Manisha Sinha (University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Departments of Afro-American Studies and History)
Kevin Barksdale (Marshall University, Department of History)
The Filson Institute for the Advanced Study of the Ohio Valley and the Upper South proposes a two-day academic conference to examine calls for secession or disunion in the United States from the Revolutionary era to the Civil War. The conference, which takes place in Louisville, Kentucky, at The Filson Historical Society, marks the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession.
The conference seeks to explore the moments in U.S. history between 1783 and 1865 when Americans threatened or acted upon a perceived “right” to secede from or nullify the laws of national or state authorities. Nearly hundred and fifty years ago, in December 1860, South Carolina declared its independence and seceded from the Union, helping to plunge the nation into Civil War. Secessionists believed they defended and upheld political values and traditions established during the Revolutionary era. Some claimed that the Declaration of Independence established a precedent for principled rebellion in opposition to “tyranny,” while states’ rights advocates defended secession as a constitutional right. But southern secessionists were not the first to appeal to the Revolutionary tradition of disunion and rebellion or to the Constitution: between the Revolution and the Civil War many groups and political leaders, discontented with conditions in the nation, invoked the right to leave the union or nullify federal laws.
Or see Secession, State, and Liberty, edited by David Gordon, a conference volume published some 15 years ago.