Sofia Biegeleisen

More than a Memory: The Complex Relationship Between Living History and Slavery

April 5, 2021   /  

Name: Sofia Biegeleisen
Majors: History, Spanish
Advisor: Dr. Jordan Biro Walters, Ibra Sene (second reader)

This project deals with the connection between historical memory of the US Civil War and living history, with a special focus on the role that slavery plays in this relationship. While there is no shortage of scholarship on historical memory of the Civil War, living history scholarship is generally part of a separate discussion. To fill this gap, I explain how and why living historians interpret slavery. I also connect these themes with the idea that living history which fails to interpret slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War helps to perpetuate modern racial divisions. I argue that living history must interpret slavery, despite the challenges. When living historians, living history sites, and living history organizations do interpret slavery, they represent the past more truthfully and cultivate important discussions about racism both historically and in the contemporary context. To explore this topic, I conducted oral history interviews with two living historians who use living history as a tool for teaching about slavery. In addition to providing information for the written portion, these interviews are also featured in the podcast portion of this project. I aim to bring the discussion of slavery to the forefront of living history. If slavery is missing from the historical narrative, understanding modern racial tensions is impossible.

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Sofia will be online to field comments on April 16:
10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST: 6-8am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)