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Learning about the Civil War

Along with the community, two Weber State University professors met at the Pleasant Valley Library Wednesday night to discuss many events of the Civil War and novels about that time period.

“A thing that we have to understand is that we live in the year 2012, and we make a lot of our judgments associated with what we do now,” said Richard Sadler, a history professor at WSU. “We are going to go back 150 years and will be dealing with people that have different ideas and feelings, and to be fair with them, we need to use their ideas to make judgments about them.”

The discussion series “Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War” is a reading and discussion program that brings the community together to talk about that moment in history.

Sadler and Brandon Little, another professor at WSU, have devoted their time to guiding this discussion within the community.

“In many ways, I think Americans are more interested in two events in our history than any others,” Little said. “Those are the Civil War and World War II. The Civil War captures the imagination, I think, in part because it’s this crucible of national survival, and the costs and stakes were extraordinary.”

On Wednesday, Sadler started the night’s discussion with mentioning the role of personal bias and asked the audience about their own personal biases.  He also addressed document authentication and the history of the 1860s. He touched on subjects like the economy and slavery during that time period and compared it to present time.

At the end, Sadler addressed the assigned reading, and asked questions to get the audience thinking. This week the group read the novel March by Geraldine Brooks.

“It was such an interesting discussion,” said Sue Anderson, a community member from Ogden. “Tonight was my first night, and I am already looking forward to the next.”

The discussion series is a series of six sessions with each discussing a certain aspect of the Civil War. Some topics covered include imagining war, choosing sides and making sense of the war.

Along with discussions on the given topics, the core of the discussion comes from the reading of assigned books. Three books will be read throughout the series, including March, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James McPherson and America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and the Emancipation on their 150th Anniversaries by Edward Ayers. The books are provided for everyone that comes to the meetings.

The “Let’s Talk About It” discussions are sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Utah Humanities Council, the Fort Douglas Museum, the WSU history department and the Weber County Library.

“We want people to think,” Little said. “Often it’s easy for us to be trapped in our own little box, and some of these discussions will help people step out of their own box and to think differently about topics and issues.”

The next session is Wednesday, Feb. 29 at 7 p.m. This will be the third session and the topic will be “choosing sides.”

For more information on the discussion series, e-mail Little at [email protected] or contact the Pleasant Valley Library.

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