The Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech will observe the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination with a two-day symposium April 10-11 featuring five renowned scholars and a screening of the epic 2012 Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln.”

Titled “Lincoln in Our Time,” the symposium will cover Lincoln’s political influence, representation in film, and significance in American culture over the years since his death.

An accompanying exhibit will be in Newman Library from March 2 through April 15. Also, on Feb. 14 at 1 p.m., the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies will sponsor a free screening at Blacksburg’s Lyric Theatre of  “Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939), directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda.

Related events will be the annual Civil War Weekend at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center March 13-15 and the Virginia Tech Summer Civil War Seminar: Campaigning with Lee May 24-29, both led by Paul Quigley, the James I. Robertson Jr. Associate Professor in Civil War Studies and director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.

“We have a very exciting semester ahead,” Quigley said. “As the 150th anniversary approaches, we want to underscore the significance of Lincoln in shaping our nation’s history. We also want to give the campus community and the public an opportunity to learn more about Lincoln’s legacy, his detractors, and those he has influenced.”

Working with Quigley on the symposium and exhibit is Kimberly Kutz, a postdoctoral associate, who is teaching a one-time special topics history course titled “Abraham Lincoln: The Man, the Myth, the Legend.” Other collaborators on the exhibit are Marc Brodsky, reference archivist for University Libraries Special Collections, and Scott Fralin, the library’s outreach support specialist.

Among objects to be included are letters, diaries, and newspapers reporting on the assassination and its aftermath, relics including fabric from Lincoln’s coffin, and a book by Virginia Tech’s first president and noted Lincoln hater, Charles L.C. Minor. The exhibition will also feature videos produced by students in Kutz’s Lincoln course.

“On this important anniversary, we want to pause and reconsider what Lincoln meant to Americans in the past and what he means to us today,” Kutz said. “With this symposium and exhibition, we want to examine the continuing relevance of Lincoln as a symbol of freedom and equality for everyone.”

Symposium speakers and their topics are:

  • John McKee Barr, “Loathing Lincoln: The Past, Present, and Future of an American Tradition.” A professor of history at Lone Star College-Kingwood, Barr is the author of “Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from 1865 to the Present.”
  • Catherine Clinton, “Recreating the Lincolns: Consulting and Costumes for Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln.’ “ Clinton, who holds the Denman Chair of American History at the University of Texas-San Antonio, has written or edited more than two dozen books, including “Mrs. Lincoln: A Life.”
  • William C. “Jack” Davis, “The Age of Lincoln.” Formerly a professor of history at Virginia Tech and executive director of the Center for Civil War Studies, Davis has written or edited more than 50 books on the Civil War and Southern history. He has been the historical consultant for several TV and film productions, including “The Blue and the Gray,” “George Washington,” and “The Perfect Tribute.”
  • Samuel Wheeler, “Lincoln in the Digital Age.” Research historian for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, Wheeler is an award-winning teacher and has worked in a number of public history institutions, including the Old State Capitol in Springfield.
  • Frank Williams, “Lincoln on Film: From the Silents to Spielberg.” A former chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, Williams is an author, a collector of Lincoln memorabilia, and lecturer for Lincoln and Civil War groups. His latest book is “Lincoln as Hero.”

The symposium will open on April 10 with a reception at Newman Library and the first presentation. It will continue on April 1 with the other four presentations, the film screening and a roundtable discussion. Both the symposium and the exhibit are free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Details are available on the event website.



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