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Race and Emancipation in the Age of Lincoln

April 16-18, 2009

Howard University, Washington, DC

At both the centennial and sesquicentennial commemorations of Abraham Lincoln's birth, little note was taken of the theme of emancipation.  How ironic, given that our sixteenth president is celebrated globally for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.  In this bicentennial year, Howard University and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission seek to correct this oversight by placing the struggle for African American freedom at the center of the discourse.

"Race and Emancipation in the Age of Lincoln" is meant to enhance the growing national awareness of the link between present-day challenges concerning race and the unfinished business of the Civil War.  It examines Lincoln through the lens of the African American struggle for freedom and equality during the war and since.  Presenters will address the traditional image of Lincoln as emancipator while also exploring the contributions of countless African Americans whose actions undermined slavery and challenged Lincoln and the nation to fulfill the promises articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.  An accompanying exhibition of the same title, mounted from the university's Moorland-Spingarn Research Center collection, explores the conference themes in documents, prints and artifacts.  We encourage all to take the time to view this remarkable exhibition.

From its founding in 1867 in the spirit of emancipation, Howard University has confronted the legacies of slavery and racial discrimination and has promoted a greater appreciation for the extraordinary role of Africans and their descendants in the making of the modern world.  Our campus is a fitting site for this conference.

The dawn of Barack Obama's unprecedented assent to the presidency - 200 years after Lincoln's birth and nearly 150 years after the Civil War, offers encouragement for the future.  It provides an opportune moment to reflect on the work already accomplished and that which lies ahead.

  

Thursday, April 16:  Challenges to Slavery

1. Session I:  Ideological Origins of Emancipation
Panelists:

  • Flordeliz Bugarin, Asst. Professor of Anthorpology, Howard University. (moderator)
  • John Stauffer, Professor of English and African and African American Studies, Harvard University
  • Manisha Sinha, Associate Professor of African American Studies and History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Video: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


 

2. Session II: Quests for Freedom by Enslaved People
Panelists:

  • Jules Harrell, Professor of Psychology, Howard University (moderator)
  • Richard Blackett, Andrew Jackson Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
  • Susan O’Donovan, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and History, Harvard University
  • Eleanor Traylor, Professor and Chairperson, Department of English, Howard University

Video: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.



Friday, April 17:  Emancipation and Revolution

3. Session I:  Comparative Emancipations in The Americas
Panelists:

  • Yasmin DeGout, Associate Professor of English, Howard University (moderator)
  • Laurent Dubois, Professor of French and History, Duke University
  • Jeffrey Kerr-Ritchie, Assistant Professor of History, Howard University
  • Gordon Gill, Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Oberlin College

Video: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.


4. Session III:  Abraham Lincoln, Lawyer in the White House:  The Emancipation Proclamation as a Legal Document
Panelists:

  • Jay Stewart, Instructor, Department of Political Science, Howard University (moderator)
  • Frank Williams, Chief Justice (Ret.), Supreme Court of Rhode Island
  • Kurt Schmoke, Dean, School of Law, Howard University

Video: Part 1, Part 2.



5. Session IV:  Emancipation in the District
Panelists:

  • Edna Greene Medford, Associate Professor of History, Howard University (moderator)
  • Peter Hanes, DC Emancipation Coordinator, and DC - Reading is Fundamental
  • C.R. Gibbs, Historian/Independent Researcher, Washington, DC
  • Clarence Davis, Professor of History, University of the District of Columbia

Video: Full Video.


 

Saturday, April 18:  The Meaning of Emancipation

6. Session I:  Conveying Ideas of Race and Emancipation at Lincoln Sites
Panelists:

  • Dr. Darrel Bigham, Chairman, Education Committee, Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (moderator)
  • Thomas Schwartz, Illinois State Historian
  • Frank Milligan, Director, President Lincoln's Cottage at the Soldier's Home
  • Timothy Townsend, Historian, Lincoln Home and National Historic Site, National Park Service

Video: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.



7. Session II:  Picturing Freedom:  The Emancipation Proclamation in American Visual Memory
Panelists:

  • Thomas Battle, Director, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University (moderator)
  • Harold Holzer, Vice President for External Affairs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Co-chair Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
  • Teresia Bush, Assistant Professor of Art History, Howard University

Video: Part 1, Part 2.