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SXU to host symposium on Stephen A. Douglas

Stephen A. Douglas  |  Phocourtesy St. Xavier University

Stephen A. Douglas | Photo courtesy of St. Xavier University

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Updated: April 10, 2014 9:51AM



St. Xavier University and the Stephen A. Douglas Association will host a one-day public symposium, “Visualizing the American Past: Remembering Stephen A. Douglas in the Age of Ken Burns,” on April 26.

The symposium, commemorating Douglas’ birth on April 23, 1813, includes five sessions that will assess Douglas’ historical legacy, according to a press release about the event. The symposium is open to the public and will be held at SXU’s Chicago campus, 3700 W. 103rd St., in the Warde Academic Center’s McGuire Hall.

The registration fee, including lunch, is $40, and the optional question-and-answer dinner after the keynote address is an additional $35. The event can be streamed live for $20.

Teachers in Illinois can earn up to six hours of Continuing Professional Development Units (CPDU), according to the release.

A talented roster of teachers, historical re-enactors, scholars, a digital artist, professional and community historians and a filmmaker will use scholarship, performance and film to share their diverse perspectives of Douglas, the release said.

The first session is designed especially for teachers and will teach middle and high school teachers how to integrate technology and film to create short historical documentary filmmaking projects with their students. Two eighth-grade teachers from Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School will show how to use iMovie on iPads as well as discuss their students’ iMovie projects. Three high school teachers from Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School will show how to use iMovie for advanced honors and AP courses in history.

The second session focuses on Douglas’ legacy and will include three presentations by professional and community historians. One historian will give an international perspective on Douglas in the broader context of 19th century American and British liberalism. The second historian will assess the contemporary challenges of coming to grips with Douglas’ controversial national political career. The final speaker, a community historian who conducts tours in Bronzeville on the black experience, will share her insights about the implications of the Douglas tomb for the Bronzeville community, where the tomb is located.

The third session will re-enact the role Douglas played in mobilizing northern Democrats to preserve the Union in the wake of the southern assault on Fort Sumter. Two noted re-enactors, George Buss and Tim Connors, will provide their historical interpretations of Douglas and Lincoln by relying heavily on Douglas’ own words during the secession crisis as well as his patriotism.

“The object of the symposium is to use Douglas’ life and legacy in order to interrogate visual ways of understanding the past,” SXU associate history professor Graham A. Peck said in the release. “Douglas played a critical role in shaping the history of the country up to the Civil War, and his legacy remains with us today. The film I’ve made about Douglas is an effort to understand that legacy through a medium rarely used by historians, but widely popular among the public.”

The fourth session will include the premiere of “Stephen A. Douglas and the Fate of Democracy,” a 50-minute documentary directed by Peck, who made the film with the assistance of students, university staff members and associate art professor Nathan Peck. The film highlights Douglas’ core convictions and achievements but also presents his racism and tolerance for slavery. The film was made for a permanent exhibit at the Douglas Tomb State Historic Site, which is situated on the South Side of Chicago on a portion of Douglas’ former estate, Oakenwald. After the showing, the audience will be encouraged to consider both Douglas’ legacy and the role of film in shaping public understandings of history.

The evening will culminate with a keynote address by Dan Andries, an Emmy Award-winning producer and filmmaker for WTTW, whose presentation, “Emotion and Evidence: Making TV from History while Making History on TV,” will investigate how history is comprehended in the modern world and the unique opportunities and challenges of making TV from history, according to the release. Andries will draw from his own work by showing clips from several of his films in an effort to analyze his approach to historical subjects.

Registration ends April 24. All participants will receive a certificate of attendance.

For more information, email DouglasSymposium@sxu.edu.

Staff report



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