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Public Library
350 Pageant Lane
Suite 501
Clarksville, TN 37040

Phone: 931-648-8826
Fax: 931-648-8831
Email: [email protected]

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Let's Talk About: American Civil War


Clarksville, Tenn.  – Beginning in January, 2013, Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library will serve as host to Making Sense of the American Civil War, a scholar-led reading and discussion program. This program is organized as a five-part series of conversations that aim to get below the surface of familiar stories about the Civil War battles to explore the complex challenges brought on by the war. 

The selected titles for discussion are: March, by Geraldine Brooks; Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, by James McPherson; and America's War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on their 150th Anniversaries, a new anthology edited by Edward L. Ayers and published by NEH and ALA, which will serve as the focus of three of the five discussion sessions. The Public Library is pleased to announce that the scholar selected to lead the discussion series is APSU emeritus history professor Dr. Richard P. Gildrie.

“We are partnering with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association to bring another great program to Tennessee communities,” said Melissa Davis, Humanities Tennessee’s director of the Tennessee Community History Program. “I’m pleased that this program delves deeply into experiences from multiple perspectives, and includes a wide variety of reading selections.” The Public Library is also partnering with the local Civil War Sesquicentennial Steering Commission to spread the word about the series.

The reading and discussion program is a five-part series focused on truly making sense of the breadth and depth of the American Civil War. The five conversations that make up the program are as follows: 

Imagining War: This first part of the series compares fiction and firsthand testimony with the novel March by Geraldine Brooks that tells its story through the character of Reverend March from Louisa May Alcott’s beloved Little Women, and an excerpt from Alcott’s journal. The readings illuminate how the war challenges individuals’ beliefs and reveals personal experiences amongst the nation’s chaos. 

Choosing Sides: The primary documents discussed in this conversation ask the reader to imagine confronting one’s notion of justice, honor, duty, loyalty—even hypocrisy—in making personal political decisions on the eve of the Civil War era. 

Making Sense of Shiloh: There’s more than one side to every story and the horrific Battle of Shiloh is no exception. This conversation dives deeper than the facts and figures of the battle itself to explore the shattering impact the battle had upon Americans by looking at a variety of battlefield perspectives. 

The Shape of War: Three readings demonstrate the variety of interpretations of Antietam then challenges the reader to shift the focus from the course of the battle and its ramifications to the suffering of the individuals and the way death was confronted. 

War and Freedom: This final set of readings focuses on the emancipation of four million slaves, and addresses both the politics of emancipation and the long, fitful course toward liberty and security by freed people.

The program will begin at the Public Library in Clarksville Tuesday, Jan 22 at 6:00 pm with scheduled discussions every two weeks. Here is the entire schedule: January 22nd, February 5th, February 19th, March 5th, and March 19th -- all sessions beginning at 6:00 pm. The three texts used as the basis of the discussions are being provided in multiple copies and are available at the library for immediate checkout for those readers who would like to start preparing early. The books are located in a special display near the circulation desk on the first floor. To participate in the discussions beginning in January, please sign up by contacting Jessica Hartley at 931-648-8826 x61401 or emailing [email protected]. Limited slots are available.

Making Sense of the American Civil War is presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association.  

The Tennessee program is presented by Humanities Tennessee, an organization created in 1973 that is dedicated to developing a sense of community through educational programs in the humanities across Tennessee. The series is part of Civil War, Civil Rights, Civil Discourse, a project of Humanities Tennessee that seeks to equip Tennesseans to think deeply about the context of social and political divisions from the Civil War to the present.  For more information, visit