The Times West Virginian

October 18, 2012

Civil War interpretation Oct. 27

By Nicole Lemal
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — It’s only in its first year, but Marion County Historical Society president Dora Grubb hopes it can become an annual event for those who have a passion for history, particularly with the Civil War era.

Presented by Voice from the Earth, Inc. and the Marion County Historical Society Museum, the Civil War Living History interpretation will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at Central United Methodist Church. Guests must enter through the side door on Third Street.

This symposium will feature historical portrayals of Civil War-era women Clara Barton and Harriet Tubman. In conjuction with West Virginia University, the West Virginia Humanities Council, Voices of the Earth, Inc., the Marion County Historical Society is excited.

“I think it’s great,” Grubb said. “I just think it’s very, very important because we need to quit inventing the wheel. Things have been practiced and done before that are effective, and we need to learn from our mistakes, or otherwise we just keep repeating them.” 

A familiar name to anyone who has taken history classes, Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland and later escaped to Canada. By the time she moved back to Maryland, she was on a mission to save not only her family from slavery but many others as well. During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman worked for the Union as a cook, a nurse and even a spy.

However, during Ilene Evan’s interpretation of Tubman, she will be focusing more on the Port Royal experiment. This experiment was used to determine whether slaves who were emancipated could read and write.

Clara Barton may not be as much of a common name as Tubman’s was in history class, but she still left a path worthy of being told again and again. Performed by Karen Vuranch, the role of Clara Barton is a highlight of her persistence in following her heart. At the age of 17, she became a teacher in Massachusetts and founded her own school just six years later.

Following her studies in writing and languages at the Liberal Institute, she then opened a free school in New Jersey, where attendance soared to 600. Once the board decided to hire a man to head the school, Barton decided to not let it get her down and pursued another career path, working as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office.

Participants will be divided into small groups after the portrayals and will be directed by Dr. Connie Rice of West Virginia University. Rice, who is the assistant editor of West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies and is a member of the Governor’s West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, will have discussions based on the content of these historical characters. Questions will touch upon freedom and how Tubman used her freedom.

“She is very influential and knowledgeable about this time period,” Grubb said.

After the small-group discussions, a large-group discussion will ensue. How things have changed since the Civil War, including the meaning of freedom, will be a talking point in this larger forum. Many students from WVU and Fairmont State University will be attending this session and receiving college credit for their participation.

Of those who attend, they can expect to receive answers from the following questions and more:

• What does the Civil War and specifically the Port Royal experiment have to do with you if you are a woman?

• What does the Civil War have to do with you if you are black, an immigrant, a person of color?

• What does the Civil War have to do with you if you come from a line of aristocrats? Commoners? Landowners?

• What stories have yet to be told about the impact of public education and literacy?

• What global impact does the Civil War have on people around the world today? 

“The goal of this project is to encourage an understanding of how perceptions of equality and justice were shaped during the Civil War era; how those perceptions were altered and questioned by race, class and gender; and how race, class and gender continue to shape what it means to be an American,” Grubb said.

There will be a lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. Participants can purchase lunch for $8 or are welcome to bring their own lunch.

Email Nicole Lemal at nlemal@timeswv.com.