2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, and 2017 witnessed the deadly violence associated with white supremacist rallies about a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Virginia.
More words have been written and published about this war than any other event in U.S. history. How can we explain this fascination? Was it the clash over racial slavery, the unprecedented carnage, the more than 750,000 deaths, the psychological scars of a generation?
Why have Americans, from the North and the South, looked back to the Civil War to fight again and again the conflicts that prompted it in the first place: the incompatibility of the nation’s noblest ideas of liberty and equality with its entrenched systems of racial inequality? Has the war ever ended?
This course is a social and cultural (not military) history of the Civil War. It examines the central themes of American history that the war exposed—slavery, freedom, equality, citizenship, racial justice, violence, and constructions of gender. The course also focuses on how the Civil War has been a fight over memory in popular culture for the past 150 years.