SXU and the Stephen A. Douglas Association Commemorate Birth of Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas

2014-03-14 stephen a douglasSaint Xavier University (SXU) and the Stephen A. Douglas Association will host a one-day public symposium, titled Visualizing the American Past: Remembering Stephen A. Douglas in the Age of Ken Burns, on Saturday, April 26. This symposium commemorating Douglas’ birth on April 23, 1813 includes five plenary sessions that will assess Douglas’ historical legacy. The symposium is open to the public and will be held at SXU’s Chicago campus, 3700 West 103rd St., in Warde Academic Center’s McGuire Hall. The registration fee, including lunch, is $40, and the optional Q & A dinner after the keynote address is an additional $35. The event can be streamed live for $20. Teachers in the state of Illinois can earn up to six hours of CPDUs.

A talented roster of middle and high school teachers, historical reenactors, scholars, a digital artist, professional and community historians as well as a filmmaker will utilize scholarship, performance, and film to share diverse perspectives of Douglas with the broader public.

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 Stephen A. 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 nineteenth-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 African-American 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 reenact the role Douglas played in mobilizing northern Democrats to preserve the Union in the wake of the southern assault on Fort Sumter. Two noted reenactors, 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,” said SXU Associate Professor of History Graham A. Peck. “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 SXU Associate Professor of History Graham A. Peck, who made the film with the assistance of students, university staff members, and Associate Professor of Art 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, “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. 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.

For more details about the symposium or to register, please click here. Registration ends by April 24, 2014.

About the Stephen A. Douglas Association  

The Stephen A. Douglass Association was founded in 1975, partly due to the influence of Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago from 1955-1976. Daley admired Douglas, nicknamed the Little Giant, and wanted to promote his legacy and call attention to his tomb, the Stephen A. Douglas State Historic Site. Douglas’ public career extended from 1835, when he was elected to the position of state’s attorney by the Illinois legislature, to his death in 1861, while serving as a United States senator.