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Professor Blain Roberts

Roberts

Blain Roberts, a scholar on slavery and "America's original sin," will give the Hampton Lecture on Tuesday at the University of Montana in a talk called "The Serpent in the Garden: How the South Remembers Slavery."

Roberts is a professor of history at Fresno State University and co-author of "Denmark Vesey's Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy."

"Why does the topic of slavery continue to divide Americans over 150 years after emancipation?" notes UM in an announcement. "Why is there such bitter debate about what slavery was like and how we should remember it today?

"This year's Hampton Lecture ... will illuminate these vexing issues by examining the long, contentious battle over the memory of slavery in Charleston, South Carolina, the capital of American slavery and the cradle of the Confederacy."

Kyle Volk, professor and director of graduate studies at the UM Department of History, said the annual lecture is given by a leading scholar or specialist in public history or the American West. It honors retired Professor Emeritus H. Duane Hampton and is sponsored by the History and African-American Studies Departments.

In an email, Volk said the topic is particularly relevant this year. He said it's an ethical reckoning that forces people to consider if and how to memorialize the history of slavery and racial oppression.

"From changing the name of Yale's John C. Calhoun College to the toppling of various statues and monuments in the South, we are living in a historical moment when the public commemoration of slavery, slaveholders and the Confederacy is being rethought, and divisively so," Volk said.

"This came home to Montana recently, with the removal of Helena's Confederate fountain from a public park (done with police guarding the city employees tasked with its removal)."

He said the speaker is an expert on the history of the public commemoration of slavery and will provide a historical take on the changing politics of public history and memory. 

UM notes the lecture is supported by The Hampton Fund with the generosity of Alan and Susan Newell. "Alan is an alum of the History Department and founder of Historical Research Associates, Inc., a public history firm based in Missoula" with offices in Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

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