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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Historians to debate Civil War at Kauffman Museum

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  • Kauffman Museum on the Bethel College campus continues with a theme of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War history with a debate by two historians who invite audience input.
    The Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum program is July 7, beginning at 2 p.m., and is free and open to the public.
    The debaters for “Point-Counterpoint: Was the Civil War Necessary?” are William Juhnke, Lamoni, Iowa, professor emeritus of American history at Graceland University, and Tom Morain, Graceland’s director of government relations.
    As the United States commemorates the 150th anniversary of the conflict that tore the nation apart, the two historians will ask hard questions about the inevitability of the conflict, the options available to leaders and why each side underestimated their opponents’ determination to fight.
    Juhnke and Morain will invite the public into the debate as they explore the tense political climate of 1860-1861 and demonstrate how historians can disagree without being disagreeable.
    Juhnke has taught courses on slavery, the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. He also developed and taught in the peace studies program at Graceland.
    “In the Civil War debate,” he said, “we have chosen to focus on the issue of whether the Civil War was inevitable or avoidable. With my peace background, which also includes membership in the Mennonite Church, I argue the case for avoidability, for the wisdom and viability of nonviolent resolution to the great conflicts of the age.”
    Morain taught Iowa history at Iowa State University for five years before serving 13 years as director of history and community relations at Living History Farms in Des Moines.
    Commenting on the debate project, he said, “I have the easier role, defending Abraham Lincoln and articulating the difficulties that anyone in 1860 would have encountered in trying to avoid an armed conflict."
    Audience members will receive a printed sheet with a timeline of significant events relating to slavery and race relations before the Civil War, and three debate questions: Was compromise possible in 1860-61? Should the North have let the South “go in peace”? What would have happened to slavery without the war?
    For more information about the Kauffman Museum debate event, contact Rachel Pannabecker, 283-1612 or rpann@bethelks.edu.
     

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