Thursday, May 16, 2013

2013 Juneteenth Freedom Seminar

On June 19th, 1865—two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued—Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. The anniversary now serves as a symbolic day of freedom known as Juneteenth, and the Library Company annually hosts a program in remembrance. On Friday, June 21 this year, “African American Women in the Era of Emancipation” will explore the Civil War experiences of free and enslaved black women as they challenged slavery and defined freedom on the front lines.

African American history of the Civil War is often centered on black men’s military enlistments, a patriotic endeavor that reaffirmed their manhood and proved their fitness for citizenship and suffrage. Our panelists will examine the varied ways in which African American women envisioned their womanhood in a new era, contributed to the Union war effort, and hastened the abolition of slavery through decisive actions such as self-emancipation with family members, creating employment opportunities as teachers or cooks in Union refugee camps, and nursing sick and wounded black Union soldiers. 

Moderated by Program in African American History Director Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the panel discussion features three scholars whose research interests focus on the lives of black women. Daina Ramey Berry is Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin where her research focuses on gender, labor, family, and economy among the enslaved. Her paper is entitled “‘Soldiers Was Around Me Very Thick’: Enslaved Women in the 1860s.” A literary historian, Lois Brown is Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor at Wesleyan University. Her paper, “‘Ah, what a day I've had!’: The Storied Missions of Harriet Tubman, Susie King Taylor, and Charlotte Forten in the Civil War South,” examines the work of three black women who ventured from the North to the war-torn South in order to have a stake in remaking American society. Thavolia Glymph is Associate Professor of African & African American Studies and History at Duke University. Her paper, "Enslaved Women as Refugees in the Civil War," builds upon her current research into the lives of black women and children in Civil War refugee and labor camps.

Past conferences have been devoted to the controversy surrounding the discovery of slave quarters at George Washington’s Philadelphia home and the impact of emancipation across the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. To register to attend the conference, visit

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