Tag: Civil War

Refugee camp to college campus: incredible journey leads student from Sudan to Lawrence Class of 2021

Marwa Adam was four years old the night the Janjaweed came to El Fasher, her hometown in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Members of the horse-riding militia were on a mission to purge the Arab country of dark-skinned Sudanese whom they didn’t consider true Arabs.

“I was awakened in the middle of the night by gunshots and people screaming,” recalled Adam, who saw her father for the last time the previous day. “There were lots of people shouting, people crying. I had no idea what was going on. I thought it might be the TV. It took me a while to understand that a war was happening and these loud noises were my new reality.”

Marwa Adam
Marwa Adam ’21

Measured in life experiences, not miles, Adam, 18, likely has traveled farther than any of her fellow Lawrence University freshmen, who arrive on campus Sept. 5 for the start of new student orientation activities. Classes for Lawrence’s 169th academic year begin Sept. 11.

The evening before the Janjaweed arrived, Adam’s father led the family’s livestock out to pasture. He never returned.

“My mom doesn’t talk about what happened to my father, or what she thinks happened to my father. So, he just disappeared,” said Adam, who wasn’t allowed to leave the house for a week after that initial frightful night. “We had animals, cows, donkeys and he would walk them out to get the really natural food and grass. Sometimes my sister Bahja and I would go with him, but we didn’t that night.”

The attack in El Fasher set in motion a largely nomadic life for Adam that would span much of the next decade.

“We realized we had to move to stay alive. My mom, sister, grandmother, aunt and cousins began walking countless miles for what seemed like countless days. That was the first time I saw the horror of it all.”

Despite her mother’s directive to close her eyes and just keep walking, Adam could not help but look.

“The things that were happening were so surreal,” said Adam of her exodus from town. “There were people lying in the street with no arms, or feet or heads. Mothers were screaming for their lost husbands and children. The streets were covered in blood. I was too scared to close my eyes and see the same scene again as a vision. I kept my eyes open all night for a couple of nights.”

Adam and her family began traveling from village to village, often to those the Janjaweed had already attacked and destroyed, knowing the militants likely would not return to those.

“They were moving forward, so, we started moving backwards,” said Adam.

Along the way, Adam and her sister became separated from their mother, who mysteriously disappeared following a bomb explosion at a farmer’s market where she was selling tea. Adam was seven at the time and had no idea what had happened to her mother. She wouldn’t see her again for six years, later learning she had somehow been granted asylum and was living in the United States.

Over the course of some eight years and numerous stays in refugee camps, Adam, her sister and several cousins, the oldest of whom was 20, were on their own.

“We didn’t have a father, we didn’t have a mother or an aunt or uncle, we were just children,” said Adam.

They eventually made their way to the capital city, Khartoum, where Adam was able to attend an actual school for the first time in her life, completing eighth and ninth grades.

“Before Khartoum, I did all of my education in refugee camps with people who weren’t really licensed teachers. They were just people who thought we deserved to learn how to read and write,” said Adam. “In Khartoum, I took a high school test and people were really surprised I got a score that was the highest in the family. But in the eye of the government, I never went to school until eighth grade.”

While her mother attempted to reconnect with Adam and her sister from afar, she didn’t know where they were. An uncle returned to Sudan from Saudi Arabia to help locate them. When he did, he led them to Cairo, Egypt, where Adam lived for five months. She arrived just as the Arab Spring was unfolding.

Marwa Adam outside Steitz Hall of Science“We lived a couple blocks away from the American embassy and there was military everywhere protecting the place,” said Adam. “There were helicopters going off all night. We worried that we might get bombed if the American embassy got bombed. There were lots of gunshots again and it brought back some painful memories.”

Finally learning where her children were, Adam’s mother traveled to Cairo to reunite with her two daughters. After navigating countless bureaucratic hoops — including a DNA test in lieu of a birth certificate — Adam, her sister and mother were plane bound to the United States, destination Chicago.

December 4, 2013, 7 p.m.

The day and time is indelibly burned in Adam’s mind and rolls quickly off her tongue. It marks the exact moment she arrived in Chicago following a harrowing 10-year journey punctuated with fear, uncertainty, separation, resiliency, determination and self-preservation.

While she was going to be safe for the first time in years, her mind was filled with doubts during the long flight.

“I was thinking, ‘I’m going to the United States and starting a new life,’” said Adam, who arrived without knowing a word of English. Sudanese/Arabic is her first language. She also speaks Spanish, can “speak and read” sign language and is teaching herself Korean “When we got to the airport, it hit me: I don’t speak the language. I don’t know anyone but my mom. People don’t look like me. I was thinking about my dream of becoming a doctor. I didn’t see it happening because I have so much to learn and get adjusted to.”

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“To me it wasn’t as dramatic as other people would think because I didn’t know any better…I had done this my whole life basically. If someone told me to go through half of that now, I would be like ‘no, that’s impossible for me to do,’ because I finally got to know how people actually live, how people function and what’s actually fair.”
— Marwa Adam
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Adam settled in the north-side Chicago suburb of Evanston and soon after began attending 3,000-student Evanston Township High School.

“It was huge,” said Adam of her high school, which required her to start as a freshman since she didn’t have any paperwork from her schooling in Khartoum. “Compared to the schools that I went to, it was just so different. My very first month, I just went to school, came home and cried. But also there was something pushing me to go the next day. I would still wake up and go to school although it was almost hopeless. I thought ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’”

Enrolled initially in English as a Second Language classes, Adam proved it was far from hopeless. She progressed through the four-year program so quickly, by the end of her junior year she was not only excused from ESL 4, but was serving as a teacher’s assistant. She eventually ended up in the highly selective “Evanston Scholars” program which assists students getting into college.

Lawrence was one of 15 colleges Adam applied to and researched each one that accepted her in-depth, looking not only at academic programs, but the number of international students at each as well. A solid financial aid package from Lawrence encouraged Adam to make a second campus visit.

“I didn’t want to make my decision solely on the money part, so I visited again,” explained Adam. “I stayed overnight and attended the annual international student cabaret. I was like ‘yup, this is the place. I want to be in that cabaret next year.’”

A five-foot-tall bundle of unbridled enthusiasm with a 500-watt smile, Adam can’t wait for school to start.

“I’m really excited,” said Adam, Lawrence’s first freshman of Sudanese heritage since 2008. “I’m trying to find the balance. I know I can be super social and just do every single club and there’s lots of them. But I also know I can be an absolute nerd and stay in my dorm or the library 100 percent of the time.”

One thing is certain, her childhood dream of becoming a doctor is back in play.

“When I was four, I wanted to be a superwoman with all of the superpowers to save the world,” said Adam, who is planning on pursuing a double major in chemistry and mathematics with a minor in either English or Spanish. “I knew that was only a fantasy, so I had to think of something more realistic. I decided I wanted to be a doctor, and after learning heart disease is the number one killer in the world, I decided I want to be a cardiac surgeon. I want to make a career of helping those who are suffering in any part of the world. I’m willing to go anywhere, even if it’s a battlefield.”

Adam already has faced a lifetime of battlefields, literally and metaphorically. When she takes time to reflect on her journey from there to here, she can’t always believe it actually happened.

“To me it wasn’t as dramatic as other people would think because I didn’t know any better. When I came to the United States, I didn’t know anyone and it was hard. But then I had done this my whole life basically. When I think about it, I don’t know how I did it. If someone told me to go through half of that now, I would be like ‘no, that’s impossible for me to do,’ because I finally got to know how people actually live, how people function and what’s actually fair.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

 

Lawrence Commemorates Emancipation Proclamation’s 150th Anniversary with Music, Presentations

In honor of the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Jan. 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, Lawrence University presents a series of Civil War-related events.  All are free and open to the public.

Faith Barrett
Monday, Jan. 7, 8 p.m., Harper Hall.  Lawrence Associate Professor of English Faith Barrett discusses the origins of Julia Ward Howe’s Civil War classic “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Following the presentation, a short vocal concert celebrating African-American and Civil War-era music will be performed by 2007 Lawrence graduates Paris Brown and Erica Hamilton and sophomore Brienne Colston.

Erin Dix
Tuesday,  Jan. 8, 4:30 p.m., Mudd Library, 1st floor, south end. Lawrence archivist Erin Dix presents “Lawrence in the Civil War,” an exploration of the ways in which Lawrence faculty and students participated on the front lines and coped with the effects of the war at home.  At the start of the Civil War, Lawrence was a mere 14 years old and like other academic institutions at the time, was greatly affected by the war.

Bill Carrothers
Wednesday Jan. 9, 8 p.m., Harper Hall.  Bill Carrothers, Lawrence lecturer in music and jazz pianist, presents “Civil War Diaries,” a performance of period music from the Civil War era, reinterpreted as solo piano improvisations.

Lawrence is currently hosting a traveling exhibition that examines how President Abraham Lincoln used the U.S. Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the Civil War: the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties.

The 1,000-square-foot exhibit, “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” is displayed on the second floor of Lawrence’s Seeley G. Mudd Library until Feb. 8. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

The exhibition is composed of informative panels featuring photographic reproductions of original documents, including the Emancipation Proclamation, a draft of Lincoln’s first inaugural speech and the Thirteenth Amendment.  It was organized by the  National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office and is supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Lawrence University Hosts Traveling Exhibition on Lincoln’s Constitutional Challenges of the Civil War

Lawrence University will serve as an eight-week host of a traveling exhibition that examines how President Abraham Lincoln used the U.S. Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the Civil War: the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties.

The 1,000-square-foot exhibit, “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” will be displayed on the second floor of Lawrence’s Seeley G. Mudd Library.  The exhibition, which opens Dec. 14 and runs until Feb. 8, is free and open to the public.

Lawrence is the first of four stops the exhibition will make in Wisconsin between now and the end of 2015.

Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of America’s greatest presidents, but his historical reputation is contested. Was he a calculating politician willing to accommodate slavery, or a principled leader justly celebrated as the Great Emancipator?

The exhibition encourages visitors to form a nuanced view of Lincoln by engaging them with his struggle to reconcile his policy preferences with basic American ideals of liberty and equality. The exhibition develops a more complete understanding of Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation’s gravest constitutional crisis.

Each section of the exhibit highlights different aspects of Lincoln’s presidency, such as slavery, which examines the various policy options Lincoln once embraced and how his thoughts about slavery evolved over time.  The exhibition is composed of informative panels featuring photographic reproductions of original documents, including a draft of Lincoln’s first inaugural speech, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment.

Elected president in 1860 when the nation was on the brink of civil war, Lincoln struggled to resolve the basic questions that divided Americans at the most perilous moment in the country’s history: Was the United States truly one nation, or was it a confederacy of sovereign and separate states? How could a country founded on the belief that “all men are created equal” tolerate slavery? In a national crisis, would civil liberties be secure? As president, Lincoln used the Constitution to confront these three crises of war, ultimately reinventing the Constitution and the promise of American life.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Lawrence will hold a three-member panel discussion on constitutional issues Thursday, Jan. 10 at 4:30 p.m. in the Wriston Auditorium. Panel participants will include:

• 1981 Lawrence graduate James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Collection in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.

• Jerald Podair, professor of history and Robert S. French Professor of American Studies at Lawrence.

• Arnold Shober, associate professor of government at Lawrence.

“We are delighted Lawrence has been selected as a site for this exhibition,” said Peter Gilbert, director of the Mudd Library. “Not only does the exhibition dovetail nicely with the library’s own Lincoln Reading Room and its important collections, but the content of the exhibition is still relevant today. The exhibition highlights Lincoln’s struggles with issues of secession, slavery and civil liberties — all questions the Constitution left unanswered. I think it will be terrifically interesting and informative.”

The National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office organized the traveling exhibition, which was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): great ideas brought to life. The traveling exhibition is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,450 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Lawrence University Sponsors Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Civil War

Three distinguished scholars will share their perspectives on the power of images to shape our understanding of war through analyses of photographs, monuments, literary texts and historical documents in a special Lawrence University program that examines the Civil War.

Lawrence presents “New Approaches to the Civil War: An Interdisciplinary Symposium” Saturday, April 16 in the auditorium of the Wriston Art Center. The half-day program begins at 1 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Yale University historian and award-winning author David Blight opens the symposium with the address “Has Civil War Memory United or Divided America?” Following Blight’s presentation, Franny Nudelman, associate professor of English at the University of Virginia, presents “’This Guilty Land’: Black Soldiers, Military Discipline and the Wartime State.” At 3:15 p.m., Kirk Savage, associate professor and chair in the history of art and architecture department at the University of Pittsburgh, delivers the talk “Civil War Photography and the Vilification of the Male Body.” An audience question-and-answer session with each speaker will follow their individual talks.

The symposium concludes with a 45-minute round-table discussion beginning at 4:15 p.m. in which the three guest speakers will entertain questions from Lawrence University faculty members Faith Barrett, assistant professor of English, Alexis Boylan, assistant professor of art history and Jerald Podair, associate professor of history.

“The purpose of the symposium is not only to showcase the excellence of these individual scholars’ achievements, but also to provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary conversation and exchange,” said Barrett. “All three of these scholars write lucid, engaging prose and all three re-examine the ideologies and events of the war in ways that transcend the disciplinary boundaries of history, literary studies and art history.”

Blight, widely regarded as one of the country’s leading experts on the U.S. Civil War and its legacy, will discuss how whites and blacks struggled to determine the meaning and memory of the Civil War in America during the following 50 years and more and how that memory reunified the country, but at a great cost in terms of race relations. He also will explore the role “race” and “reunion” and the challenges of “healing” and “justice” between the North and South and among whites and blacks played in shaping Civil War memory.

Blight has written three books on the Civil War, including 2001’s “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory,” which was recognized with the Frederick Douglass Prize, the Lincoln Prize, the Bancroft Prize and three awards from the Organization of American Historians. He also is the author of “Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory and the American Civil War,” published in 2002 and “Frederick Douglas’s Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee.” In addition, he co-wrote the American history textbook “A People and a Nation.”

A one-time high school history in his hometown of Flint, Mich., Blight taught at North Central College, Harvard University and Amherst College before joining the history department faculty at Yale in 2003. He earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin.

Nudelman, whose research interests include Civil War culture, will explore the concept of punishment and its use as a historic mechanism for barring black advancement. The emancipation of slaves brought new freedoms for African Americans, but with it came new kinds of coercion by the federal government, including drafting newly freed men into the army, refusing to pay them equal wages and sentencing an inordinate number of them to death. She will argue that the treatment of black soldiers in the Union army during the Civil War is a largely untold chapter in the evolving history of punishment as an instrument of racial oppression in the United States.

Nudelman, who earned her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, joined the English department at Virginia in 1997.

Savage, whose scholarship includes issues of traumatic memory in historical terms, will discuss battlefield photographs that began to appear in late 1862 that overturned the heroic conventions for representing death in battle by showing
male bodies as little more than carcasses without any signs of moral or spiritual redemption.

Focusing on a particularly gruesome photograph by Alexander Gardner entitled “War, Effects of a Shell on a Confederate Soldier at Battle of Gettysburg,” Savage will contrast Gardner’s Confederate photograph with that of a photograph of dead Union soldiers he also took, drawing parallels between the desecrated Confederate body and images of tortured male slaves and explaining why images of Union soldiers held a privileged status in photographic representations.

In the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Savage’s research interests in public monuments and art in the public sphere have focused on the “therapeutic memorial,” with special attention given to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the World Trade Center competition.

Savage earned his Ph.D in art history at the University of California, Berkeley and is the author of the 1997 book “Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America.”

“This symposium is an extraordinary opportunity to hear three leading Civil War scholars speak about their current projects, as well discuss the larger issue of Civil War memory in American society,” said Barrett. “The issue of the representation of war is particularly timely in our current historical moment. The United States is conducting multiple wars on foreign soil as the American media and scholarly community grapple with the most effective ways of representing and understanding these conflicts.”

The Civil War symposium is sponsored by the Marguerite Schumann Memorial Lectureship, Main Hall Forum, Fine Arts Colloquium and the departments of art history, English, gender studies and history.