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George and Ann RichardsCivil War Era Center

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News & Events

William A. Blair, Ferree Professor Emeritus of Middle American History and Director Emeritus of the Richards Center, published his latest book with the University of North Carolina Press this month. Grounded in deep archival research in the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, The Record of Murders and Outrages: Racial Violence and the Fight over Truth at the Dawn of Reconstruction investigates federal efforts to document and deploy information about violence against formerly enslaved people in the early days of Reconstruction. Exploring themes of narrative, violence, and information, Dr. Blair raises questions that remain deeply relevant about the politics of truth in highly polarized times. 

Professor Blair’s Latest Book Covers Violence and Narrative After the Civil War

All talks will be held virtually via Zoom and the total number of attendees will be limited. Please register here by indicating which lecture(s) you will attend. You will receive a Zoom link for each lecture on the morning of the talk.

  • Thursday, October 14, 5:30 p.m. EDT: Political Speech and the Rhetoric of War
  • Friday, October 15, 5:30 p.m. EDT:  Shakespeare at War
  • Saturday, October 16, 4:00 p.m. EDT: National Identity and Cultural Affinity 

Shakespeare Fights the Civil War

These lectures examine how warring parties engaged Shakespeare during America’s deadliest conflict. Shakespeare spoke to the cultural and political moment like no other figure. Macbeth and Julius Caesar had something to say about tyranny. The Tempest and Richard II offered a meditation on usurpation. And Henry V and Richard III told of war and its effects on those who waged it. What’s more, Shakespeare played a critical role in the nationalist strivings of both the Union and the Confederacy. Just as each warring party posited itself as the rightful inheritor of the Founding Fathers’ vision, both harkened back to Shakespeare in a similar fashion and for similar reasons. Finally, Civil War-era Americans also turned to Shakespeare for universal truths. Shakespeare, they believed, spoke to abiding concerns, such as the soul of genius, the power of the imagination, and of the heroic individual’s ability to determine an event’s outcome. By elucidating how Unionists and Confederates interpreted Shakespeare and, in turn, how Shakespeare shaped their understanding of war, these lectures reveal how the war’s participants turned to Shakespeare to articulate and justify what they thought and felt about the war and its attendant consequences.

Dr. Sarah E. Gardner is Distinguished University Professor of History at Mercer University, Macon, Georgia. Her work focuses on the cultural and intellectual history the Civil War era through the early decades of the twentieth century. She is the author of Blood and Irony: Southern White Women’s Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937 and Reviewing the South: The Literary Marketplace and the Southern Renaissance, 1920-1941. Most recently she has co-edited with Natalie J. Ring, The Lost Lectures of C. Vann Woodward and, with Steven M. Stowe, Insiders, Outsiders: Toward a New History of Southern Thought.

Dr. Sarah E. Gardner to deliver the Steven and Janice Brose Distinguished Lectures, October 14-16, 2021.

Tuesday, October 5, 6:30–8:00 p.m. EDT,Virtual Panel (webinar registration required)

In 2020, the Supreme Court held in McGirt v. Oklahoma that the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation remained and therefore Oklahoma lacked criminal jurisdiction over crimes involving tribal citizens.  The ruling has since been extended to include the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations.  The panelists will discuss the impact of this decision on the Five Tribes and explore its implications for other Native nations as well. Each speaker will consider some of the ways Native Nations are considering the promises and potentially unfulfilled possibilities at the end of the trail.  


Stacy Leeds (Cherokee Nation), is the Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University and Dean Emeritus of University of Arkansas College of Law. Leeds is a former Justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court and former Chairperson of the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission. She is currently a district court judge for Muscogee (Creek) Nation

Doug Kiel (Oneida Nation), is an Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University.  He recently published the article “Nation v. Municipality: Indigenous Land Recovery, Settler Resentment, and Taxation on the Oneida Reservation” in NAIS, a case that ended favorably for the Oneida Nation in part because of the McGirt decision. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled “Unsettling Territory: Oneida Indian Resurgence and Anti-Sovereignty Backlash.” 

Chief Ben Barnes (Shawnee Tribe) currently serves the Shawnee Tribe as the elected chief of the Tribal Council.  He has also served as the Director of Tribal Gamingfor Miami Nation Enterprises. He advocates for   language and cultural preservation. He is the co-author of “Salvaging the Salvage Anthropologists: Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin, Carl Voegelin, and the Future of Ethnohistory,” which articulates an important call to scholars to collaborate with Native nations whenever possible. 


Dr. Rachel Shelden, Richards Center director and associate professor of history, and Dr. AnneMarie Mingo, assistant professor of African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, recently spoke with Penn State News about the history and meaning of Juneteenth. Juneteenth commemorates emancipation during the Civil War and specifically recognizes June 19, 1865 when Union forces under General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and confirmed that the Emancipation Proclamation had ended slavery there and throughout the former Confederacy. Click this link to read the article on the Penn State News site.

Penn State Scholars Mark Juneteenth

Three Richards Center affiliated graduate students successfully defended their dissertations earlier this month and earned their Ph.D. degrees. Cecily Zander earned he doctorate under the guidance of William Blair, Walter L. and Helen P. Ferree Professor Emeritus of Middle American History and Director Emeritus of the Richards Civil War Era Center. Her dissertation is titled, “Agents of Empire: The U.S. Army, The Civil War, and the Making of the American West, 1848-1872.” Emily Seitz earned her doctorate under the direction of Lori Ginzberg, professor of history and women’s studies. Her dissertation is titled, “Prescribing Pregnancy Loss: Women Physicians and the Changing Boundaries of Fetal Life in Nineteenth-Century America.” Mallory Huard also earned her doctorate under the direction of Dr. Ginzberg. Her dissertation is titled, “America’s Private Empire: Family and Commercial Imperialism in Nineteenth Century Hawai’i.”

Graduate Students Earn Doctoral Degrees

Amy Greenberg, George Winfree Professor of American History, reviewed Michael Burlingame’s An American Marriage: The Untold Story Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd, for The New York Times. Her review appeared in the June 3 edition of the TimesAn American Marriage was published this year by Simon and Schuster. In the book, Burlingame provocatively argues that Mary Todd was physically abusive toward Lincoln and was a corrupt First Lady, causing Lincoln to regret his marriage to her.

Greenberg Publishes Review in New York Times

Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies, recently spoke with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Melissa Harris-Perry of WNYC’s The Takeaway about Naomi Osaka’s decision to withdraw from this month’s French Open tennis tournament. Osaka had been threatened with escalating fines and possible disqualification from the tournament for declining media appearances for mental health reasons. Dr. Davis also appeared on WNYC’s Morning Edition to discuss the racial dynamics behind highly publicized examples of fans behaving badly and violently toward players in the NBA playoffs. In May, she wrote about a new generation of Black women athletic directors at major universities for Global Sport Matters.

Davis Makes National Media Appearances

Amira Rose Davis and Maryam Aziz contributed articles to the spring 2021 special issue of The Journal of African American History, titled “New Directions in African American History.” Dr. Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies, authored the article, “New Directions in African American Sports History: A Field of One’s Own” for the issue. Dr. Aziz, Richards Center and Africana Research Center postdoctoral Fellow in history, contributed the article, “They Punched Black: Martial Arts, Black Arts, and Sports in the Urban North and West, 1968–1979.” The JAAH is the leading scholarly publication in the field of African American history and is the official journal of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Renowned historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the JAAH in 1916 as The Journal of Negro History.

Davis and Aziz Publish in Journal of African American History

Crystal Sanders, associate professor of history, will receive the 2021 Dr. James Robinson Equal Opportunity Award from Penn State. The award recognizes her many efforts to promote equal opportunity and promote cross-cultural understanding at the university. In announcing the award, the university noted that her nominators “called Sanders a fierce proponent of the history of black education and also an advocate for expanding opportunities for minorities in the field.” Dr. Sanders has initiated many programs, symposia, and other events to promote inclusion and collaboration among faculty and students, including the Richards Center’s undergraduate Catto-LeCount Fellows Program for Equity and Inclusion.

Dr. Crystal Sanders

Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies, has been named a  2021 Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s Institute for Citizens and Scholars. The Mellon awards “support junior faculty whose research focuses on contemporary American history, politics, culture, and society, and who are committed to the creation of an inclusive campus community for underrepresented students and scholars.” Dr. Davis also was named a 2021–2022 Harrington Faculty Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. The residential fellowship will allow her to focus on research and collaborations with colleagues in Texas’s Department of African and African Diaspora Studies and across the university.

Davis Named Mellon Faculty Leader