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The Legacy of the Civil War and the Long Road to Civil Rights


"Freedom March" by Stuart Hamilton


The Legacy of the Civil War and the Long Road to Civil Rights

Presented in partnership with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Furman

July 26, August 2, 9, and 16, 2011

The Impact of the Civil War: Redefining America and Americans

In this first session, the audience was reminded of the lasting impact and memories of the war on our citizenry, our democracy and our national identity. For biographies and the program, July 26.

Sewanee President John McCardell opened the series with an overview of the historical memories we share of the Civil War Era, using examples from various art forms to illustrate how the war and emancipation have been commemorated over the decades.

Then, Furman history professor Lloyd Benson led the audience in an interactive discussion on Civil War Era policy choices in order to foster consideration of the challenge of reconciling America's sometimes competing ideals.

From Emancipation to Segregation: A New Era in Race Relations

Session Two featured lectures by two academic experts on the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. For biographies and the program, August 2.

Bernard Powers, history professor from College of Charleston, spoke on the transitions for Black Charlestonians during Reconstruction, and Robert Korstad, professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, gave historical accounts of the day-to-day life of Black Southerners during Jim Crow, based on thousands of oral histories obtained through Duke’s Behind the Veil project.

The Long Road to Civil Rights: From Oppression to Opportunity

Session Three was particularly compelling as we heard from those who had lived the struggle from segregation to the civil rights era. For biographies and the program, August 9.


Ophelia De Laine Gona spoke of her father, J.A. De Laine, a Clarendon County pastor and school principal who led the efforts to challenge “separate but equal” in the 1947 Briggs v. Elliott case, which on appeal eventually shared the historic Brown v. Topeka decision.

Following her lecture, Furman history professor Steve O’Neill moderated a panel comprised of historian Jack Bass and civil rights activists Cleveland Sellers, president of Voorhees College, and U.S. Representative James Clyburn.  Bass’ analysis and Sellers’ and Clyburn’s personal stories of struggle against prejudice enforced obstacles to growth, and violence from the white citizenry brought to life the injustice of the era.

Toward a New Paradigm:  Equality of Justice and Opportunity

Furman President Rod Smolla discussed the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether the University of Michigan should be allowed to use race as a factor in determining admittance to its undergraduate school and its law school.  Through a simulation exercise, the audience questioned and analyzed the arguments for both the plaintiffs and the defense. For biographies and the program August 16.

The final portion of the evening was a thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation with Steve Morrison, co-lead counsel for Abbeville v. State of South Carolina, and Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns, hosted by Mark Quinn. Steve and Isabel captivated the audience with their real-world, passionate insight into the history-driven economic inequities and prejudices that continue to exist today.

For interesting reading, you may view the reading list; to read an article by Furman professor of history Steve O'Neill, click here.

Press Coverage:  

Greenville OnlineGreenville Online

The Summer Series is presented by The Riley Institute at Furman and OLLI @ Furman