2012 African American History Month Lectures: Owen Lovejoy & Phillip W. Magness

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society is com memorating African American History Month with two noontime lectures. On February 3, Owen Muelder will speak about Owen Lovejoy, a lawyer, member of Congress, and abolitionist. Phillip Magness will discuss John Willis Menard, an abolitionist and the first African American to address the House, on February 15, with comments by House Historian Matthew Wasniewski. Both talks will take place in House office buildings. Please see below for more details.

The events are free and open to all. Pre-registration is strongly recommended. Email us with your contact information or call (202) 543-8919.

African American History Month Lecture by Owen Muelder, Director of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center at Knox College

Presented by the United States Capitol Historical Society in conjunction with the Illinois State Society of Washington, D.C. and the Knox College Alumni Association of Washington, D.C.
Friday, February 3
12:00 Noon
Room 2168, Rayburn House Office Building
Independence Avenue and South Capitol Street, S.W.
Capitol South Metro stop on the Blue and Orange Lines

“Owen Lovejoy: Congressman, Abolitionist, and Underground Railroad Operator”

Owen Lovejoy was an American lawyer, Congregational minister, abolitionist, and Republican congressman from Illinois from 1857 to 1864. He was also a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. After his brother Elijah Lovejoy was murdered in November 1837 by proslavery forces, Owen became the leader of abolitionists in Illinois.

Owen Muelder was an administrator at Knox College for 36 years, retiring as the Director of Alumni Affairs in the spring of 2004. He was appointed director of the Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Station at Knox College in July of 2004. His book, The Underground Railroad in Western Illinois, was released by McFarland Press in January 2008. Muelder’s second book, Theodore Dwight Weld and the American Anti-Slavery Society, was released by McFarland Press in September 2011. Muelder’s articles on 19th-century historical subjects have appeared in scholarly journals and anthologies.

African American History Month Lecture by Phillip W. Magness, George Mason University

With opening comments by Matthew Wasniewski, Historian, Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives
Presented by the United States Capitol Historical Society in conjunction with the Illinois State Society of Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, February 15
12:00 Noon
Room 121, Cannon House Office Building
Independence Avenue and First Street, S.E.
Capitol South Metro stop on the Blue and Orange Lines

“Emancipation, Emigration, and Revolt: John Willis Menard, the American Civil War, and the Jamaican Uprising of 1865”

John Willis Menard was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, in 1838 to free black parents from New Orleans. He attended school in Sparta, Illinois, and Iberia College in Ohio, and began a career as an abolitionist newspaper editor in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. During the Civil War he worked as a clerk in the Department of the Interior and was sent to British Honduras (Belize) in 1863 to investigate a proposed colony for newly freed slaves. At the end of the war he traveled to Jamaica to campaign for political rights among the British colony’s black population. He became involved in the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, and escaped to the United States with the help of the U.S. State Department amidst a brutal crackdown by the island’s governor. After the war he settled in New Orleans.

In 1868, Menard was elected to represent Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district in a special election to fill the term of James Mann who had died in office. The election results were challenged by his opponent and after hearing arguments from both candidates, the House decided to seat neither man, but in the process Menard became the first African American to address the chamber.

Dr. Phillip W. Magness is a policy historian and Academic Program Director at the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. Magness is the co-author of the critically acclaimed book Colonization after Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement (University of Missouri Press), offering a reexamination of the federal government’s anti-slavery and freedmen’s policies during the American Civil War. He has also written extensively on the history of the federal income tax, the late 19th century free trade movement, and the history of abolitionism. His historical writings have appeared in the Journal of the Early Republic, the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, and Constitutional Political Economy, as well as Britannica.com and the History News Network.

Dr. Matthew Wasniewski was appointed Historian of the United States House of Representatives in October 2010. He had served as the historian and deputy chief in the House Clerk’s Office of History and Preservation. He is the editor-in-chief of Women in Congress, 1917–2006 (Government Printing Office, 2007), Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007 (GPO, 2008), and Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822–2011 (GPO, forthcoming 2012).