Panel Six: Remembering Reconstruction

MM-posterOn May 20-21, 2016, the University of Memphis will host“Memories of a Massacre: Memphis in 1866, a Symposium Exploring Slavery, Emancipation, and Reconstruction.”  The culmination of a semester-long series of lectures, workshops, discussions, and book talks, this symposium will feature historians and scholars from across the country, including Robert K. Sutton, Chief Historian of the National Park Service.  Together, their presentations and the ensuing discussions will pry open what has for 150-years been the carefully concealed history of Reconstruction, its legacies, and the significant role that Memphis played in both. Please join us as we reflect collectively on a wave of terror that rocked a city and changed a nation.

Below is the sixth of our six panels.

First Panel 

Second Panel

Third Panel

Fourth Panel

Fifth Panel

May 21, 2016


ceceliaCecelia E. O’Leary, Cal-State Monterey Bay, “’Lies Agreed Upon’: The Politics of Historical Memory”


Dr. Cecilia O’Leary received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. She is a U.S. historian and among the first faculty hired at CSUMB. Her publications include books and numerous articles on US history, memory, and debates over what it means to be an American. The courses Cecilia O’Leary teaches include, “Histories of Democracy,” “California at the Crossroads,” and History According to the Movies.” Her approach to teaching focuses on active learning, critical thinking and the use of new media technologies. For five years, Dr. O’Leary participated in and led the Visible Knowledge Project on the CSUMB campus. It was a five-year  teaching and learning project involving 70 faculty on 21 university campuses from around the country.

She is committed to being a public historian, which means combining scholarship and practice, teaching inside and outside of the university, linking democratic participation and social justice. To this end, Dr. O’Leary has given numerous interviews and appeared on local, national and international radio programs, newspapers and TV. She is on the Editorial Board of the journal “Social Justice,” and editor of the journal’s Blog.

Since 2012, Dr. O’Leary has been  an advisor to the Director of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American in Washington D.C. The museum will open on the national mall in 2016

headshot-andre (1)Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis “’If I See Next March”: Henry McNeal Turner and the Rhetorical Legacy of Reconstruction Twitter Handle: @aejohnsonphd


Dr. Andre E. Johnson joined the department of communication at the University of Memphis in 2015. He teaches classes in African American Public Address, Rhetoric Race and Religion, Media Studies, Interracial Communication, Rhetoric and Popular Culture, and Hip Hop Studies. He is currently editing the works of AME Church Bishop Henry McNeal Turner under the title The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner (Edwin Mellen Press). He has already published the first four volumes, “An African American Pastor Before and During the American Civil War” (2010), “The Chaplain Letters,” (2012), and “American Reconstruction,” 2013, and the Bishop Writings: 1880-1892; Part 1 (2015). The fifth volume is set for publication later in 2016.

In addition to collecting the writings of Bishop Turner, Dr. Johnson is also the author of The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition (2012) that won the National Communication Association (NCA) 2013 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award. He is the editor of Urban God Talk: Constructing a Hip Hop Spirituality (2013) both with Lexington Books. He also serves as the founder and managing editor of the popular Rhetoric Race and Religion Blog hosted on the Patheos family of blogs.


Pete-2016Peter R. Gathje, Memphis Theological Seminary, Religion and Reconstruction: Lesson for Today? Twitter Handle: @petegath


Peter R. Gathje joined the faculty at Memphis Theological Seminary in 1996. His research interests include farming and food, state sanctioned violence in war, the death penalty, policing, and imprisonment, homelessness, poverty, racism, holiness, alternative Christian communities, and virtue ethics. In addition to co-editing a book on Christian ethics, Doing Right and Being Good: Catholic and Protestant Readings in Christian Ethics (2005), Dr. Gathje has written two books about the Open Door Community, a place of hospitality in Atlanta, Sharing the Bread of Life: Hospitality and Resistance at the Open Door Community, (2006/2012), and Christ Comes in the Stranger’s Guise:  A History of the Open Door Community, (1991) and edited a third, A Work of Hospitality: The Open Door Reader, (2002). Additionally, Dr. Gathje has contributed chapters to a number of books, articles in a variety of settings, and he writes a weekly blog on the practice of hospitality at

Dr. Gathje is a founder and co-director of Manna House, a place of hospitality in the Catholic Worker Tradition located in Memphis. He is a board member of Outreach, Housing and Community, a local organization that helps people on the streets get into housing. He helps with Room in the Inn, a shelter program involving area churches. He is active with a number of peace and justice organizations including the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and Workers Interfaith Network. He frequently speaks at local churches on a variety of topics, including hospitality for persons who are housing deprived, holiness, and issues of social justice.

charles mckinneyCharles McKinney, Rhodes College, “Reconstruction’s Protean Post-Civil Rights Legacy” Twitter Handle: @kmt188


Dr. Charles McKinney’s primary research interests include the Civil Rights Movement, and the exploration of local movements in particular. He is fascinated by the various means individuals and organizations utilized in their efforts to create change. His first book, Greater Freedom: The Evolution of the Civil Rights Struggle in Wilson, North Carolina (University Press of America, 2010), explored the slow, deliberate building of a movement in a rural community in the eastern-central portion of the state. It’s one thing to march, organize and boycott under the glare of city lights and press cameras. It’s quite another thing to march, organize and boycott in areas that major networks have never heard of and will likely never seek to find. The rules of engagement change significantly in this instance. Additionally, he has written a number of articles focusing on school desegregation, electoral politics and the central role of women in the construction of freedom movements.

His next project, tentatively titled Losing the Party of Lincoln: George Washington Lee and the Struggle for the Soul of the Republican Party, explores the life and career of George Washington Lee, an African American Republican operative and civil rights activist who lived in Memphis in the middle of the twentieth century. Lee was a staunch supporter of civil rights, and fought against the rightward drift of the party, a drift greatly facilitated by the ascension of Barry Goldwater in the early 1960’s. Additionally he is also co-editing a volume, along with Aram Goudsouzian of the University of Memphis, which is an overview of the black freedom struggle in Memphis.

Moderator: Steve Masler, Manager of the Exhibit Department, Pink Palace Museum, Memphis

2 responses

  1. You are quite right, there were many issues on the table during Reconstruction. One can just as easily tell the Reconstruction history as a labor history: one in which a working class struggles against the employing classes for greater control over their labor, better working conditions, better wages, the right to hire to whom they wanted, the right to quit when they wanted, and the right to participating in the making and enforcing of labor contracts.

    But when our subject of study are the people in the former slaveholding states, there is no escaping that the primary working class are people of African descent. According to the 1860 federal census, there were close to 4,000,000 slaves in those states. They were all workers. The defeat of the Confederacy did not change that fact. As a consequence, a labor history of Reconstruction is by necessity an African American history – with a small population of (mostly urban and industrial) white workers thrown in.

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