Forward Freedom Formation: The U.S. Civil War in American Memory

Fall Open
Class Standing
Kristin Coffey
Bradley Proctor

“…the people whereof shall be then be… thenceforward, and forever free.”
-Emancipation Proclamation, 1863

“9. Forward”
“10. Freedom”
Lemonade, 2016

This program combines the study of history and literature around the American Civil War and its lasting impact on American culture. Students will be encouraged to think critically and carefully about academic and creative texts that have framed the context for how we understand the lived experience of the Civil War today. The Civil War was the most destructive and transformational event in the history of the United States. In addition to its military costs, the war reshaped American politics and culture. Most importantly, the war brought the end of formal slavery in what historians consider the largest emancipation in human history.

Students will have an opportunity to engage and interact with other students and faculty through a variety of activities in the classroom. Topics will include the causes and coming of the Civil War, especially slavery and the sectional conflict; the course of the war, including both military campaigns and the experiences at the homefront; emancipation; the aftermath of the war and the period of Reconstruction; and the way the Civil War has shaped and reshaped American popular culture.

Program materials will include a variety of academic texts, works of literature including several novels, the films Gone With the Wind and Glory, and Beyonce’s “visual album” Lemonade. In addition to readings, students will complete a variety of research based writing assignments, including primary source analysis, review of secondary source literature, and literary analysis. As a culmination of the program, students will take creative inspiration from Lemonade to create a multimodal final project. This program and its final project can be preparatory for students entering the two-quarter program Writing the South beginning Winter 2025.

Collectively, we will work to understand a variety of questions including: How has the Civil War continued to play out in American culture? Is there an American South without the Civil War? The Civil War was not simply a southern experience, and students today are living in a world shaped by event. Though it was the deadliest war in American history, it also led to a more inclusive and equitable country. Therefore, why do we tell the Civil War as tragedy?

Anticipated Credit Equivalencies:

4 - History: US Civil War
8 - Cultural Studies: Historical Memory of the Civil War
4 - Topics in American Literature


Academic Details

history, literature, writing



In Person (F)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details