Civil War conference held by John Nau III Center Friday

Inaugrual installment of lecture series brings two guest speakers

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History Prof. Gary Gallagher said Charlottesville is a premier location for the center because the history of the Civil War still affects the community, citing the example of the debates surrounding the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park.

Courtney Stith | Cavalier Daily

The John Nau III Center for Civil War History held its first signature conference Friday. The event — titled “War as Muse: Revisiting Iconic Texts of the Civil War Era” — featured six keynote lecturers from the University, University of California at Los Angeles and Mercer University.

Speakers included Nau Center Director Gary Gallagher, History Prof. Elizabeth Varon, UCLA Prof. Brenda Stevenson, Law Assoc. Prof. Cynthia Nicoletti, English Prof. Stephen Cushman and Mercer University Prof. Sarah Gardner.

William Kurtz, research associate and Digital Historian and Archivist at the Nau Center, said the purpose of the event was to share scholarship done by University professors with the community and to educate the public about the Civil War.

“It’s all about bringing the scholarship we do here at the University into a public setting,” Kurtz said. “Not everybody has the opportunity to read our articles and books that our scholars produce, but it’s all about bringing the Civil War to the community and educating them about particular aspects of it.”

History Prof. Gary Gallagher said Charlottesville is a premier location for the center because the history of the Civil War still affects the community, citing the example of the debates surrounding the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park.

“[The history] still resonates today and that’s evident from the debates over the Lee statue in Charlottesville, for example,” Gallagher said. “The memory of the Civil War, the incidents of the Civil War, are often still very much debated in modern American history.”

Kurtz noted symbols of the Civil War around Grounds.

“There are symbols of the Civil War all across campus,” Kurtz said. “Off of Alderman Road there’s the Confederate cemetery [and] on the Rotunda there’s a list of Confederate dead who attended U.Va.”

In addition, Kurtz said Charlottesville is part of a nationwide discussion over Civil War monuments.

“Right now as the community grapples with [the Lee statue debates], that’s part of a larger story of our nation trying to understand ‘how do we come to grips with the different meanings of the Civil War for so many people across the nation?’” Kurtz said. “‘How do we as a nation remember that past but also learn from it?’”

Gallagher said the center will hold similar events in the future to produce better scholarship and teaching.

“We have programs that are going to be aimed towards graduate students, undergraduate students, the general public, conferences such as the one we did today,” Gallagher said. “We want to help produce scholarship and better teaching and to reach a public history audience.”

Gallagher also said this event will be the basis of a book produced by faculty in the Nau Center.

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