Instructor: Dr. Jill St. Germain
It was the bloodiest conflict in American history and no person, community, or aspect of the nation escaped its embrace or impact. Its roots lay in the institution of slavery, introduced into colonial America more than two centuries earlier but which blossomed never so vibrantly as in the decades immediately preceding the war that ended it. Recovering from the war, the period known as Reconstruction, was almost as traumatic as Americans sought to reconcile President Lincoln’s declaration of a “new birth of freedom” with the ongoing realities of racial prejudice. The legacy of these years scars American society to the present day.
In this course we will examine the secession movement – how and why a large number of Americans tried to break up the Union and to form a new nation grounded in the inequality of races. We will focus intensively on the war itself, with special attention to the military and political events of 1861-65. The course will end with a close examination of the post-war Reconstruction Era when the advocates of racial equality battered against and faltered before the bulwark of white supremacy.
In class students will grapple with the issues of secession, war and reconstruction as presented in short lectures, reading assignments, or on film. Course work involves frequent short written assignments and/or quizzes. In-class discussion and debate will be an integral feature of this seminar. Students will also write a major research paper on a problem in the Civil War or Reconstruction Era. The course is designed to help students hone the skills of effective reading, developing an argument, assessing evidence, and written and oral presentation.