Missouri Passages: September 2011, Vol 9, No 5



Our America Civil War: Still a Great Deal to Learn

In this issue of MOPassages, the larger part of the articles that Editor Marilyn Webster-Brown has collected have to deal directly with the theme of the American Civil War, a topic that still holds considerable power and appeal for many Americans.  To a great extent, the idea of the war and the diverse meanings that it holds for us is never very far below the surface in both the local and national consciousness.  We are particularly reminded of its significance as we hear more and more about the events and activities that are being planned and carried out to mark the 150th anniversary of that conflict. 

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Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Measure of Great Men

Westport Center for the Arts debuted “Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass:  The Measure of Great Men” on June 26 at the Alexander Majors House in Kansas City, Missouri.  The discussions and planning started in late 2009 and the people WCA first approached for support were skeptical.

 For some reason we kept having to explain it:  Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass share their stories with a live audience.  Both were considered great public speakers and their written words fill libraries.   The language is so rich and the personal stories so American.  It seemed natural. 

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George Caleb Bingham’s Uncivil Civil War

2011 presents a unique opportunity for Missourians to commemorate two important events: the 200th anniversary of the birth of “The Missouri Artist” George Caleb Bingham, and the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The Friends of the National Frontier Trails Museum decided to combine these two narratives into an exciting new seminar for teachers titled “George Caleb Bingham’s Uncivil Civil War” to provide participants a special insight into the war and the border conflicts that devastated western Missouri/eastern Kansas before and after the War Between the States. The title of the seminar reflects Bingham’s strong feelings associated with the harsh realities of the war, in particular what he saw as the attack on the civil liberties of residents in the border region by occupying federal troops. Although a staunch Unionist, Bingham regarded the imposition of martial law an uncalled for breach of the principles and protected rights as articulated in the Constitution. Because our region figures so prominently in both storylines our seminar planning team thought this would be an ideal subject for our students to explore. The topic also allowed us to partner with other museums in the metro and support their special programming and exhibitions.

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Civil War Comes to Cass County

Cass County Historical Society is using the 150th anniversary of the Civil War as an opportunity to raise local awareness of the impact of the war on local residents.   Following a Missouri Humanities Council Charette in 2003, CCHS focused its programming on investing in people by providing life-changing opportunities in the form of living history performances and festivals, writing and producing plays, sponsoring heritage dances, and reaching out  to schools and youth. This emphasis is reflected in its Civil War activities.

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Missouri/Kansas Border War Network

With 2011 being the 150th anniversary of the official start of the Civil War, the members of the Missouri Kansas Border War Network are working hard to connect the places, events and stories of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas during the civil strife which took place from 1854 to 1865. 

 The Missouri/Kansas Border War Network, which is funded by a Missouri Humanities Council grant, is an association of museums and historical societies that have joined together to promote their sites and preserve the stories of the Missouri-Kansas Border War. Its members include museums and historical societies from Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Cass, Bates and Vernon counties in Missouri and Johnson, Douglas and Miami counties in Kansas.Throughout the year MO/KS Border War Network members sponsor and plan commemorations, reenactments, exhibits, educational programs and other activities to remember and share the stories of the conflict.

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The Border between Them:Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas-Missouri Line

The most bitter guerrilla conflict in American history raged along the Kansas-Missouri border from 1856 to 1865, beginning long before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861.

 A narrative history of the border war and its impact on the citizens of both states, The Border between Them recounts the exploits of John Brown, William Quantrill, and other notorious guerrillas, but it also uncovers the stories of everyday people who lived through the conflict.

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Children’s Books and the Civil War

 The Sesquicentennial of the Civil War presents parents and teachers with a unique opportunity to introduce an important part of American history to children.  Children’s books are always a good place to start!  Many books dealing with a variety of subjects related to the Civil War are available.  Web sites full of information and age-appropriate activities are also a wonderful resource for parents and teachers.  We’ve compiled a list of some good books and sites to help you get started.

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Thomas Hart Benton at Bonniebrook

Bonniebrook Historical Society (BHS) and the Missouri Humanities Council had the pleasure of presenting “Thomas Hart Benton at Bonniebrook” on July 16, 2011.  This free admission event was open to the public and featured exhibits of Benton lithographs and presentations by scholars who are knowledgeable about his life and art history.  The intersection of his life and art subject matter with that of Branson area residents, including Rose O’Neill, was a focal point of the event.    

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Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the State of Missouri Compromising Positions

The murals painted by Thomas Hart Benton in the state capitol building Speaker’s Lounge in Jefferson City, Missouri, serve as a metaphor for the theme of the conference, “Compromising Positions: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Missouri and the Midwest,” which took place on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus on April 7 and 8, 2011, with the generous support from the Missouri Humanities Council.    The murals, valued today at millions of dollars, were considered very controversial, for they depicted Missouri in all its history:  Frankie and Johnnie, Jesse James, slavery, and domestic abuse appear side-by-side with the glory of the rural, pioneer life.  Whether some people might wish not to recognize the negative aspects of Missouri history, that history doesn’t change.  We envisioned this conference as a chance to investigate what Missouri history reveals about issues of gender, race, and class, and the paintings of Benton seem to be an appropriate starting point.  The Gender Studies Program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis is a discipline that engages in ongoing debate about these issues both historically and in contemporary culture, and we enjoyed hearing the innovative—and controversial– ideas of other teachers and scholars. 

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Missouri websites and the Civil War

Interested in reading  more on the Civil War, please visit the websites listed below:

Virtual Museum http://civilwarvirtualmuseum.org/

Ozarks Civil War, Community Conflict: http://www.ozarkscivilwar.org/   

Missouri Digital Heritage: http://www.sos.mo.gov/mdh/CivilWar/Resources.asp    

 Lee & Grant Traveling Exhibit: http://powersmuseum.com/exhibits/lee-grant.html

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Congratulations! Delia

Missouri Humanities Council board member Delia Gillis, Associate Professor in the Department of History & Anthropology at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO, has authored a new book:

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