How and why does the U.S. Civil War continue to shape national politics, laws, literature, and culture---especially in relation to our understanding of race, freedom, and equality?
Most of us were taught that the Civil War between the Confederacy and the Union was fought on battlefields chiefly in the American South between the years of 1861-1865. In this narrative, the North won and the South lost. But what if the issues that resulted in such devastating bloodshed were never resolved? What if the war never ended? This course demonstrates the ways in which the United States is still fighting the Civil War, arguably THE defining event in U.S. history. In each class, we connect current events to readings and themes in the course, highlighting how and why the war is still being fought. From Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831 to the recent riot (or battle) in Charlottesville, we trace how and why the South was in certain respects the victor, even though the Confederacy was destroyed and the Constitution amended. We explore the different kinds of war—ideological, political, cultural, military, and para-military—that placed the unfreedom of blacks—as slaves, serfs, and prisoners—at the center of larger conflicts over federal versus state and local rule, welfare, globalization, and free trade. We analyze the Civil War in literature, art, politics, photography, prints, film, music, poetry, speeches, and history, while also discovering how these cultural forms worked to shape our memory of the event itself. By the end of the course, we will be able to show how and why contemporary U.S. debates are rooted in this defining narrative, and we will better understand the dilemmas the nation faces today.