Stephen A. Douglas Symposium


Session 1: Little Spielbergs: Using Technology and Film in Middle and High School Classrooms

This session showcases how to integrate technology and film into the teaching of middle and high school history. Eighth grade teachers Sofia Georgelos and Brian Jurinek from Oak Lawn Hometown Middle School will demonstrate the use of iMovie on iPads, discuss their students' iMovie, Prezi and Google Play projects, and then showcase an example of student work. Subsequently, Robin O'Keeffe, Rebecca Houston and Colleen Kilduff from Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School will show how they used documentary filmmaking assignments to promote learning in AP and Honors classes. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions at the conclusion of the presentations. By the end of the session, middle and high school teachers will have learned how to create a documentary filmmaking project for their students. Resources for technology and filmmaking will be posted on the symposium's webpages, including other examples of student work from Oak Lawn Hometown Middle School and Mother McAuley.

Session 2: Douglas' Legacy in Historical Context

This session introduces Stephen A. Douglas and interrogates his legacy. Adam I.P. Smith, a leading historian of the Civil War in the United Kingdom, will present an international perspective, situating Douglas in the broader panorama of nineteenth-century American and British liberalism. Graham A. Peck, a specialist in Illinois history who has published articles on Douglas, Lincoln and 1850s politics, will assess the contemporary challenges of coming to grips with Douglas' controversial national political career. Sherry Williams, who conducts historical tours about the African-American experience in Bronzeville, where the Douglas tomb is located, will share her insights about the implications of the tomb for the local community. This session will ground the audience in Douglas' life and politics, providing both a strong historical perspective on Douglas and engaging the audience in a discussion about the implications of his life for understanding American history.

Session 3: The Great Patriot: Douglas and Lincoln after Sumter

This session will turn to performance history, as two noted reenactors, George Buss and Tim Connors, provide their historical interpretation of Douglas and Lincoln. Steeped in historical knowledge of their subjects, George and Tim seek not only to entertain but also to educate audiences in their presentations. In this presentation, they will focus on Douglas' role in mobilizing northern Democrats to preserve the Union in the wake of the southern assault on Fort Sumter. This was Douglas' finest hour in the reckoning of most historians. Without it, Lincoln may have lacked the necessary support in the North to prosecute a war that ultimately preserved the nation and destroyed slavery. This session will focus on Douglas' patriotism and will further challenge the audience in coming to grips with the moral ambiguities of both Douglas and American history broadly conceived.

Session 4: Premiere of Stephen A. Douglas and the Fate of Democracy

This session will premiere Stephen A. Douglas and the Fate of Democracy, a 50-minute documentary film on Douglas. The film has been created, to considerable degree, by Saint Xavier students working under the direction of Graham Peck, with the assistance of other Saint Xavier staff members and faculty. Their object has been to create programming for the Douglas Tomb State Historic Site, which is situated on the South Side of Chicago on a portion of Douglas' former estate, Oakenwald. The film highlights Douglas' core convictions and achievements, but also presents his racism and and tolerance for slavery. In many respects, it presents Douglas as the historical record suggests that he perceived himself. After the showing, the audience will be encouraged to consider not only Douglas' legacy but also how the film portrays it in a public setting. To help them in this task will be Nathan Peck, an associate professor of art and design at Saint Xavier University, Robert May, a professor of history at Purdue University, and Dan Andries, a producer and filmmaker for WTTW.

Keynote Address: Making TV from History while Making History on TV

Dan Andries' keynote address will culminate the symposium's investigation of how history is created and comprehended in the modern world. TV producers must attract and keep viewers, and traditionally do so by telling a compelling story and connecting emotionally with the viewer. Making successful TV from history thus presents unique opportunities and challenges. What stories are chosen and why? Whose voice is given authority?  How are fact and myth balanced? And why is identity politics so important? Dan will show clips from his films to answer these questions, demonstrating how he keeps the audience from picking up the remote.