and ended on March 28, 2013. It was held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library and was presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.

Dr. Timothy Huebner of Rhodes College’s History Department was the presenter for each session: Imaging the War, Choosing Sides, Making Sense of Shiloh, The Shape of War, and War and Freedom.

“The most profound outcome of the war is freedom for African Americans,” Dr. Huebner said, after identifying two “unresolved” issues in American society at the time – slavery and sovereignty. Huebner said the ongoing conflict between North and South resulted in the deaths of an estimated 620,000 people, but the death toll could have swollen to 800,000.

Event organizers say the purpose of this discussion was to better understand the outcomes of war by getting beneath the surface of what caused it and other social complexities. “This study is a part of lifelong learning and the Library’s mission to satisfy the customer’s need to know,” said Wang-Ying Glasgow, adult services manager and project director. “You always want to learn from history, which is a great subject. Discussions are engaging, and we’re always learning. The topics are sensitive – race, economic disparity, and state’s rights – but Dr. Huebner is an excellent scholar, who discusses with the group in a very civil and professional manner.”

In book club fashion, attendees were encouraged to complete assigned readings before the event. Books used during the series were March by Geraldine Brooks, America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries by Edward Ayers, and Crossroads to Freedom: Antietam by James McPherson. Additional copies of these books were donated to the Library for customers to check out by the Memphis Library Foundation.

“Even if someone hadn’t read the material, discussions were easy to understand,” Glasgow continued. “We’ve had in depth readings and talks throughout the program, which is the appropriate level of discussion for adults coming to the Library. It has helped people to learn and to appreciate history.”

Series attendants and other Library customers can continue the discussion on Thursday, April 18, 2013 from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Film Shiloh: A Fiery Trail will be shown at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. Participants are encouraged to wear historical costumes.

For more information on Library programs and services for adults, call (901) 415-2700 or visit www.memphislibrary.org.