You are here: Home / Spotlight

Spotlight

Richards Center to Host Conference on Rethinking Violence in African American History

Up one level
Richards Center to Host Conference on Rethinking Violence in African American History

The George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center, the Department of African American Studies, and the Penn State Libraries will host a conference, Rethinking Violence in African American History: History, Memory, Trauma, on October 6 and 7. Free and open to the public, the conference will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, Penn State, University Park. Friday’s session will conclude with a keynote lecture at 4:00 p.m., “Racial Violence, Rendition, and Radical Lawyering: 1930-1960,” by Margaret Burnham, University Distinguished Professor of Law at the Northeastern University School of Law.

Organized by Nan Woodruff, Professor of African American Studies and Modern U.S. History, the conference will explore the impact of the country’s long history of racial violence, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow segregation and the Civil Rights movement to the present. Conference participants include social activists, Penn State faculty, and visiting scholars from the fields of history, anthropology, political science, and law who seek to understand the historical dimensions of racial violence in U.S. history and the terror it created. The conference comes at a time of growing public discourse over the role of race and racism in state violence and the criminal justice system.

Dr. Woodruff notes that “racial violence has been central to U.S. history since the founding of a country built on African slavery. The legacies of racial violence and terror continue to resonate in our society as revealed in the persistence of state violence, the incarceration state, and growing racial inequality.”

Rethinking Violence in African American History will place the contemporary discourse on racial and state violence in a historical context and examine the legacy of violence and trauma that can be found in the historical memories of African American communities, families, and individuals.

The schedule is as follows:

-- 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Friday, October 6, Rethinking Violence in African American History: History, Memory, Trauma, day one 

--4:00 p.m. Friday, October 6, Keynote Address: “Racial Violence, Rendition, and Radical Lawyering: 1930-1960,” by Dr. Margaret Burnham

-- 9:30 a.m – 5:00 p.m. Saturday, October 7, Rethinking Violence in African American History: History, Memory, Trauma, day two

For more information on the conference, the keynote speaker, or the Richards Center, contact the center at 814-863-0151 or visit the website at Rethinking Violence in African American History: History, Memory, Trauma.

Congratulations to Carol Reardon!

Up one level
Congratulations to Carol Reardon!

After twenty-six years at Penn State, Carol Reardon retired at the end of June. The George Winfree Professor of American History, she has been one of the most highly regarded practitioners of U.S. military history in the nation and an important scholar-in-residence of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center.

Carol joined Penn State as an assistant professor in 1991. By 2010, she was appointed the Winfree Professor in recognition of her contributions to scholarship, to Penn State, and to the military profession.           

During her career she published a number of fine books, all of them providing insight into various aspects of military operations, military philosophy, and the intersection of war and society. For the Civil War, her book on Pickett’s Charge in Memory and History (1997) captivated readers in her analysis of the difference between perceptions and historical knowledge of an event. It was extremely popular and underwent multiple printings by the University of North Carolina Press. She also wrote a very engaging book in the Brose Lecture/Book Series, With a Sword in One Hand & Jomini in the Other (2012), in which she expanded our knowledge of the contributors to military thinking and demonstrated the wear and tear of continuous operations on common soldiers.            

Lately, she has set a new standard for producing battlefield guides. Together with co-author Tom Vossler, she has opened fresh insight into the battles of Gettysburg and Antietam, and shared some of these findings with participants on the Richards Center Executive Tour.           

She also provided important and significant service to the historical profession, serving a stint as the first woman named President of the Society for Military History.           

Also distinguishing Carol’s career was her dedication to reaching out beyond the academy, sharing her hard-earned knowledge with the military and the public. For the former, she served important posts as visiting professor at both the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She also became famous for her staff rides of battlefields that showed military personnel how they could apply lessons in leadership from the past to contemporary situations. And she has been in high demand to give public talks, with her talents amply demonstrated during her year as the Penn State Laureate. 

“Carol has been an extremely important person in the history of the Richards Center,” said Director Bill Blair. “Her presence provided the cache´ that we were not only a serious center for scholarly research, but also a disseminator of that knowledge to the public. Her expertise in military history and her capacity to engage with the public have been unsurpassed. She will be greatly missed even as we wish her all the best on her transition.”

                                                                                                                                                                             

Richards Center Hosts Second Annual Undergraduate Mentoring Program

Up one level
Richards Center Hosts Second Annual Undergraduate Mentoring Program

From June 25-30, the Richards Center hosted its second annual Emerging Scholars Undergraduate Mentoring Program. The program is designed to increase interest in Penn State’s graduate History program among students from historically underrepresented backgrounds and especially to expose them to Penn State’s unique dual degree programs in History and African American Studies and History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Twenty-three students applied for the program, and the 10 students who were accepted came from eight different states and the territory of Puerto Rico. They represented a variety of institutions, including Mississippi State, the University of Illinois-Chicago, the University of Arizona, Florida A & M (the only historically black institution in the Florida state university system), and the University of Puerto Rico, among others. During the week-long program they took part in panel discussions with current Penn State faculty and graduate students on such topics as writing compelling admissions statements, choosing a graduate program, and developing a successful research project. They also participated in a simulated doctoral seminar that introduced them to the practice of history at the graduate level. In their post-workshop survey, students praised the program. One commented that "the program more than met my expectations. It really helped to demystify grad school for me," while another student told us, "I can't wait to bring information about this program back to my university and encourage other students to apply."

When the program was launched in 2016, Crystal Sanders, Associate Professor in the Departments of History and African American Studies and one of the summer initiative coordinators, remarked that the Richards Center's program will not only diversify Penn State, but also, the academy: “The center's commitment to increasing the number of PhDs from underrepresented minority groups is exciting and commendable. Diversity among both students and faculty in the classroom fosters excellence and ensures that higher education reflects the demographics of our world.” The undergraduate mentoring curriculum already is bearing fruit. One of the participants in last year's inaugural event will enroll in the History department's PhD program in August.

Karen Younger

Up one level
Karen Younger

Karen Younger is Assistant Professor of History and Chairperson of the Department of Humanities at Waynesburg University. She earned her PhD in 2006, under the direction of Dr. Lori Ginzberg. When asked how the Richards Civil War Era Center impacted her academic and professional career, Younger responded with glowing praise. Her experience can be read below, in her own words:

“My five years in the Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State University not only made me a better historian, but also prepared me in unanticipated ways for my career.  Workshops with gifted classmates, and professors who were nothing short of brilliant, challenged me to think broadly and deeply. Teaching history courses to talented undergraduate students, played a central role in developing my passion for teaching.  My work at the Center challenged me to develop skills I didn’t know I had, which have proved vital to my career; namely, the ability to plan, to imagine, to administrate, to communicate, and to engage.

The collegial yet rigorous environment at the Center, enabled me to build a successful and rewarding career at a small liberal arts university. In my current role as Chairperson of the Humanities Department and Assistant Professor of History at Waynesburg University, I work with students, with faculty, and with administration, and I draw every day on the skills I developed during my time at the Center. My years at the Center were a wonderful time in my life, and the best educational and professional experience I could have asked for.”

Jon White

Up one level
Jon White

I can say without any hesitation that I would not be where I am today without the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center.  The Center’s faculty—especially Bill Blair and Mark Neely—were mentors to me throughout my undergraduate career, and they have continued to be wonderful friends since.  In fact, I began my book Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln as an independent study with Mark when I was a senior at Penn State.  I didn’t know at the time that he had been planning to write something about the soldier vote of 1864, but instead he graciously gave the topic to me.  When my book came out last year I was thrilled to be able to dedicate it to him.

The Richards Center helped me develop professionally in other ways as well.  For example, after my sophomore year, the Center funded a summer research fellowship that enabled me to work at two Civil War-related historic sites in the Philadelphia area—the Camp William Penn Museum and Pennypacker Mills.  Having these experiences helped me prepare me for the public history world in the future.  When I was in graduate school I worked as an intern in the Federal Judicial History Office at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C., and my first job out of graduate school was working as an assistant historian in that office.

Now I am a tenured professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University, in Newport News, Virginia.  I have written or edited 6 books and about 70 articles, essays and reviews.  I am currently finishing up three book projects:  a history of sleep and dreams during the Civil War (forthcoming with UNC Press), a collection of African American correspondence with Abraham Lincoln (to be submitted to Southern Illinois University Press later this month), and a co-authored history of the USS Monitor (under review with Kent State University Press).  After I finish these three books I will turn my attention to a history of the slave trade during the Civil War.

Bill Blair has done such a wonderful job in building the Richards Center into one of the premier academic centers in the country.  This year one of my top students is applying to Penn State for graduate school in Civil War history.  I know that if she attends Penn State she will receive a rigorous education and a thorough grounding in the Civil War era.  The professors in the Richards Center are what really make the place—I would not have had the success I’ve had in my career without the selfless investments they made in me when I was a student.

A few other highlights from my career:  In October I was elected vice president of the Board of Directors of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, I was invited to serve on the Board of Directors of the Abraham Lincoln Association, and I was invited to join the Advisory Council at Ford’s Theatre.