Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Please see below for details and descriptions of upcoming events at the Filson.  All events times are in EST or EDT depending on the season.  Click here to register and pay for programs, tickets are required. Filson members will need to log in to access the member pricing for events.  Many of our past events can be viewed on the Filson YouTube Channel.

G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century

Date: January 31, 2023
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Bomhard Theatre, 501 W. Main St, Louisville (In-Person and Virtual Options)
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Part of the The Gertrude Polk Brown Lecture Series

A major new biography of J Edgar Hoover that draws from never-before-seen sources to create a groundbreaking portrait of a colossus who dominated half a century of American history and planted the seeds for much of today’s conservative political landscape.

We remember him as a bulldog–squat frame, bulging wide-set eyes, fearsome jowls–but in 1924, when he became director of the FBI, he had been the trim, dazzling wunderkind of the administrative state, buzzing with energy and big ideas for reform. He transformed a failing law-enforcement backwater, riddled with scandal, into a modern machine. He believed in the power of the federal government to do great things for the nation and its citizens. He also believed that certain people–many of them communists or racial minorities or both– did not deserve to be included in that American project. Hoover rose to power and then stayed there, decade after decade, using the tools of state to create a personal fiefdom unrivaled in U.S. history.

Beverly Gage’s monumental work explores the full sweep of Hoover’s life and career, from his birth in 1895 to a modest Washington civil-service family through his death in 1972. In her nuanced and definitive portrait, Gage shows how Hoover was more than a one-dimensional tyrant and schemer who strong-armed the rest of the country into submission. As FBI director from 1924 through his death in 1972, he was a confidant, counselor, and adversary to eight U.S. presidents, four Republicans and four Democrats. Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson did the most to empower him, yet his closest friend among the eight was fellow anticommunist warrior Richard Nixon. Hoover was not above blackmail and intimidation, but he also embodied conservative values ranging from anticommunism to white supremacy to a crusading and politicized interpretation of Christianity. This garnered him the admiration of millions of Americans. He stayed in office for so long because many people, from the highest reaches of government down to the grassroots, wanted him there and supported what he was doing, thus creating the template that the political right has followed to transform its party.

G-Man places Hoover back where he once stood in American political history–not at the fringes, but at the center–and uses his story to explain the trajectories of governance, policing, race, ideology, political culture, and federal power as they evolved over the course of the 20th century.

Beverly Gage is professor of 20th-century American history at Yale. She is the author of The Day Wall Street Exploded, which examined the history of terrorism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She writes frequently for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Nation, and is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.

Dine and Dialogue – The Nation that Never Was: Reconstructing America’s Story

Date: February 6, 2023
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)
Roosevelt Book Cover

Our idea of the Founders’ America and its values is not true. We are not the heirs of the Founders, but we can be the heirs of Reconstruction and its vision for equality.

There’s a common story we tell about America: that our fundamental values as a country were stated in the Declaration of Independence, fought for in the Revolution, and made law in the Constitution. But, with the country increasingly divided, this story isn’t working for us anymore—what’s more, it’s not even true. As Kermit Roosevelt argues in this eye-opening reinterpretation of the American story, our fundamental values, particularly equality, are not part of the vision of the Founders. Instead, they were stated in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and were the hope of Reconstruction, when it was possible to envision the emergence of the nation committed to liberty and equality.

We face a dilemma these days. We want to be honest about our history and the racism and oppression that Americans have both inflicted and endured. But we want to be proud of our country, too. In The Nation That Never Was, Roosevelt shows how we can do both those things by realizing we’re not the country we thought we were. Reconstruction, Roosevelt argues, was not a fulfillment of the ideals of the Founding but rather a repudiation: we modern Americans are not the heirs of the Founders but of the people who overthrew and destroyed that political order. This alternate understanding of American identity opens the door to a new understanding of ourselves and our story, and ultimately to a better America.

America today is not the Founders’ America, but it can be Lincoln’s America. Roosevelt offers a powerful and inspirational rethinking of our country’s history and uncovers a shared past that we can be proud to claim and use as a foundation to work toward a country that fully embodies equality for all.

Kermit Roosevelt III is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. A former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice David Souter, he is the author of The Myth of Judicial Activism, as well as two novels, Allegiance and In the Shadow of the Law.

This event is part of our Dine and Dialogue series. The lecture is at 6 PM at the Filson. There is a dinner following the lecture at Buck’s Restaurant for those that purchase that ticket option.

Roaring Twenties Party

Date: February 17, 2023
Time: 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person Only)

This program is associated with Olde England on the Ohio: Louisville’s Tudor Revival. The exhibit explores the importance of Tudor Revival and popular culture of the 1920s and 30s and will be open throughout the event.

Join the Filson for a Roaring Tudor Twenties party that’s sure to be the bee’s knees! Swing on down in your best glad rags and dance the night away to the jazz tunes from Billy Goat Strut Revue in the historic Ferguson Mansion. Completed in 1905, the mansion was designed by William J. Dodd, who also designed the Seelbach Hotel. 1920s attire is encouraged, and prizes will be awarded to the best dressed, including a bottle of the Filson’s signature label Old Forester bourbon. Don’t know your onions around the dance floor? Have no fear! Bravo Dance Studio will be teaching your favorite jazz moves and you can always head over to the bar for a little giggle juice to loosen your feet up. Enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres, two complimentary cocktails, music, and a photo booth to remember the night for years to come!

To Walk About Freedom: The Long Emancipation of Priscilla Joyner

Date: February 23, 2023
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Virtual Lecture via Zoom
Book Cover of To Walk About in Freedom

Priscilla Joyner was born into the world of slavery in 1858 North Carolina and came of age at the dawn of emancipation. Raised by a white slaveholding woman, Joyner never knew the truth about her parentage. She grew up isolated and unsure of who she was and where she belonged—feelings that no emancipation proclamation could assuage. Her life story—candidly recounted in an oral history for the Federal Writers’ Project—captures the intimate nature of freedom. Using Joyner’s interview and the interviews of other formerly enslaved people, historian Carole Emberton uncovers the deeply personal, emotional journeys of freedom’s charter generation—the people born into slavery who walked into a new world of freedom during the Civil War.

Carole Emberton is professor of history at the University at Buffalo. An NEH public scholar, she is the author of the prize-winning Beyond Redemption. She has written for the New York Times and Washington Post.

Well of Souls: Uncovering the Banjo’s Hidden History

Date: February 28, 2023
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)

This program is associated with the Filson’s People, Passage, Place exhibit. This exhibit will be open for viewing for 1 hour prior to the start of the lecture.

Join author Kristina Gaddy for a discussion of her new book Well of Souls: Uncovering the Banjo’s Hidden History. In an extraordinary story unfolding across two hundred years, Kristina uncovers the banjo’s key role in Black spirituality, ritual, and rebellion. Through meticulous research in diaries, letters, archives, and art, she traces the banjo’s beginnings from the seventeenth century, when enslaved people of African descent created it from gourds or calabashes and wood. Gaddy shows how the enslaved carried this unique instrument as they were transported and sold by slaveowners throughout the Americas. Learn about the earliest history of the banjo through music, images, and a reading, with stories of the banjo in Louisville and Kentucky.

Kristina R. Gaddy, author of Well of Souls: Uncovering the Banjo’s Hidden History and Flowers in the Gutter: The True Story of the Edelweiss Pirates, Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis (Dutton 2020), is a Baltimore-based writer and fiddler. She has received the Parsons Award from the Library of Congress, Logan Nonfiction Fellowship and a Robert W. Deutsch Foundation Rubys artist award. She holds an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Goucher College and her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Baltimore magazine, Washington City Paper, and other smaller history and music publications.

Phyllis George: Shattering the Ceiling

Date: March 7, 2023
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)

In 2019, the NFL issued a list of football’s one hundred greatest game-changers, and among the legendary athletes and coaches was one broadcaster: Phyllis George. The first female anchor of a major network sports show, George broke the glass ceiling in sports journalism and embodied the complexities of the women’s movement of the 1970s.

As a young woman, George first hit the media radar in 1971 when she won the crown of Miss America and toured the world. While many in the budding feminist movement looked down on the pageant queen, George parlayed her success into a television career and excelled in sports journalism. While she was not immune to criticism, George was never deterred by it, and constantly showed her inner strength and perseverance. Through the decades she cultivated a reputation as one of the most respected and strong-willed players in the rough and tumble businesses of sports and network news, breaking through the glass ceiling in one of the most male-driven industries in the world. She was a pioneer who helped pave the way for a new generation of female broadcasters. A published author and champion of the arts, George remained a stalwart advocate for female empowerment until her death in 2020.

In Phyllis George: Shattering the Ceiling authors Lenny Shulman and Paul Volponi trace George’s evolution from Miss America to professional broadcaster, to arts advocate, author, philanthropist, and also as First Lady of Kentucky who was instrumental in getting her husband, John Y. Brown Jr., elected Governor of that state. George’s life was defined by her professionalism, her strength of character, and her uncanny ability to leave an indelible impression on all she met.

Paul Volponi is an author, journalist, and educator. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Streetball Is Life: Lessons Earned on the Asphalt.

Lenny Shulman is an Emmy Award-winning television and film writer. He is the author of Justify: 111 Days to Triple Crown Glory, Ride of Their Lives: The Triumphs and Turmoil of Today’s Top Jockeys, and Head to Head: Conversations with a Generation of Horse Racing Legends.

Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty

Date: March 14, 2023
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Bomhard Theatre, 501 W. Main St, Louisville (In-Person and Virtual Options)
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Part of The Gertrude Polk Brown Lecture Series

When eleven-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt began to work on his father’s small boat ferrying supplies in New York Harbor at the beginning of the nineteenth century, no one could have imagined that one day he would, through ruthlessness, cunning, and a pathological desire for money, build two empires—one in shipping and another in railroads—that would make him the richest man in America. His staggering fortune was fought over by his heirs after his death in 1877, sowing familial discord that would never fully heal. Though his son Billy doubled the money left by “the Commodore,” subsequent generations competed to find new and ever more extraordinary ways of spending it. By 2018, when the last Vanderbilt was forced out of The Breakers—the seventy-room summer estate in Newport, Rhode Island, that Cornelius’s grandson and namesake had built—the family would have been unrecognizable to the tycoon who started it all.

Now, the Commodore’s great-great-great-grandson Anderson Cooper, joins with historian Katherine Howe to explore the story of his legendary family and their outsized influence. Cooper and Howe breathe life into the ancestors who built the family’s empire, basked in the Commodore’s wealth, hosted lavish galas, and became synonymous with unfettered American capitalism and high society. Moving from the hardscrabble wharves of old Manhattan to the lavish drawing rooms of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue, from the ornate summer palaces of Newport to the courts of Europe, and all the way to modern-day New York, Cooper and Howe wryly recount the triumphs and tragedies of an American dynasty unlike any other.

Written with a unique insider’s viewpoint, this is a rollicking, quintessentially American history as remarkable as the family it so vividly captures.

Katherine Howe is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning writer of historical fiction. Her adult novels are The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2009 and was named one of USA Today’s top ten books of the year, and The House of Velvet and Glass, which was a USA Today bestseller in 2011. For young adults, Katherine has written Conversion, which received the 2015 Massachusetts Book Award in young adult literature, and a New York City-based literary ghost story called The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen, which was named a 2016 “Must Read” for young adults by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. In 2014 she edited The Penguin Book of Witches for Penguin Classics, a primary source reader on the history of witchcraft in England and North America which made a regional bestseller list and which has been translated into Spanish and Russian. The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, her latest novel for adults, was published by Henry Holt and Co in summer 2019. She co-wrote Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty with Anderson Cooper, out now from Harper. Her upcoming books include her next novel, A True Account of Hannah Masury’s Sojourn Amongst the Pyrates, Written by Herself, forthcoming 11/21/23 from Holt, along with a nonfiction reader called The Penguin Book of Pirates. She is currently at work on her next project with Cooper, also for next fall, called Astor.

She has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “CBS This Morning,” NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” the BBC, and the History Channel, and she hosted “Salem: Unmasking the Devil” for National Geographic. Her fiction has been translated into over twenty languages. In 2015 she was the visiting writer in residence at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, and she spent 2016 as a visiting scholar at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. She holds a BA in art history and philosophy from Columbia and an MA in American and New England studies from Boston University, and she has taught American history, visual culture, and writing at BU, Cornell, and Montserrat College of Art. Her first published works were three brief catalogue essays in an architectural monograph published by the Museum of Modern Art in 2000.

Irish and Scots-Irish Family History Research Workshop

Date: March 20, 2023
Time: 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)
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Join experts Fintan Mullan and Gillian Hunt from the Ulster Historical Foundation to learn how to get the most out of Irish resources and gain tips and tricks for breaking down brick walls. The seminar will explore strategies for researching Irish and Scots-Irish ancestors. The programme content covers the whole island of Ireland, not solely Ulster.

Program topics will include:

  • Introduction to Irish and Scots-Irish Family History Research
  • Records Related to the Different Churches in Ireland
  • The Ulster Plantation and sources for finding seventeenth century families in Ireland
  • General Questions and Answers and Brick Walls

Ulster Historical Foundation has been helping people in North America trace their Irish and Ulster ancestors for 60 years, and is one of the most experienced, long established, and highly reputable organizations in Ireland in the field of Irish family history.

These sessions will help the beginner and the seasoned genealogist alike.

Fintan Mullan is the Executive Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation, an educational non-profit organization which specializes in historical research and publications. Gillian Hunt is a Research Officer with the Foundation.

The Gospel of Freedom: Black Evangelicals and the Underground Railroad

Date: March 28, 2023
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)
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This lecture is sponsored by the Thomas D. Clark Foundation, along with the University Press of Kentucky, and the Association for Teaching Black History in Kentucky, whose members are Berea College, the Muhammad Ali Center, Kentucky State University and Kentucky History Resources.

Wilbur H. Siebert published his landmark study of the Underground Railroad in 1898, revealing a secret system of assisted slave escapes. A product of his time, Siebert based his research on the accounts of northern white male abolitionists. While useful in understanding the northern boundaries of the slaves’ journey, Siebert’s account leaves out the complicated narrative of assistance below the Mason-Dixon Line. In The Gospel of Freedom: Black Evangelicals and the Underground Railroad, author Alicestyne Turley positions Kentucky as a crucial “pass through” territory for escaping slaves and addresses the important contributions of white and black antislavery southerners who united to form organized networks to assist slaves in the Deep South. Drawing on family history and lore as well as a large range of primary sources, Turley shows how free and enslaved African Americans directly influenced efforts to physically and spiritually resist slavery and how slaves successfully developed their own systems to help others who were enslaved below the Mason-Dixon Line. Illuminating the roles of these black freedom fighters, Turley questions the validity of long-held conclusions based on Siebert’s original work and suggests new areas of inquiry for further exploration. The Gospel of Freedom seeks to fill the historical gaps and promote the lost voices of the Underground Railroad.

Alicestyne Turley is director of Freedom Stories for the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Turley was the founding director of the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education at Berea College and the founding director of the Underground Railroad Research Institute at Georgetown College.