Civil War Day of Action: Leading a Reading GroupRoundup
tags: Civil War, public history
Julie Mujic is a historian of the American Civil War who writes about the Midwestern home front. She recently published an essay in Household War: How Americans Lived and Fought The Civil War by the University of Georgia Press. Julie also teaches in the Global Commerce program at Denison University and owns Paramount Historical Consulting, LLC.
As protests for social justice began to spread across the United States this summer, I contemplated my options for participation and for making an impact. I read articles posted on social media daily that reviewed the organizations accepting donations, the candidates to support, the marches to attend, the books to read, the webinars to join, and lists of ways to best become an ally. At the height of this wave of activism, I did many of these things. It did not feel like enough.
An activist recently told me that the work historians do is vitally important to their success. Activists read our books, magazine essays, and op-eds. They learn from experience and from keeping their ear to the ground, but they also formulate their arguments based on the evidence that historians frame and interpret for them. We are knowledge-makers. Our intellectual contributions serve as one crucial column in the structure of activism.
This conversation shaped my engagement in this moment. I decided to use my professional background as a reader, interpreter, and leader of discussions about the written word to move the needle toward social justice. Leading a reading group would utilize my skills and allow me to help others expand their own understanding of this aspect of American history.
On this national Day of Action, called and organized by Civil War historians to highlight places of misinformation and silence in the landscape of our national narrative, forming a reading group is one effective way to make your own contribution. It is socially-distanced. It does not require a specific location related to the Civil War. More importantly, it creates meaningful conversation.
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