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“Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” Will Feature Exhibit and Eight Presentations at U of M

For release: August 22, 2012
For press information, contact Ed Frank, 901-678-8242

The traveling exhibit “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” offers a fresh and innovative perspective on the constitutional crisis at the heart of the great conflict between the states. The exhibit is on display at the University of Memphis now through Sept. 28 on the second floor of the Ned R. McWherter Library. The exhibit and all related programming are free and open to the public.

The exhibit identifies three crises – the secession of the Southern states, slavery, and wartime civil liberties – and explores how Lincoln sought to meet these political and constitutional challenges.

Four public lectures, all beginning at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the McWherter Library, will constitute part of the exhibit. The programs and their presenters are:

Aug. 29 ­– “Ties That Bind” by Dr. Scott P. Marler, assistant professor of history at the U of M. A former editor of the Journal of Southern History and author of numerous scholarly articles, Marler has a book forthcoming on 19th century New Orleans and its surrounding areas. His presentation will cover the progression of Lincoln’s views on the Constitution and slavery from his days as a young lawyer, during his term in Congress, and through the 1850s.

Sept. 5 – “The Slaves’ War” by Dr. Susan E. O’Donovan, associate professor of history at the University of Memphis. O’Donovan is a co-editor of the series Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation 1861-1867. Her book Becoming Free in the Cotton South was awarded the James A. Rawley Prize and the Award for Excellence in Research Using the Holdings of an Archive. She has published numerous book chapters, articles and encyclopedia entries. Her lecture will highlight the recent foregrounding of the agency of enslaved African-Americans in achieving emancipation.

Sept. 12 – “Lincoln and the Constitution” by Dr. Tim Huebner, chair of the Department of History at Rhodes College. Huebner is the author of several books on American law, courts and the Constitution, including The Taney Court: Justices, Rulings and Legacy, and is co-editor and contributor to Major Problems in American Constitutional History. He will discuss how Lincoln struggled with, and found ways to surmount, three major constitutional issues – the legitimacy of secession, the constitutionality of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in wartime, and the legality of emancipation – and how his struggles demonstrated his belief that a vigorous Union would promote and protect the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

 Sept. 19 – “Legacies” by Dr. Charles McKinney, associate professor of history and director of the African-American Studies Program at Rhodes College, and Daphene McFerren, director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the U of M. McKinney is a specialist in civil rights struggles in non-urban settings. His most recent book is Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina. McFerren has served as an assistant U.S. attorney, counsel to the attorney general, and trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. As head of the Hooks Institute, she promotes research, service and programming in the areas of civil rights and social justice. The two speakers will discuss the ways in which modern movements draw on the example and inspiration of Lincoln as he wrestled with the challenges of 1861-65.

 Four book discussions related to the period will round out the exhibit.  They will be held on Fridays at 6 p.m. in Mitchell Hall, Room 223. The discussions will focus on the following books:

Aug. 31Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War by Charles B. Dew;

Sept. 7Slaves No More: Three Essays on Emancipation and the Civil War by Ira Berlin;

Sept. 14The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner; and

Sept. 21Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South by Tara McPherson.

The exhibit was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association. Local sponsors include the U of M University Libraries, the U of M Department of History and the U of M’s Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. It is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Paid parking is available in the Zach Curlin garage on campus.

For more information, contact Ed Frank of the University Libraries at 901-678-8242 or

To find local coverage of the Civil War, access the University Libraries’ new online “Index to the Civil War in Memphis Newspapers 1860-1866” at

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