Step back into the 19th century, view extraordinary artifacts, check out interactive displays and learn about the important roll the West played in the Civil War.
This engaging new show will take you back in history as you learn about the people, who lived, fought and shaped our country during this tumultuous time. Seldom considered in the context of the Civil War, the westward expansion shaped many of the issues that ignited this war, divided the country and changed our history.
“Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West” at The Autry National Center of the American West, examines how Westward expansion tested the meaning of freedom and the rights of individuals with personal stories, and extraordinary historical artifacts, a Navajo beaded peace medal box, titled “We Are First People” a parade flag used by the 9th US Cavalry Buffalo Soldier regiment 1875-1900, a Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace Medal, circa 1801.
Look into the face in a photograph of an African American soldier taken at sometime between 1863 and 1865. He stands at attention, in front of a painted background depicting canon and an American flag, a long rifle in his right hand, handgun in his left. What was he thinking about at that moment? What were his hopes and dreams? Did he come out of the war alive? What was his life like before, during and after the war? There are thousands of untold stories here.
There is much more to the story of the war than North against South, Blue against Grey, anti-slavery against slave owners. The exhibit brings attention to the fact that slavery reached beyond the chattel slavery of the American South to include debt slavery repaid with labor, and captive slavery frequently practiced in Native American cultures.
Reconstruction brought its own set of racial and discriminatory issues. While the Transcontinental Railroad came as a symbol of a reunited nation, it also put new pressures on Native homelands, bringing thousands of Chinese, Irish, African Americans, and war veterans to the West. Some unreconciled Confederates such as Jesse and Frank James became outlaws inspiring the romantic image of the western gunfighter that many Americans still hold dear.
Blacks who joined Western regiments as “Buffalo Soldiers” established more than 50 all black settlements in Indian and Oklahoma territories. Laws limited Chinese immigration, banned Chinese ownership of land, and even though without the labor of the Chinese workers our development and building of the railroads linking east to west would have been delayed by years, the Chinese Americans were excluded from citizenship.
Spanning the years from 1803 to present, this compelling and important piece of history is presented in four sections, opening with the Louisiana Purchase and concludes by acknowledging unfinished struggles related to freedom and civil rights in America.
“Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West” will be on view at The Autry National Center of the American West, opening on Saturday April 25 and running through January 3, 2016.
700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027-1462