The Reconstruction Era: A Panel Discussion

The third event in our 12th Annual Fall Lecture Series, sponsored by Greg A. Vital, will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, November 6 at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, in conjunction with a National Park Service partnership. This three-person panel will present an overview of the Reconstruction Era and how the National Park Service is focusing on the Era, including the establishment of a new National Park in 2017.

Our panel includes Edward Hightower, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Clark Atlanta University, whose dissertation topic is “The Re-enslavement of African Americans in Post-Civil War Georgia.” He teaches U.S. History and World History at Kennesaw State University and Clark Atlanta University, and consulted with the National Park Service in researching histories to be included in parks in the Southeast Region.

He will be joined by the National Park Service’s Melissa English-Rias, first Superintendent of the new National Reconstruction Era Monument in Beaufort, SC. She holds a B.A. in History from Lander University in Greenwood, SC and a M.A. in Public Administration from Western Kentucky University. English-Rias spent most of her career with the National Park Service as an Interpretive Specialist and Chief of Interpretation at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta.

Rounding out the panel will be Chris Barr, who coordinates the living history programs as a Park Ranger with the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. He holds a M.A. in History in Education from Columbus State University. A former high school history teacher, Barr joined the National Park Service at Andersonville National Historic Site and National Prisoner of War Museum. He extensively researched the history of the African-American communities around that site from 1865-1900, and his chief area of interest currently is the post-war activites around Chattanooga from the Reconstruction Era through the establishment of the CCNMP in the late 1880s.

Bessie Smith Cultural Center is located at 200 E. Martin Luther King Blvd. in downtown Chattanooga. Free parking is available in the BSCC lot at the corner of MLK and Lindsay St. (behind the building), and on-street parking is also free in the evenings.