Symposium: Lincoln in Our Time

lincoln-bannerTo commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies presents “Lincoln in Our Time,” a two–day symposium featuring five internationally-renowned scholars of Lincoln and the Civil War. Examining Lincoln’s political influence, representations in film, and even his detractors, scholars will debate the significance of Lincoln in American culture from his death until the present. The symposium will conclude with a screening of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, and a roundtable discussion of the film. Attendees will also be able to visit an accompanying exhibit that will be on display in Virginia Tech’s Newman Library from March 1 2015 through April 15 2015.


Schedule of events

Friday, April 10


6:30pm: Reception at Newman Library

8:00pm:  Frank Williams, “Lincoln on Film: From the Silents to Spielberg”

Saturday, April 11

8:30am: Samuel Wheeler, “Lincoln in the Digital Age”

9:30am: John McKee Barr, “Loathing Lincoln: The Past, Present, and Future of an American Tradition”

10:30am: Break for refreshments

11:00am: William C. “Jack” Davis, “The Age of Lincoln”

12:00pm: Break for lunch (on your own)

1:30pm: Catherine Clinton, “Recreating the Lincolns: Consulting & Costumes for Spielberg’s Lincoln

2:30pm: Break for refreshments

2:45pm: Screening of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012)

5:15pm: Roundtable discussion

6:00pm: Closing remarks


Our panel of distinguished speakers includes:

John Barr-smallJohn McKee Barr, author of Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from 1865 to the Present.  Barr received his Ph.D. from the University of Houston in 2010 and is currently a professor of history at Lone Star College–Kingwood. He joined their faculty in 2008 and has since then won their “Faculty Excellence Award” for outstanding teaching and twice won their “Innovator of the Year” prize for implementing new ideas for teaching across the college. In addition to Loathing Lincoln, Dr. Barr has published a chapter on African-American Memory and Lincoln in Lincoln’s Enduring Legacy and the Lincoln Herald, and he has an article entitled “Friends Into Enemies: Abraham Lincoln and Secession Winter” coming out in the forthcoming Companion to Abraham Lincoln.




Catherine Clinton, pioneering historian of southern women, African American studies, and the Civil War. She is the author or editor of more than two dozen books, including The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old South (1982), Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom (2004) and Mrs. Lincoln: A Life (2009), all of which were History Book Club selections. In 2016, she will hold the position of president of the Southern Historical Association. She earned her B.A. from Harvard, her M.A. from the University of Sussex, and her Ph.D. from Princeton, where she studied with James McPherson. Clinton has held visiting chairs at the Citadel and the University of Richmond, and taught at Wesleyan, Brandeis, Brown, and Harvard. She consulted for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012) and was an historical adviser for a documentary about Loretta Velasquez, an Hispanic woman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Confederate Army, entitled Rebel! Clinton currently holds the Denman Chair of American History at the University of Texas-San Antonio.

William C. “Jack” Davis, author or editor of more than fifty books in the fields of Civil War and Southern history. He received his B.A. and M.A. from Sonoma State University. He was the senior consultant for the A&E/History Channel series “Civil War Journal,” and has acted as historical consultant for several television and film productions, including “The Blue and the Gray,” “George Washington,” and “The Perfect Tribute.” In 2013 he retired after thirteen years as Professor of History and Executive Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech.  He is a three-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Award given for book-length works in Confederate History.  His book Crucible of Command:  Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, the War they Fought, the Peace They Forged, has just been published by Da Capo.  His book The Battle of New Market provided the basis of the film Field of Lost Shoes (2014).  His book The Pirates Laffite:  The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf has recently been optioned  as an 8-part miniseries.


wheeler photo

Samuel Wheeler, Research Historian for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.  Dr. Wheeler received his Ph.D. in history from Southern Illinois University, where he studied under the direction of the late John Y. Simon, the tireless editor of the Papers of Ulysses S. Grant.  His dissertation, “Every Spot a Grave: The Poetry of Abraham Lincoln,” traces the sixteenth president’s literary evolution by analyzing his long-neglected private poetry.

In addition to being an award-winning teacher in the classroom, Dr. Wheeler has worked in various public history institutions, including the Old State Capitol and the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office in Springfield, Illinois, as well as two documentary editing projects, the Lincoln Legal Papers and the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.  He has also served as the Executive Coordinator for the Sangamon County Historical Society in Illinois.


Chief Justice Frank WilliamsFrank Williams, one of the nation’s leading scholars on the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.  Williams was appointed Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in January 2001, after serving for five years as Associate Justice of the Superior Court.  He served as Chief until retiring on December 30, 2008, when he took “senior” status as a jurist without the administrative duties. In August 2000, he was appointed to the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission by the Congress and now serves on the board of directors of the Commission’s successor, The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. He is the founding Chair of The Lincoln Forum.  In addition, he is a major collector of Lincolniana, a peripatetic lecturer before Lincoln and Civil War groups, and a scholar whose books include, with Edna Greene Medford and Harold Holzer, The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views (Louisiana State University Press, 2006); Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America’s Greatest Leader, with William D. Pederson, was published in 2009 and his latest book, Lincoln as Hero, appeared in 2013.



Registration for this event is now closed.



If you are traveling to the symposium from out of town, please note that the Main Street Inn (205 South Main St., Blacksburg) has kindly agreed to provide a 15% discount to visitors who mention the symposium when booking their stay.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial