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Vernon Burton to kick off series on 150th anniversary of Emancipation Proclamation

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012
by Erikah Haavie, Contributing Writer

Dr. Vernon Burton

GREENVILLE, S.C.—History professor Vernon Burton, a 1969 Furman University graduate and director of the Cyberinstitute at Clemson University, will launch a Furman series commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with a lecture Wednesday, Sept. 26 on the Furman campus.

Burton’s lecture, “Emancipation and Community History,” begins at 7 p.m. in Younts Conference Center.  It is free and open to the public.

“Freedom Stories: A 150th Anniversary Series” includes lectures, workshops and community history projects to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. The preliminary proclamation, which ordered  the emancipation of all slaves in the Confederate states, was made in September 1862 with the final document issued by President Abraham Lincoln in January 1863.

The series is sponsored by Furman and the Upcountry History Museum.

“The story of emancipation has often been told from above, as what Lincoln did, or Congress did, or how the Confederate leadership responded,” said Lloyd Benson, a Furman history professor. “But historians have increasingly realized the importance of the actions of ordinary people at the local level in bringing about freedom.  The ‘Freedom Stories’ project seeks to bring the histories of professional scholars together with the family freedom stories from the Greenville area and beyond.”

As part of the series, an interactive, public website will allow community members to share their video stories, written stories, and pictures of artifacts. There will also be a number of mini-conferences and lectures throughout the school year.

Burton is the University Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Professor of History and Computer Science at Clemson.  He is the author of numerous books, including the The Age of Lincoln and In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina, both of which were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Here is the rest of the schedule for the “Freedom Stories” series.

October 28—A mini-conference, “Slavery, Abolition and the Transition to Freedom,” will take place from 2-6 p.m. in the Lecture Hall of the Upcountry History Museum. Stan Harrold, a professorof history at South Carolina State University, will chair a roundtable discussion with Diane Barnes of Youngstown State University, A.J. Aiseirithe of Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Felice Ferguson Knight of the University of South Carolina at Aiken, and Jaime Martinez of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. A special feature of the event will be a collection of local “freedom stories” collected by Benson and Furman students Reagan Thompson and Lena Pringle, assisted by communication studies professor Sean O’Rourke.  Some will be family accounts of the transition from slavery to freedom, while others will be stories from the Civil Rights Era and experiences of local immigrants coming to America to escape persecution.

November 18—A mini-conference, “Meanings, Complexities and Legacies of Freedom,” will take place from 2-6 p.m. in the Lecture Hall of the Upcountry History Museum. Professor Bernard Powers will chair a roundtable discussion with professors Michael West of the College of the Holy Cross, Leslie Schwalm of the University of Iowa, and Michael Fitzgerald of St. Olaf College. A collection of student projects from Furman and other local schools will also be featured.

January 22, 2013—Edward Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, will deliver the series capstone lecture, “Visualizing Emancipation,” at 7 p.m. in the Younts Conference Center at Furman.  One of the nation’s leading scholars on the history of the American South, Ayers is the author of The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction, which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and was named the best book on the history of the American South.

The Upcountry History Museum, which sits on Heritage Green and promotes the history of the Upcountry’s 15 counties, opened to the public in 2007.  Its mission is to present and preserve the history of Upcountry South Carolina through education, research and service.

All Freedom Stories events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact the News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107 or Lloyd Benson at

Last updated February 17, 2016
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