POSTPONED: Spring History and Art Lectures

William de Leftwich Dodge's "Ambition" in the Library of Congress Jefferson Building.

NOTE: Due to the ongoing public health emergency, these lectures are postponed until a later date. We will announce new dates on this website, over email, and on our social media. Thank you for your patience!

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society presents three lectures in March and April, with one co-sponsored by the Library of Congress’s John W. Kluge Center. These events are free and open to the public; they take place from noon to 1 pm on Wednesdays at Capitol Hill locations. Please pre-register to reserve a spot and to receive updates. Explore art and history with USCHS!

Free and open to the public.

Pre-registration is requested.

“Chicago’s White City in the Nation’s Capital: The Relationship between the World’s Columbian Exposition and the Library of Congress”

  • by Lynda Cooper, USCHS Capitol Fellow
  • March 25, 2020
  • Location: Ketchum Hall, 200 Maryland Ave. NE; Washington, DC 20002

Lynda Cooper will present a program that reconstructs the relationship between the Library of Congress and the World’s Columbian Exposition. Through a slide presentation and an art history perspective, she will offer an in-depth look at similarities among select works by artists who were first at the Chicago fair, then at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building.

Cooper received a Capitol Fellowship through the U.S. Capitol Historical Society and the Architect of the Capitol in 2018.

100th Anniversary of the Senate Vote on the Treaty of Versailles  

  • by Patricia O’Toole, distinguished visiting scholar at the John W. Kluge Center
  • March 30, 2020
  • Location: Ketchum Hall, 200 Maryland Ave. NE; Washington, DC 20002
  • Co-sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress

Patricia O’Toole is the author of The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the War He Made (2018). The book chronicles his controversial presidency and his involvement in WWI. Despite his hesitancy to involve the U.S. in a World War, he was instrumental in the Paris Peace Conference which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles. On the 100th anniversary of the Senate’s historic vote to approve that treaty, O’Toole will discuss Wilson’s role, how the legislation moved through Congress, and its implications then and today.

O’Toole is also the author of The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends (1990), her first biography. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the L.A. Times Book Prize, and was the basis of a major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. She is a former professor in the School of the Arts at Columbia University and a fellow of the Society of American Historians. She is the author of five books, including acclaimed biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Adams, and most recently, Woodrow Wilson. O’Toole is currently working on a book project focusing on Roosevelt’s efforts to give the United States a social safety net.

“Two Amendments, One Fraught History: Race, Sex, and the Right to Vote in the 15th and 19th Amendments, 1870-1920”

  • by Stephen West, The Catholic University of America
  • April 1, 2020
  • Location: Capitol Visitor Center, Room HVC – 200 (allow time to wait in security line and note prohibited items)

This year, Americans commemorate two important constitutional anniversaries in expanding the right to vote. The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, prohibits the denial of suffrage on the basis of race. The 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, prohibits its denial on the basis of sex. This talk examines the intertwined—and fraught—relationship of the two amendments.

In the debates over both, some Americans were determined to pit white women’s voting rights against those of black men. Efforts to include women’s suffrage in the 15th Amendment failed in the late 1860s and caused a split in the women’s suffrage movement that did not heal for decades. By the time the campaign for a women’s suffrage amendment gained steam in the 1910s, the 15th Amendment had effectively been nullified in much of the nation, with the US Supreme Court’s endorsement. Both sides in the contest over women’s enfranchisement tried to harness memories of the 15th Amendment in their cause. Opponents appealed to white Americans’ sense that the 15th Amendment had been a historical mistake to argue against further constitutional tinkering. But some supporters of women’s enfranchisement—especially African Americans—saw in the 19th Amendment a two-fold chance to redeem the 15th: first, because it would remedy the earlier failure to enfranchise women, and second, because it would revive an amendment that had become a constitutional dead letter.

West researches and teaches the history of the United States, with a particular focus on the political and social history of slavery, emancipation, and race from the Civil War era through the early twentieth century. He is currently at work on a book about the place of the Fifteenth Amendment in American political culture and memory during the 50 years after its ratification. He is co-editor of Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867, series 3, volume 2, Land and Labor, 1866–1867 (2013), winner of the 2015 Thomas Jefferson Prize for documentary editing from the Society for History in the Federal Government. His first book, From Yeoman to Redneck in the South Carolina Upcountry, 1850–1920 (2008), examined class and political relations among white Southerners in the slave society of the Old South and their transformation in the wake of slavery’s destruction. West is also the author of essays about the secession crisis, the historiography of Reconstruction, and urban politics in the post-emancipation South.