Jefferson Davis’s America Conference, Rice University, February 19-20
From the School of Humanities, Rice University in Houston:
In 1890, W. E. B. Du Bois pointed to Jefferson Davis as “a representative of civilization” as it had developed over the previous century. Scholars have often remembered the 19th century as the Age of Emancipation, as an age of liberal nation-building or even as the Age of Lincoln. But according to the latest scholarship, 19th-century American civilization was dependent on slave-based capitalism, racism and imperial conquest. Seen in that light, Jefferson Davis, as a soldier in the Mexican-American War, a U.S. secretary of war and senator, a Mississippi cotton planter, and leader of a slaveholding breakaway republic with imperial ambitions of its own, was much more than an anomaly.
This conference coincides with the completion of “The Papers of Jefferson Davis” documentary editing project. A group of leading American historians will look unblinkingly on the 19th-century U.S. as a nation in which Jefferson Davis, more than Lincoln, was in many ways the typical figure. Like Du Bois in 1890, we “wish to consider not the man, but the type of civilization which his life represented,” with papers on the forces — territorial expansion, slavery, capitalism, nationalism, Civil War memory and empire — with which Jefferson Davis’s life intersected at crucial moments in U.S. history.
Herring Hall 100
Friday, Feb. 19
7 p.m. Keynote opening address: Amy S. Greenberg, Penn State University: “From Mexico to Washington: Jefferson Davis’s 1848”
Saturday, Feb. 20
9 a.m. Kimberly Welch, West Virginia University: “Black Litigants: Rethinking Race and Law in the Cotton South, 1800–1860”
10 a.m. Caitlin C. Rosenthal, University of California, Berkeley: “Slavery’s Scientific Management: Plantation Accounting and American Capitalism”
11:30 a.m. Matthew Karp, Princeton University: “Architects of Empire: Jefferson Davis, the Proslavery South, and the U.S.
2 p.m. Robert E. Bonner, Dartmouth College: “Jefferson Davis and the Reactionary Atlantic”
3:30 p.m. K. Stephen Prince, University of South Florida: “Robert Charles in Jefferson Davis’s America: Race and Violence in Jim Crow New Orleans”
5 p.m. Closing keynote address: William J. Cooper, Louisiana State University: “Jefferson Davis and His Country”