Manisha Sinha (University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Departments of Afro-American Studies and History)
Kevin Barksdale (Marshall University, Department of History)
The Filson Institute for the Advanced Study of the Ohio Valley and the Upper South proposes a two-day academic conference to examine calls for secession or disunion in the United States from the Revolutionary era to the Civil War. The conference, which takes place in Louisville, Kentucky, at The Filson Historical Society, marks the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession.
The conference seeks to explore the moments in U.S. history between 1783 and 1865 when Americans threatened or acted upon a perceived “right” to secede from or nullify the laws of national or state authorities. Nearly hundred and fifty years ago, in December 1860, South Carolina declared its independence and seceded from the Union, helping to plunge the nation into Civil War. Secessionists believed they defended and upheld political values and traditions established during the Revolutionary era. Some claimed that the Declaration of Independence established a precedent for principled rebellion in opposition to “tyranny,” while states’ rights advocates defended secession as a constitutional right. But southern secessionists were not the first to appeal to the Revolutionary tradition of disunion and rebellion or to the Constitution: between the Revolution and the Civil War many groups and political leaders, discontented with conditions in the nation, invoked the right to leave the union or nullify federal laws.
The organizers of the conference welcome paper and panel proposals that adopt a variety of approaches to the study of secession, including the social, economic, and cultural causes of secession; the political theories Americans used to justify secession; secession and the contested meanings of the American Revolution; secession as a means to effect progressive social change or conservative counter-revolution; the sources of opposition to secession within a seceding region; the factors that led some states or regions to reject secession; the role of the media in secession debates; the role of Native Americans in secession and separatist movements; secession and state formation; secession in trans-Atlantic and transnational perspective; and the memory of secession and war.
The organizers seek paper and panel proposals that explore a variety of nullification and separatist movements, such as:
• The State of Franklin
• The Spanish Conspiracy
• The Whiskey Rebellion
• The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions
• The Burr/Wilkinson/Blennerhassett Conspiracy
• The Hartford Convention
• The Nullification Crisis and States’ Rights Theory
• The Republic of Texas
• Abolitionist Disunionism
• Northern Opposition to the Fugitive Slave Laws
• Secession in South Carolina and the Deep South States
• Secession in the Ohio Valley and Upper South
• Southern Unionism
• Secession within the Confederacy (West Virginia, Eastern Tennessee, the Free State of Jones)
A selection of revised essays from the conference will be published as part of The Filson’s “Ohio Valley and the Nation” book series with Ohio University Press.
Please send three copies of a proposal of no more than two pages clearly outlining subject, arguments, and relevance to the conference topic, and a vita of no more than two pages, to The Filson Institute Conference, The Filson Historical Society, 1310 S. Third St., Louisville, Kentucky 40208.
Proposal deadline is April 5, 2010 (postmarked). Single papers or conference panels are welcomed. For panel proposals please provide a one-page summary of the panel in addition to paper proposals and vitas from each participant. The conference will meet in consecutive single sessions, with three sessions each day. Papers will be placed on-line on The Filson Historical Society’s website prior to the conference. Funds will be available to help defray some travel costs for presenters.
Dr. A. Glenn Crothers
The Filson Institute Conference
The Filson Historical Society
1310 S. Third St.
Louisville, Kentucky 40208
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