The Civil War remains a defining event in American history, 150 years after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, with 620,000 men killed and the nation at risk of disintegration for four years.
To help mark the war’s sesquicentennial, the Wilmette Public Library is inviting area residents to take part in “Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the Civil War,” a five-part special reading and discussion series.
The library won a $3,000 grant from the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities to present the series. It will include wide ranging book-based discussions moderated by Wilmette Civil War scholar Mary Abroe, associate professor of history at College of Lake County.
The first discussion, on Geraldine Brooks’ novel “March” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the library. The series will run through the spring of 2012, but library users can already enjoy some Civil War-themed events that the library developed locally in connection with it, library spokeswoman Nancy Wagner said last week.
That includes “What I Saw at Shiloh,” a dramatic first-person retelling of the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh as viewed by an Illinois soldier. “What I Saw at Shiloh” will be presented at 2 p.m. Oct. 16 at the library.
Later adjunct programming will include talks on the Civil War in American films as well as Chicago’s Civil War history
“We’re encouraging people to sign up for the series and to take advantage of the resource materials we have, including copies of the specific books that are available here at the library,” Wagner said.
Wilmette library officials applied for the grant last April, Wagner said. Wilmette was among 175 libraries across the country competing for it, and one of only 65 which received an award. The series was developed by the two organizations, but grant winners were expected to create independent programming as well, Wagner said.
“We had to work with a local partner, which in our case was the Wilmette Historical Museum, and they have been marvelous to work with,” she said. “The library also needed to bring a local Civil War scholar into the series, and we were very lucky to be able to reach out to Mary Abroe.”
Only four Illinois libraries ” in Moline, Macomb and Lebanon as well as Wilmette — won grants. Wilmette is the only Chicago area library to do so.
“We had to say why we thought we should get the grant, and I think we were able to show how much our patrons love these cultural programs, and the fact that we’re in a great location to provide access to the programs,” she said.
People who want to take part in “Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the Civil War” should access programming information on the library’s web site at http://www.wilmettelibrary.info/civilwar/. The page provides the reading and discussion schedule, a list of area resources on the Civil War, and information on the adjunct programming.
They can register for the series by calling 847-256-6930, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of Brooks’ book are also available at the library.