In 2015, 150 years after Ulysses S. Grant accepted Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the Civil War still resonates in the United States. We see its legacy, both positive and negative, across the nation—in Ferguson, Missouri; Selma, Alabama; Philadelphia; New York; and elsewhere. Here in Houston we also live with residue of the Civil War and its aftermath. Emancipation Park, Freedmen’s Town, monuments such as the statue of Dick Dowling, and collections such as John Nau’s Civil War Collection and the Papers of Jefferson Davis, all reflect Houstonians’ responses over time to the country’s deadliest war.
On Monday, November 2, Caleb McDaniel of Rice University will present a fresh perspective on the Civil War and emancipation as it was experienced and remembered in Houston. He will use the Emancipation Park, the renaming of East Broadway to Dowling Street, and the statue of Dowling to reveal a nuanced view of our city.
On Monday, November 9, Sally Anne Schmidt, curator of the Nau Civil War Collection, will introduce us to the collection and will showcase artifacts of relevance to the Civil War in Texas. John Nau built his collection of Civil War material to illustrate the lives of the individuals who fought on both sides of the war. The Nau Collection, one of the largest in private hands, contains photographs, weapons, letters, documents, medals, and clothing.
On Monday, November 16, Lynda Crist and Mary Dix, editors of The Papers of Jefferson Davis, will spotlight Jefferson Davis’s 1875 trip to Houston and other Texas cities in a case study of how former Confederate officials viewed and coped with the postwar South. Jefferson Davis first visited Texas as a soldier during the Mexican War in 1846. He represented Mississippi in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, was secretary of war under Franklin Pierce, and was president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865. He died in New Orleans in 1889.
W. Caleb McDaniel is an assistant professor of history at Rice University. He received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 2006 and his B.A. from Texas A&M University in 2000. The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery: Garrisonian Abolitionists and Transatlantic Reform (Louisiana State University Press, 2013) is his first book, and he is now working on a history of slavery, emancipation, and their legacies in Texas.
Sally Anne Schmidt has managed, researched, and helped build the Nau Civil War Collection since 2005. She received her B.A. in history from Johns Hopkins University in 2000 and her M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Rice University in 2003 and 2009.
For more than twenty years, Lynda Crist and Mary Dix were editors of The Papers of Jefferson Davis at Rice University. At once a publishing venture (14 volumes, Louisiana State University Press), archive, and research center, the Davis Project is now part of the Fondren Library’s Woodson Research Center at Rice.