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Benjamin Franklin: in Search of a Better World

Benjamin Franklin: in Search of a Better World

Upcoming Events



Franklin on the Question of Race

Friday, February 25,
3 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Benjamin Franklin on the Question of Race
Klevor Abo, Instructor of African American Studies

Like most, if not all, the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin was concerned and expressed thoughts on what the racial composition of the United States should be. This presentation offers a reading of Benjamin Franklin's thoughts on the question. The most explicit of these thoughts are presented in Franklin's essay, "Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc." which is read contextually in terms of Franklin's attitudes towards Native Americans, Black folk, both free and enslaved, and new German immigrants to Pennsylvania.

Klevor Abo teaches in the African American Studies Program at EIU. His interest in the history of race relations derives from the focus of his research into the nature and character of the relationship between Africa and its diasporas. He studied at the University of Ghana (bachelor of arts in music, English, linguistics and african studies), Goldsmith's College, University of London (MMus, Ethnomusicology) and Bowling Green State University, Ohio (Ph.D. American culture studies).

Benjamin Franklin: Architect of American Journalism

Wednesday, February 23,
4 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Benjamin Franklin: Architect of American Journalism
Lola Burnham, Assistant Professor of Journalism
Sally Renaud, Associate Professor of Journalism
Liz Viall, Instructor of Journalism

Benjamin Franklin is known as a diplomat, a scientist, a writer, and as one of our country's Founding Fathers. He has also had a lasting impact on American journalism through his writings, through his influence on the distribution of newspapers, and through his business partnerships in printing. EIU Department of Journalism faculty will discuss these facets of Franklin's journalism career and relate them to present day industry practice.

Lola Burnham is an assistant professor of journalism at Eastern Illinois University and is editorial adviser to The Daily Eastern News. She holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism and a Master's degree in English.

Sally Renaud teaches journalism and advises the yearbook staff at Eastern Illinois University. She received her Bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and her Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Liz Viall is an instructor of journalism at EIU. She teaches courses in news writing, visual communication, publication design, and publicity methods. Her research focuses on citizen journalism and technology issues in communication. She received her Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Indiana University, a Master's in Journalism from the University of Alabama, and has undergraduate degrees in government and journalism.

What if Ben could tweet?

Monday, February 21, 2011,
7 o'clock, Booth Library Conference Room

What if Ben could tweet? The digital revolution meets the American Revolution!
Marie Fero, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood, Elementary and Middle-Level Education
Sheila Lambert, Title I Reading Teacher, Arland D. Williams Junior Elementary, Mattoon

This presentation will be a fun exploration of how Ben Franklin may have used various digital media in his 18th century world.

Dr. Fero, assistant professor of early childhood, elementary and middle level education at Eastern Illinois University holds degrees in music, elementary education, and educational leadership. She has served as a teacher of K-12 music, elementary classroom, Title I classroom, and gifted education. She has been an elementary principal, chair of education, and an instructor of teacher education at six institutions around the country.

Sheila Lambert is a Title I reading teacher at Arland D. Williams Junior Elementary in the Mattoon Community Unit School District #2. She holds both a B.S. and M.S. in elementary education from Eastern Illinois University.

Franklin, Women, and Writing

Thursday, February 17,
7 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Franklin, Women, and Writing
Angela Vietto, Associate Professor of English

Franklin's first published writings, the Silence Dogood letters, were written in the voice of a middle-aged woman, and in his Autobiography, Franklin claims that his first persuasive writings were a series of letters to a friend defending women's education. From these early forays as a writer into his later years, Franklin's relations with women, both in life and on paper, offer insights into both Franklin and the eighteenth-century world of women. This talk will explore some of the ways Franklin's writing and life can help us understand the situation of women in post-revolutionary America.

Angela Vietto teaches American literature, with emphasis on the early Republic and the history of authorship. She is completing an edition of both the novels of Hannah Webster Foster, co-edited with Jennifer Desiderio, under contract with Broadview Press. Other ongoing research interests include women writers of the 1790s-1820s, gendered issues in early writing instruction, and emerging literary criticism just after the Revolution.

Billings and Morgan: New Music for a New World

Tuesday, February 15,
4 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

William Billings and Justin Morgan: New Music for a New World
Patricia Poulter, Professor of Music and Interim Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities
Elaine Fine
Allen Lanham, Ph.D., Dean of Library Services

William Billings (1746-1800), best known as the father of American choral music, was actually a tanner by trade with no formal musical training. Billings' The New-England Psalm-Singer was the first book of American choral music ever published. As evidence of the relatively small society of the day, Billings' friend Paul Revere engraved the frontispiece for the book. Justin Morgan (1747-1798), best known for developing the Morgan horse breed, was also a popular composer of the time. Like Billings, he was a singing teacher and viewed creating a new style of music as part of his patriotic duty. Examples of music by Billings, Morgan, and their contemporaries will be performed, along with a discussion about the roles their music played in the emerging democracy.

Patricia Poulter is the Interim Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and a Professor of music at EIU, where she has been on the faculty since 1994. Dr. Poulter holds am Ed.D. in music from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. in choral conducting, and a B.Mus. with teacher certification from Eastern.

Elaine Fine began musical life as a violinist, but received a Bachelor of Music Degree in flute performance from The Juilliard School of Music. In addition to being on the reviewing staff of the American Record Guide since 1993, she is the program annotator for the New Philharmonic of DuPage County, and teaches at Lake Land College, in Mattoon, Illinois. She has over 70 pieces of published chamber music and has written many other pieces.

Allen Lanham is Dean of Library Services at Eastern Illinois University. He is the president-elect of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI), and a trustee of the Lincoln Trail Libraries System and the Charleston Carnegie Public Library. He holds library science or music degrees from the University of Rochester, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Arkansas State University, and Murray State University.

Film - Benjamin Franklin: The Chess Master

Tuesday, February 8,
7 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Film Screening - Benjamin Franklin: The Chess Master (2002)
David Bell, Booth Library, Moderator

Franklin, by far the oldest of the principal leaders of the American Revolution, embarks upon the most important role of his life. Congress sends Franklin to France in a desperate effort to secure an alliance with England's greatest rival. All of Franklin's considerable political skills - his talent for propaganda, public relations, back-room strategizing, his gift for subterfuge and manipulation - are called into play as he tries to convince the French to lend support to the Revolutionary cause. Despite the French king's reluctance, and backbiting from John Adams, Franklin succeeds in obtaining the French support that leads to an American victory at Yorktown. Two years later, the elderly Franklin is carried into the Constitutional Convention to guide the rancorous delegates debating the balance of states' rights and federal power that will be embodied in the Constitution.

Benjamin Franklin and Freemasonry

Wednesday, February 9,
12 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Benjamin Franklin and Freemasonry
Michael Shirley, Instructor of History

Benjamin Franklin was actively involved in Freemasonry for over fifty years, wrote the first Masonic ritual used in the American colonies, was Grand Master of Pennsylvania, and joined lodges in Paris while working there as a diplomat. Popular myths have obscured Freemasonry's practical and philosophical role in Franklin's life; it was less conspiratorial than Hollywood blockbusters and best-selling novelists would prefer.

Michael Shirley, who holds a B.A. in history from Beloit College, an M.S. in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University, a J.D. from the George Washington University, and an A.M. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has taught at Eastern Illinois University since 1998. He has been a Freemason since 2006.

Benjamin Franklin: Inventor

Thursday, February 3,
4 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Benjamin Franklin: Inventor
Steven Daniels, Professor and Chair of Physics

Benjamin Franklin was a problem solver. He put this approach to life to use in a number of areas; politics, weather, writing, and inventing. He came across a number of problems in his life that required some form of invention to get around. In the process he became an important inventor in early American history. This talk will cover a number of inventions attributed to Franklin with some of the science behind them. Many people learn that Franklin invented electricity and we will examine the meaning of that claim through discussion and also through demonstration. Some other "inventions" that are attributed to Franklin will be discussed too. The pragmatism, knowledge base, and cleverness of Ben Franklin propelled him to become an inventor in a number of different areas.

Dr. Steven Daniels is a Physics professor as well as Department Chair at Eastern Illinois University. A sampling of the various activities Dr. Daniels has participated in during his career is that Dr. Daniels has been a rocket scientist on a NASA grant, he has worked on a nuclear energy project for the Department of Energy, he has worked on problems related to ordinance as well as nuclear batteries for the Department of Defense, and has studied solar flares using a satellite for the Navy. Dr. Daniels came to EIU in 1991. His area of interest now is optics with specific interest in lasers. He received his B.A. degree from Swarthmore College and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Maryland. He also received an M.B.A. from EIU.

The Franklin Tree RESCHEDULED

Monday, February 7
4 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

The Franklin Tree: History and Local Cultivation
Wesley Whiteside, Professor Emeritus of Botany

A small grove of Franklinia altamaha, commonly known as the Franklin tree, was discovered in Georgia in 1765 by John Bartram and his son William. The seeds they collected and propagated became the source for all known specimens of Franklinia existing today. This small, unusual woody plant is prized for its beautiful flowers, leaves and seeds. It is easy to propagate from both seeds and cuttings, but famously difficult to cultivate. Almost fifty years ago, Dr. Wesley Whiteside took up the challenge of growing this plant at his five-acre botanical garden east of Charleston. He had many casualties along the way, but now has a thriving grove of twelve plants, several of which are ten or more feet in height. Dr. Whiteside will discuss the history of this rare and beautiful plant, how it came to be named for Benjamin Franklin, and his own experiences in cultivating it here in the Charleston area.

Wesley Whiteside is an emeritus professor of botany at Eastern Illinois University. He is known for his five-acre botanical garden east of Charleston, where he cultivates a variety of unique plants, including Franklinia altamaha. On Memorial Day weekends, he hosts a Garden Ramble on his property as a fund raiser for the Coles County Historical Society. He also serves as a member of the Charleston Tree Commission.

Benjamin Franklin and the Army

Wednesday, January 26,
4 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Benjamin Franklin and the Army
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Knotts, Professor and Chair of Military Science

The presentation focuses on Benjamin Franklin's support of the Revolutionary War effort in the areas of supply and logistics and the similarities of today's logistics procurement process. Franklin well understood the hardships of the soldier from his own experiences in the French and Indian War, as well as the risks of an ill-equipped army in surviving as a military force. His experience in commerce and communication in the Colonies and his position as Ambassador to France enabled him to support the army with necessary resources to fight a war. The presentation ends with a comparison of how the United States supports its Army today.

Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Knotts is a 20-year veteran of the US Army and Chairman of Military Science at Eastern Illinois University. In his Army career, LTC Knotts has deployed to Haiti and twice to Operation Iraqi Freedom and has supported Army logistics operations from procurement to the front lines. Assigned to Eastern Illinois University ROTC, he is in his second year of developing the next generation of critical thinkers and ethical decision makers of the US Army.LTC Knotts received an M.A. in Management from Webster University in 2002, and a B.A in History from Xavier University in 1990. His military education includes the Artillery Officer's Basic Course, Logistics Officers Advance Course, and the Command General and Staff Course.

Storytime: Happy 305th Birthday, Benjamin!

Saturday, January 22,
10 o' clock, Ballenger Teachers Center

Happy 305th Birthday, Benjamin!
Jeanne Goble and Ann Brownson

The Ballenger Teachers Center will celebrate Benjamin Franklin's birthday through a variety of crafts and stories. The celebration is expected to last about one hour. Find out the "Ben"efits of being Benjamin Franklin! Children ages 3-6, accompanied by an adult, are invited.

Benjamin Franklin's Standup Comic

RESCHEDULED Thursday, January 27
4 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Benjamin Franklin's Standup Comic: The Speech of Miss Polly Baker
Parley Ann Boswell, Professor of English

In Franklin's "Speech of Miss Polly Baker" (1747), Polly Baker, a New England mother about to be sentenced in court for delivering her fifth illegitimate child, delivers instead a short defense in which she turns every argument for her prosecution on its head. Franklin, 41 years old when he created Polly Baker, and himself the father of an illegitimate child at the time, never identified himself as the author of this essay. 20th-century scholars proved Franklin's authorship, often citing the essay as an example of his condemnation of Puritan hypocrisy or his attempt to imitate early English novelists. In 2010, however, we might also argue that Franklin's Polly represents more than criticism or imitation: "Polly Baker" represents a prototype of American performance art. Franklin clearly understood narrative voice and persona, and he also recognized that the most effective way to speak truth to power was through comedy. "The Speech of Polly Baker" anticipates a rich heritage of popular American monologues and performances that confront institutional hypocrisy, gender hypocrisy, etc. through good timing and laughter. Franklin's talented Polly Baker might be in good company with any number of contemporary comedy artists and characters, including Rosanne Barr, Flip Wilson's Geraldine, Candace Bergen's Murphy Brown, or Diablo Cody's Juno.

Parley Ann Boswell is a professor of English at Eastern, where she teaches courses in American Literature and Film Studies. She received her M.A. in colonial American history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Ph.D. in English from Loyola University.

Revisioning the Folksy Founder

Tuesday, January 18
7 o' clock, Booth Library Conference Room 4440

Revisioning the Folksy Founder: Benjamin Franklin and the Creation of the American Republic
Terry Barnhart, Professor of History

The presentation focuses on the sources of Franklin's political philosophy, his ideas about creating an American Union, his role as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and his views on slavery. Franklin's contributions as a founding father are juxtaposed with the Franklin of myth, by comparing and contrasting how Franklin's contemporaries viewed him with his iconic stature among later generations of Americans. Several generations of historians have constructed divergent interpretations of Franklin, a process of revisioning and revising our understanding of the man and his world that will most certainly continue.

Terry A. Barnhart is professor of history at Eastern Illinois University. Since joining the faculty in 1994 he has taught the U.S. history survey, the U.S. Constitution and the Nation course, and graduate courses in both the M.A. in Historical Administration program and the M.A. in History program. His many interests include the resolved and unresolved issue and problems facing the new nation during the Confederation period (1778-1788) and those that continued to beset the republic from the ratification of the Constitution in 1789 to the American Civil War. Dr. Barnhart received the Ph.D. in History from Miami University in 1989, and the M.A. in History and the B.S. in Education from Miami in 1980 and 1975 respectively.

An Evening with Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, January 12,
Half Past 7 o' clock, Booth Library Atrium

An Evening with Benjamin Franklin
Fred Krebs, Professor of History, Johnson County Community College

Join Benjamin Franklin, portrayed by Fred Krebs, as he reminisces about his life and pursuit of a better world. Get to know Ben as he talks about his views on self-improvement, virtues, and religion. Discover firsthand the work he did in Philadelphia to create civic institutions and how he led the colonies to independence, at home and abroad. Share in the excitement as he talks about his inventions. There will be plenty of time for you to ask Ben Franklin any questions you have about his life and work.

Fred Krebs is a professor of history at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. Since 1985 Krebs has made history come alive for his classes and other audiences. Krebs has been an active Chautauqua speaker participating in Chautauqua programs in 16 different states with over 15 different historical characterizations and has donned the costume and delivered presentations as Benjamin Franklin more than 100 times. His recognitions include the "Patriot of the Year" in 2001 awarded by the Sons of the American Revolution and a Kansas Humanities Council Humanities Award for connecting people and ideas for more than 25 years in Kansas. He has also been honored with the Governor's Humanist of the Year award. Krebs has received degrees from the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri at Kansas City.