Brian Kelly explains why students should know their history, and how it came about

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Kathryn Severance

On Thursday, October 30, 2014, the Assumption College History Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta, presented a lecture with professor and author, Dr. Brian Kelly of Ireland, in Testa’s Fuller Auditorium.

Associate Professor of History Dr. Mark Christensen introduced the event, explaining that Kelly is the Honor Society’s fall speaker. He also made note that many of his own history students were present in the audience. Junior Undergraduate President of Phi Alpha Theta, Jason Pink, gave the audience some biographical background about the speaker and his involvement with Civil War history. According to Pink, Kelly is a professor at “Queen’s University in Ireland, author of the book Race, Class and Power in the Alabama Cornfields, and director of the After Slavery Project.”

Kelly’s talk, entitled “War’s Unintended Consequences: Confederate Mobilization and the Disintegration of Slavery in Civil War South Carolina,” featured an informational presentation, which included a variety of maps, photographs and material on the issue.

Kelly began by sharing that he went to junior high and high school in Worcester, Mass. He briefly discussed Massachusetts’ involvement in northern abolitionism.

“Worcester was, in some ways, more advanced than Boston in terms of abolitionist movements,” said Kelly.

Kelly discussed Antebellum, South Carolina, showing a map where slavery was most prominent. He noted that South Carolina was important, as it was one of two states where slaves made up a large percent of the population.

“[It’s] inevitable, due to the mass populations of slaves, that slaves would attempt to secure their freedom,” said Kelly.

The city was lively over the secession crisis in Washington. The city was host to major rallies and organizations of secessionists who spoke about freedom. Political tumult of the time gave some slaves hope that the war, which was about to break out, might help them gain freedom.

Kelly provided insight into effects of the Civil War on the country.

“[The war] facilitated a ‘two way’ slave communication, ‘seed[ed]’ the upcountry with slave discontent and disrupt[ed] agricultural production,” he said.

It began as a war to prevent the spread of slavery and it became a war against slavery. The North recruited free African Americans while the South supplied their armies with escaped slaves from plantations.

“[T]he Great Paradox of Confederate war making, possible slave self-emancipation, and the relationship between slave actions and the Union military policy,” noted Kelly of the war’s consequences.

When the event commenced, Pink thanked the speaker on behalf of Phi Alpha Theta, opening up the floor for questions from the audience. Both students and faculty members used this time to inquire further on the information Kelly had shared during his lecture.

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