Yale for Life
A New Birth of Freedom: How the Civil War Era Made a New America
Lincoln to Reconstruction
June 16-22, 2019
When Abraham Lincoln stood at Gettysburg and declared his wish for “A new birth of freedom…” he said perhaps, as Ken Burns wrote, “more than he knew.”
Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address that the Civil War, which “All knew that this interest [slavery] was somehow the cause of…” was the trial that American had to undergo to purge the Original Sin of slavery: “He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came…”
Was Lincoln correct? What was Freedom in America as envisioned at the Founding, as practiced in the early Republic, and was it, indeed, altered forever by the Civil War? Did America become a different nation after the war? How do we view Reconstruction in this framework? And how does all of this echo today?
To address these questions, Yale for Life presents a rare and precious opportunity. “A New Birth of Freedom: How the Civil War Made a New America” will conduct an inquiry into America’s “rules” of slavery and freedom, by examining the institution that encodes a society’s values: the Law; by studying deeply America’s greatest legal and political thinker/actor: Abraham Lincoln; and by examining not only the cataclysm of the War itself, but its momentous and too-often overlooked sequel: Reconstruction.
We will be guided in this inquiry first of all by two of Yale’s greatest and most honored scholars: Professors Akhil Amar, and Steven Smith. Prof. Amar, according to Yale’s website: “has been favorably cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in over 30 cases (citing to four different books and more than a dozen distinct articles), and he regularly testifies before Congress at the invitation of both Republicans and Democrats.” He has “won Yale’s Triple Crown,” having been awarded Yale’s highest teaching award, the DeVane Medal, its highest academic honor, a Sterling Professorship, and its highest faculty honor from alumni, the Howard R. Lamar award. Professor Smith is also an honoree for Yale teaching with the Lex Hixon Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities, and is beloved of Yale for Life alumni with his numerous appearances (including last year’s star turn in our “American Nationhood” course. Lincoln is among his many areas of expertise; he teaches a popular Yale course on Lincoln and is the editor of The Writings of Abraham Lincoln.
Our lead professors are cut from the Yale for Life “mold.” In addition to named chairs at Yale Law School, Prof. Amar holds appointments in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in Political Science; Professor Smith also teaches in Directed Studies and was the Master of Branford College for 15 years. They embody the interdisciplinary approach that Yale for Life cherishes. And what better subject for their expertise than the interplay of freedom, law, war, and a country’s greatness?
Join our Professors, treasures of Yale, for a seven day set of seminars. This intensive, energizing experience will lead students in detailed discussions of a number of literary, philosophical, and historical texts. We will learn not of this era alone – we will learn how it is that one probes deeply into any complex period, and how in doing so, fundamental lessons emerge.
Our Lead Faculty:
Our morning seminars with lead faculty will be followed in the afternoons by a seminar with an amazing guest professor. These scholars bring a variety of different perspectives to our subject, from laws of war, to the intricacies of Reconstruction, and more. Yale for Life continues its emphasis on interdisciplinary study, not only through the variety in the core syllabus, but through these world-class leaders of Yale’s intellectual portfolio.
All Yale for Life courses actually start months before our June meeting. After registration, you will receive all books and scholarly articles for the course, and will immerse yourself in great works curated by our faculty. “A New Birth of Freedom…” is no exception, with works ranging from contemporaneous writings to great books written by your own Yale for Life professors. Primary sources will mix with authoritative texts to produce night after night of joy as you prepare for your return to the life of the mind.
One of Yale for Life’s unique and most beloved features are our Special Events; sessions at a number of Yale’s well-known (such as the Yale Art Gallery) or less-known (such as a 2012 session at the not-yet-processed Kissinger Papers) centers of collection and learning. “A New Birth of Freedom…” continues this tradition.
Details on Special Events for this course will be posted soon; well in advance of the course.
Beyond the Classroom
Everything that happens during the Yale for Life program is colored by the fact that it takes place at Yale. Learn more about the experience!