The post-Civil War era was one of rapid social and technological changes, and the University of Michigan during that time was no exception. The last quarter of the 19th century saw U-M expand in size and scope as it embraced scientific research and began its evolution into a contemporary university.
The second LSA Bicentennial Theme Semester symposium, “1877: Reconstructing the University of Michigan,” will focus on this important time during Reconstruction, when U-M began to assume its modern form, admitted its first women and African-American students, expanded research, and, for a short time, became the largest university in the country.
The symposium will kick off on Feb. 10 with a scholarly roundtable led by Jonathan Wells, director of the Residential College and professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies.
Panelists will include Gayle Rubin, professor of anthropology and women’s studies; Michelle McClellan, assistant professor of history; Martin Hershock, professor of history at UM-Dearborn; and John Quist, professor of history at Shippensburg University. The discussion is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. in East Quad’s Keene Theater.
“The roundtable discussion will focus on the experiences of U-M, the state, and the nation during the late 19th century, when the university was beginning to admit women for the first time, when the nation was emerging from the destruction and disruption wrought by the Civil War, and when Michigan’s African-American community was fighting against northern segregation to redefine the meaning of citizenship,” says Wells.
In addition, the Residential College will conduct performances of a new play, “The Dangerous Experiment,” written and directed by LSA students.
Based on an early fictional account of a woman’s experience at the university, as well as primary resources discovered at the Bentley Historical Library, the play follows five female students in the 1870s as they navigate U-M and struggle to be taken seriously by faculty, administration, male peers, and even the Ann Arbor community.
The play will run Feb. 10 and 11 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. All performances will be at East Quad’s Keene Theater.
“With our show, we hope to bring to life part of our university’s history in a way which touches on progress that the university has made in the past hundred years, which also may point to work that we still need to do as a community,” says junior Emma McGlashen, who wrote and directed the production.
“Our play focuses on the admission of the first university class that included women, so the narrative touches on issues of social justice and inclusivity, which I think are still relevant for today’s discussions of what the university stands for.”
Other programs related to the symposium include two talks on the origins of medicine and health sciences at Michigan Medicine.
The first, on Feb. 6, will feature Joel Howell speaking on the history of the U-M hospital at 4 p.m. in the Graduate Library Gallery. Powel Kazanjian will lecture on Feb. 8 about the story of Frederick Novy and the beginnings of bacteriology in American medicine, at 4 p.m. in the Graduate Library Gallery.