Archive for category: Filson Events

Image of a white man with brown hair and glasses wearing a light blue shirt with a striped tie and a navy blue suit jacket.

Let’s Talk | Bridging the Divide: A Night with the Met

Tuesday, January 26, 7:00-8:30 p.m. – REGISTER HERE

Join us for a rare opportunity to spend some time with Daniel Weiss, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  As we enter 2021, with a pandemic still looming and cultural institutions and museums facing mounting challenges, we’ve assembled local leaders from The Frazier, KMAC, Roots 101, The Speed and The Filson Historical Society to discuss our collective future with Weiss.  The Met is commemorating its 150th Anniversary, as we all reflect on who we are, and who we serve. Weiss is an American Historian, and the author of six books as well as numerous articles.  The Frazier’s Rachel Platt will moderate the discussion on January 26th, from 7 until 8:30 pm.  Registration is required for the Virtual Zoom Program that is open to the public.

The Gertrude Polk Brown Lecture Series – The Zealot and the Emancipator

Monday, December 14, 6:00 p.m. – REGISTER HERE

John Brown was a charismatic and deeply religious man who heard the God of the Old Testament speaking to him, telling him to destroy slavery by any means. When Congress opened Kansas territory to slavery in 1854, Brown raised a band of followers to wage war. His men tore pro-slavery settlers from their homes and hacked them to death with broadswords. Three years later, Brown and his men assaulted the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, hoping to arm slaves with weapons for a race war that would cleanse the nation of slavery.

Brown’s violence pointed ambitious Illinois lawyer and former officeholder Abraham Lincoln toward a different solution to slavery: politics. Lincoln spoke cautiously and dreamed big, plotting his path back to Washington and perhaps to the White House. Yet his caution could not protect him from the vortex of violence Brown had set in motion. After Brown’s arrest, his righteous dignity on the way to the gallows led many in the North to see him as a martyr to liberty. Southerners responded with anger and horror to a terrorist being made into a saint. Lincoln shrewdly threaded the needle between the opposing voices of the fractured nation and won election as president. But the time for moderation had passed, and Lincoln’s fervent belief that democracy could resolve its moral crises peacefully faced its ultimate test.

The Zealot and the Emancipator is acclaimed historian H. W. Brands’s thrilling and page-turning account of how two American giants shaped the war for freedom.

H. W. BRANDS holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. A New York Times bestselling author, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography forThe First American and Traitor to His Class. 

The Gertrude Polk Brown Lecture Series: The Hour of Fate

Thursday, December 3, 6:00 p.m. – REGISTER HERE

It seemed like no force in the world could slow J. P. Morgan’s drive to power. In the summer of 1901, the financier was assembling his next mega-deal: Northern Securities, an enterprise that would affirm his dominance in America’s most important industry-the railroads.

Then, a bullet from an anarchist’s gun put an end to the business-friendly presidency of William McKinley. A new chief executive bounded into office: Theodore Roosevelt. He was convinced that as big business got bigger, the government had to check the influence of the wealthiest or the country would inch ever closer to collapse. By March 1902, battle lines were drawn: the government sued Northern Securities for antitrust violations. But as the case ramped up, the coal miners’ union went on strike and the anthracite pits that fueled Morgan’s trains and heated the homes of Roosevelt’s citizens went silent. With millions of dollars on the line, winter bearing down, and revolution in the air, it was a crisis that neither man alone could solve.

Richly detailed and propulsively told, The Hour of Fate is the gripping story of a banker and a president thrown together in the crucible of national emergency even as they fought in court. The outcome of the strike and the case would change the course of our history. Today, as the country again asks whether saving democracy means taming capital, the lessons of Roosevelt and Morgan’s time are more urgent than ever. 

Susan Berfield is an award-winning feature writer and investigative reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg News where she’s exposed how Walmart spies on its workers, uncovered a con man who talked a small Missouri town out of millions, and revealed how Beverly Hills billionaires bought up an enormous water supply in the Central Valley.  

She’s been interviewed on PBS NewsHour, NPR’s All Things Considered, Marketplace, On Point, and the Brian Lehrer Show. Her story about the biggest food fraud in US history was the basis for an episode of the Netflix documentary series, Rotten. 

The Hour of Fate, her first book, was supported by a Logan Nonfiction Fellowship. 

Louisville, Chicago, and the Birth of the Modern Museum

Tuesday, November 17, 6:00 p.m. – REGISTER HERESponsored by the Thomas W. Bullitt Perpetual Charitable Trust

The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago promised to show visitors the glories of their modern, industrial age, but history was a constant presence in the “White City.” In his recent book, The Last Voyage of the Whaling Bark Progress, UofL history and museum studies professor Daniel Gifford explores the troubled attempts to interpret the history of the whaling industry at the world’s fair — an idea with surprising roots in Louisville’s own Southern Exposition. The Filson also travelled to Chicago, where objects and art owned and commissioned by members told the story of the United States’ first frontier—even as the young American Historical Association proclaimed the closing of the West. Join Gifford and Filson Director of Collections & Research Patrick Lewis for a conversation about this intersection of East, South, and Midwest, when the era of professional museums and historians began to eclipse an older tradition of local historical promoters and private collectors. How did the Columbian Exposition give us History and museum craft as we know it today, and why should we think critically about the legacies it has left us? 

Daniel Gifford, Ph.D. is a public historian who focuses on American popular and visual culture, as well as museums in American culture. His career spans both academia and public history, including several years with the Smithsonian Institution. He received his PhD from George Mason University in 2011, and now teaches courses on American history and museum studies at the University of Louisville and Spalding University.  

Cover of Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America. The image depicts a McDonalds in the background with an adult Black female on the left and an adult black male on the right.

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America

Thursday, October 22, 6:00 p.m. – Register HERE

Sponsored by Kentucky Select Properties and Republic BankFrom civil rights to Ferguson, Franchise reveals the untold history of how fast food became one of the greatest generators of black wealth in America.  

An estimated one-third of all American adults eat something from a fast-food restaurant every day. Millions start their mornings with paper-wrapped English muffin breakfast sandwiches, order burritos hastily secured in foil for lunch, and end their evenings with extra value dinners consumed in cars. But while people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy and depend on fast food, it does not mean the same thing to each of us. For African Americans, as acclaimed historian Marcia Chatelain reveals in Franchise, fast food is a source of both despair and power—and a battlefield on which the fight for racial justice has been waged since the 1960s. 

On the one hand, we rightly blame fast food for the rising rates of obesity and diabetes among black Americans, and fast food restaurants are viewed as symbols of capitalism’s disastrous effects on our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Yet at the same time, Chatelain shows, fast food companies, and McDonald’s in particular, have represented a source of economic opportunity and political power. After Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968, many activists turned to entrepreneurship as the means to achieving equality. Civil rights leaders, fast food companies, black capitalists, celebrities, and federal bureaucrats began an unlikely collaboration, in the belief that the franchising of fast food restaurants, by black citizens in their own neighborhoods, could improve the quality of black life. 

Equipped with federal loans and utterly committed to the urban centers in which they would open their little sites of hope, black franchise pioneers achieved remarkable success, and by the late 2000s, black-franchised McDonald’s restaurants reported total sales exceeding $2 billion. Fast food represented an opportunity for strivers who had been shut out of many industries, denied promotions in those that would tolerate them, and discouraged, in numerous ways, from starting their own businesses, all because of the color of their skin. But a parallel story emerged, too—of wealth being extracted from black communities, of the ravages of fast food diets, of minimum wage jobs with little prospect for advancement. 

Taking us from the first McDonald’s drive-in in San Bernardino in the 1940s to civil rights protests at franchises in the American South in the 1960s and the McDonald’s on Florissant Avenue in Ferguson in the summer 2014, Chatelain charts how the fight for racial justice is intertwined with the fate of black businesses. Deeply researched and brilliantly told, Franchise is an essential story of race and capitalism in America. 

Marcia Chatelain is a professor of history and African American studies at Georgetown University, and is a leading public voice on the history of race, education, and food culture. The author of South Side GirlsChatelain lives in Washington, DC. 

Dr. Abigail Glogower wears a black shirt and gray pants. She is standing by a black table with old documents on it. There is a landscape painting in the background.

Archiving Your Personal and Family History

Tuesday, October 6 and Tuesday, October 13

Register for Part 2 on October 13 HERE

Our homes and offices are full of pictures, documents, and mementos that tell the stories of our lives. This precious cargo can be a source of pride and joy but also frustration and even pain. Sometimes this material can feel overwhelming and sifting through it an insurmountable challenge; in some cases, inter-generational trauma and dispossession have altered collecting habits and our relationships with the past. How do we know what to keep, and how can we ensure the endurance of that history? Join Dr. Abby Glogower of the Filson Historical Society for a two-part workshop that will empower you to explore, organize, and preserve your personal and family history like an archivist. Attendance both days is not a requirement. 

Dr. Abigail Glogower is Curator of Jewish Collections and the Jewish Community Archives at the Filson Historical Society. Abby earned a doctorate in American Art and Visual Culture from the University of Rochester with a focus on group identity formation and representation in the nineteenth century and has conducted education, programming, and curatorial work in libraries and museums including the Brooklyn Museum, the Spertus Museum, the George Eastman Museum, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Book Cover with "Lincoln on the Verge" superimposed on a background picture of President Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington

Tuesday, September 29, 6:00 p.m. – REGISTER HERE

Sponsored by Blue Grass MotorsportOn the eve of his 52nd birthday, February 11, 1861, the President-Elect of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, walked onto a train, the first step of his journey to the White House, and his rendezvous with destiny.

But as the train began to carry Lincoln toward Washington, it was far from certain what he would find there. Bankrupt and rudderless, the government was on the verge of collapse. To make matters worse, reliable intelligence confirmed a conspiracy to assassinate him as he passed through Baltimore. It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the Republic hung in the balance.

How did Lincoln survive this grueling odyssey, to become the president we know from the history books? Lincoln on the Verge tells the story of a leader discovering his own strength, improvising brilliantly, and seeing his country up close during these pivotal thirteen days.

From the moment the Presidential Special left the station, a new Lincoln was on display, speaking constantly, from a moving train, to save the Republic. The journey would draw on all of Lincoln’s mental and physical reserves. But the President-Elect discovered an inner strength, which deepened with the exhausting ordeal of meeting millions of Americans.

Lincoln on the Verge tells the story of America’s greatest president and the obstacles he overcame, well before he could take the oath of office and deliver his inaugural address. 

Ted Widmer is Distinguished Lecturer at Macaulay Honors College (CUNY). In addition to his teaching, he writes actively about American history in TheNew York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and other venues. He has also taught or directed research centers at Harvard University, Brown University, and Washington College. He grew up in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and attended Harvard University. 

Book cover featuring President George Washington on a horse with the words "Washingtons End" at the top.

Washington’s End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle

Tuesday, September 22, 6:00 p.m.REGISTER HERE

Sponsored by Blue Grass MotorsportPopular historian and former White House speechwriter Jonathan Horn tells the astonishing true story of George Washington’s forgotten last years—the personalities, plotting, and private torment that unraveled America’s first post-presidency. 

Washington’s End begins where most biographies of George Washington leave off, with the first president exiting office after eight years and entering what would become the most bewildering stage of his life. Embittered by partisan criticism and eager to return to his farm, Washington assumed a role for which there was no precedent at a time when the kings across the ocean yielded their crowns only upon losing their heads. In a different sense, Washington would lose his head, too. 

In this riveting read, bestselling author Jonathan Horn reveals that the quest to surrender power proved more difficult than Washington imagined and brought his life to an end he never expected. The statesman who had staked his legacy on withdrawing from public life would feud with his successors and find himself drawn back into military command. The patriarch who had dedicated his life to uniting his country would leave his name to a new capital city destined to become synonymous with political divisions. 

A vivid story, immaculately researched and powerfully told through the eyes not only of Washington but also of his family members, friends, and foes, Washington’s End fills a crucial gap in our nation’s history and will forever change the way we view the name Washington. 

Jonathan Horn is an author and former White House presidential speechwriter whose Robert E. Lee biography, The Man Who Would Not Be Washington, was a Washington Post bestseller. Published in February 2020, Jonathan’s new book, Washington’s Endtells the forgotten story of the final years of America’s Founding Father.

#AskACurator, featuring the “Women at Work” exhibit

Wednesday, September 16, 12:00 pm – REGISTER HERE “What is it like to curate an exhibit?” “How do you choose items for an exhibition?” “What did you learn about women’s history while working on this exhibit?” “How has women’s work changed in the past 150 years?”

Do you have questions like these? If so, you may get them answered! Join us at noon on Wednesday, September 16th via Zoom for a conversation with the curators of the Filson’s exhibition, “Women at Work: Venturing into the Public Sphere.”

This exhibition has not physically opened to the public due to COVID-19, but the exhibition is digitally available to explore! Click the link to view:

Check out the digital exhibition and come to the session with your questions for a live discussion. You can submit questions using the chat feature during the event, or you can submit them in advance to gro.l1611412634aciro1611412634tsihn1611412634oslif1611412634@nayr1611412634bamme1611412634.

Image of Frederick Douglass

David W. Blight – Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom

Gertrude Polk Brown Lecture Series

Thursday, September 10, 6:00 p.m. | Register online at – As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.

Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, using his own story to condemn slavery. By the Civil War, Douglass had become the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. After the war he sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican party or the cause of black civil and political rights.

In this “cinematic and deeply engaging” (The New York Times Book Review) biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historians have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. “Absorbing and even moving…a brilliant book that speaks to our own time as well as Douglass’s” (The Wall Street Journal), Blight’s biography tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. “David Blight has written the definitive biography of Frederick Douglass…a powerful portrait of one of the most important American voices of the nineteenth century” (The Boston Globe).

David W. Blight is the Sterling Professor of History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. He is the author or editor of a dozen books, including American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era; Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory; and annotated editions of Douglass’s first two autobiographies. He has worked on Douglass much of his professional life, and been awarded the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize, among others.

Venue Rental

Spaces Available for Rent Beginning 2022

The Filson Historical Society is a unique venue that blends the historic with the modern and provides a stunning background for any event. Several areas of the campus are available to be rented for dinners, retreats, meetings, receptions, parties, or weddings. The venues have access to 74 free parking spaces and wifi, as well as small catering areas. All of the Filson’s facilities have accessible parking.

View a virtual tour of our spaces!

Visit the Filson

1310 S. 3rd St., Louisville, KY 40208
(502) 635-5083

The Filson is temporarily closed to the public to protect our staff, volunteers, and patrons during the coronavirus pandemic. All events are currently being held virtually; to register for our live virtual events, please visit our Events Page; for information on recorded lectures and other activities, please visit us online at Bringing History Home.

We continue to provide remote research services; please email gro.l1611412634aciro1611412634tsihn1611412634oslif1611412634@hcra1611412634eser1611412634.


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