Share |

Making Sense of the American Civil War

Making Sense of the American Civil War was a scholar-led reading and discussion program that occurred at four libraries across the state in 2012-2013. Each library hosted a five-part series of conversations that explored the significance and meaning of the war to Tennesseans today. Now these books are available to interested book clubs and discussion groups across the state, and include the following:

  • March, by Geraldine Brooks
  • Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, by James McPhearson
  • America's War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries, edited by Ed Ayers

The selections include fiction and nonfiction, plus an anthology of short stories, speeches, diaries, memoirs, letters, and more. The books illuminate the experiences of individuals from a range of perspectives. Some readings, for example, explore individuals whose beliefs are challenged amid the national chaos of the Civil War. Others ask the reader to imagine answering to one’s own sense of justice, honor, duty, loyalty—even hypocrisy—on the eve of disunion. Other readings consider the shattering impact of the battles of Shiloh and Antietam on Americans and on the subsequent course of events. Still other selections address both the politics of emancipation and the long, fitful course toward liberty and security of freed people.

The books served as a springboard for broader discussions about monumental social and political divides in our nation’s past and present, and provide an opportunity for Tennesseans to reflect the outcomes of public divisions since the Civil War, and on prospects for the future of civility in American life.

The books are available as sets or individually from the the following library systems:

Chattanooga Public Library,

Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, Memphis,

Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library,

Morristown-Hamblen Public Library,

You may also download the essay, Making Sense of the American Civil War, by Ed Ayers.

Making Sense of the American Civil War was presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, and coordinated locally by Humanities Tennessee.