Friday, February 16th

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Behind the Exhibition

The Impending Crisis
Join our Collections Department in the Robins Theater for a special talk about the development of the The Impending Crisis exhibition. Learn more about the artifacts and stories that are featured in the exhibit! Don’t miss an exclusive experience and a chance to ask the curators your questions!
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Reception & Preview of
The Impending Crisis Exhibition
Symposium attendees can attend a private reception with the Symposium speakers and an exclusive preview of the new exhibit before it opens to the public!

Saturday, February 17th

Check-in and registration will occur in The Foundry from 8:45 AM to 9:30 AM. The Symposium Livestream will begin at 9:30 AM EST following registration.

9:30 AM – 9:45 AM
Opening Remarks
Dr. Rob Havers, President and CEO, American Civil War Museum
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
Making Freedom: Fugitive Slaves and the Coming of the Civil War

Dr. Richard Blackett
Andrew Jackson Professor of History Emeritus, Vanderbilt University
Although marginalized, oppressed, and persecuted, formerly enslaved African Americans impacted the politics of scale and determined the trajectory of the slavery debate in the United States. Dr. Blackett highlights the lives of those who escaped, the impact of the fugitive slave cases, and the extent to which slaves planning to escape were aided by free blacks, fellow slaves, and outsiders who went south to entice them to escape. Using these stories of particular individuals, moments, and communities, Blackett shows how slave flight shaped national politics as the South witnessed slavery beginning to collapse and the North experienced a threat to its freedom.
10:40 AM – 11:00 AM BREAK
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
The “Slave Power” and the Radicalization of the Center: Northern Politics and the Path to War

Dr. Adam I.P. Smith
Edward Orsborn Professor of US Politics & Political History and the Director of the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford
How and why did white Northerners make the political choices that led to war and the destruction of slavery—objectives that few sought but most, in the end, supported? In the 1850s, Northerners were forced to confront issues that most would rather not have had to deal with, not least the implications of the existential confrontation over the legitimacy of slavery. In this lecture, Adam Smith explores how Northern voters and politicians understood the problems they confronted. He argues that the key to understanding the Northern path to war is how choices that had once seemed extreme became seen as unavoidable, even “conservative.
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Lunch
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
The Erosion of the United States

Dr. Edward Ayers
Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and President Emeritus, University of Richmond
The fissures that broke into the Civil War resulted from many pressures. The erosion of respect between the North and the South proceeded even during the years and months when political events calmed. As the abolitionist movement seemed to fade and fragment, what Frederick Douglass called “sympathies for the slave” grew in the North. As the white South’s economic power grew, so did its claims for moral superiority. These cultural developments revealed their power in the political crises of the 1850s and in the war that followed.
2:00 PM – 2:20 PM BREAK
2:20 PM – 3:20 PM
Was the Civil War an Irrepressible Conflict?

Dr. Gary Gallagher
John L. Nau Ill Professor in the History of the American Civil War Emeritus, University of Virginia
The prewar decades were a tremendously complicated period. In addition to the politics of slavery and the notion of two co-existing cultures within one constitutional framework, there was a revolution in communication and transportation, demographic changes, and westward expansion. Going beyond the sectional factors helps place the question of the war’s inevitability in broad context.
3:20 PM – 3:40 PM BREAK
3:40 PM – 4:40 PM
Panel Discussion
The Impending Crisis

Moderated by Dr. Caroline Janney, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War; Director, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History – This conversation between the Symposium panelists will tie together the themes articulated throughout the day.
4:40 PM – 5:00 PM
Closing Remarks
Dr. Rob Havers, President and CEO, American Civil War Museum

This event will be held in the Foundry building on the ACWM Tredegar campus. The Museum is just a few feet away, and symposium attendees will be given free general admission to the museum during the Symposium weekend (2/16-2/17). We hope you will join us for our special event weekend!

Ticket Information

Members – $100
(with promo code)

Non-ACWM Members – $150

Teachers & Students – $75 (with promo code)

Livestream – $35
(The livestream will begin on Saturday after check-in has concluded at 9:30 AM Eastern Standard Time)