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Historian and author Jill Titus will be speaking on the legacy of the 100th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address this week at Shepherd University.
The talk, titled “The Battlefield Belongs to the Nation: Commemorating the 100th anniversary of Gettysburg,” examines how America observed the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil Rights era. Titus’ interest in the topic is detailed in her book, “Gettysburg 1963.”
“It really started with me walking the battlefield in the evening and looking at some of the large Confederate monuments lining West Confederate Avenue,” Titus said. “And as I looked at those dedication dates, and I looked at the language on these monuments, it immediately jumped out to me that those monuments themselves were dated from the 1960s.”
Titus will be speaking about how the commemoration of the Civil War was used as a framing device for debating the racial issues of the 1960s, connecting how Americans memorialized the war during the Civil Rights movement. Activists used the centennial to shine a light on racial inequality, arguing the commemoration was used to glorify the Confederacy and set back the civil rights movement. She says the goal of the talk is to help those in attendance understand Gettysburg’s legacy from multiple political and social angles, noting the contentiousness of the battle’s centennial celebration.
“I think that anyone living in 21st century America, anyone living in this moment, we’re having a debate over our cultural symbols and debate over how we remember and memorialize our history, can learn things by understanding how previous generations have wrestled with the legacies of the past,” Titus said.
The talk will be at Shepherd University’s Robert C. Byrd Center on Thursday. It will be open to the public and Titus will sign her book afterward.