FORT SMITH — During the sesquicentennial of a war that changed the social, economic and political nature of Arkansas forever, it is important to reflect on the reasons for the war.
The Fort Smith Museum of History hosted a reading and book signing by W. Stuart Towns of his latest book, Enduring Legacy: Rhetoric and Ritual of the Lost Cause, on Tuesday (July 17) during the museum’s opening of the traveling Civil War display.
W. Stuart Towns is a specialist in Southern history, Southern oratory and public communication and is a retired professor and chairman of the Department of Communication Studies at Southeast Missouri State University. Other books by Towns are We want our Freedom: Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement; Public Address in the Twentieth-Century South: The Evolution of a Region; and Oratory and Rhetoric in the Nineteenth-Century South: A Rhetoric of Defense.
His recent book discusses how rituals such as Confederate Memorial Day, Confederate veteran reunions, and dedication of Confederate monuments have contributed to creating and sustaining a Lost Cause paradigm for Southern identity. Towns studies in detail secessionist and Civil War speeches and how they laid the groundwork for future generations, including Southern responses to the civil rights movement.
History fans came out to enjoy an uncharacteristically cool evening and listen to Towns' reading and the book signing that followed. Guests chatted with the author during a question-and-answer session afterward.
The Civil War Arkansas, 1861-1865, a traveling exhibit about the state's involvement in the war, was on display and will be moved around the state through 2015 to share information about Arkansas' Civil War heritage. The exhibit will be on display at the Fort Smith Museum of History until July 29.