Speakers now available from Humanities Council

The West Virginia Humanities Council established its Sesquicentennial Speakers Bureau to help organizations around the state observe the Civil War Sesquicentennial and strengthen their related programs. Historians from state colleges and universities as well as independent scholars present talks on Civil War and West Virginia statehood topics. The program has provided more than 50 lectures in communities all across the state.

For 2015 the bureau welcomes new speakers and new lecture topics. Beginning in February speakers are available at no cost to groups for presentations through Oct. 31. The Humanities Council pays the speakers and provides promotional assistance with each program. Host groups are asked to provide a minimum audience of 40 people and any lodging costs that might be needed for the speaker.

Speakers are available to groups such as historical societies, historic sites, libraries, museums, colleges, parks, reenactment events, and other community organizations. All programs must be publicized and free to the public. Requests for speakers should be received no later than the 15th of the month prior to the presentation month; for example, May 15 for a June 20 presentation. Advance scheduling is advised.

The topics and speakers for 2015 are:

• “Mothers of Martyrs: Women and Civil War Commemoration” by Katharine Antolini, history professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College. This talk explores the origins of Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, and other commemorations through the work of women who strived to rebuild their communities after the war.

• “Rosser’s Raid on Beverly: One Last Frolic for the Confederacy” by author Hunter Lesser. Confederate General Thomas Rosser surprised the Union garrison at Beverly, WV in the cold and snow of January, 1865 in one of the last actions of the war in the Mountain State.

• “The Floating Capitol” by Billy Joe Peyton, history professor at West Virginia State University. Our state capitol was first located at Wheeling before moving to Charleston, back to Wheeling, then back to Charleston. As riverboats were the primary mode of transporting state officials, documents, and archival materials during the moves the idea of the “floating capitol” was born. Peyton examines the many moves and the reasons behind them.

• “West Virginians and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” by Michael Woods, history professor at Marshall University. More than most other Americans after the war West Virginians had to confront former foes on a daily basis. This lecture discusses the assassination, how people in the new state coped with the polarizing event, and the roles played by some West Virginians including Thomas M. Harris, one of the military commissioners who sat in judgment of Booth’s alleged co-conspirators.

Groups interested in scheduling a speaker should contact Humanities Council program officer Mark Payne at 304-346-8500 or


more recommended stories