Convocation Hall

Item

Title
Convocation Hall
Date Created
1886
Description
Convocation Hall and contiguous Breslin Tower are two of the storied buildings on the University of the South's campus and among the oldest. Their cornerstones were laid in 1886. Convocation originally was built as a "chapter house" (for meetings of religious authorities) and gymnasium, and it later long served as the University's library. Today it is used for public gatherings and lectures, and its walls are adorned with historical portraits of many of the Episcopal bishops associated with the University's pre-Civil War founding and post-Civil War resurrection. When the biographies of the subjects are taken into consideration, the historical portraits underscore the University's roots in the civilization of bondage, the formation and leadership of the Confederacy, and its contributions to the campaign and cult of the "Lost Cause," whose post-Civil War proponents erased the centrality of slavery to the antebellum South and the Civil War and enshrined those who fought for the Confederacy as heroes of the white race.

With two exceptions, the portraits hanging today on Convocation's walls are legacy memorials to slavery and the contributions of the Episcopal Church and the University to the preservation and perpetuation of slavery before emancipation and the Lost Cause after emancipation. The exceptions are that of Hugh M. Thompson, the second Bishop of Mississippi (1887), who was teaching at Nashotah House seminary in Wisconsin during the Civil War, and that of Wylie Blount Miller, a post-Civil War benefactor. In 2018 Miller's portrait replaced that of Civil War General Edmund Kirby-Smith, which was removed to the William R. Laurie University Archives and Special Collections.

Otherwise, the portraits memorialize men who made important contributions to the founding and prosperity of the University, but who also were enslavers (or sons of enslavers) and supported the Confederacy, usually through military or other service.
Institution: City, State
University of the South: Sewanee, Tennessee

Position: 35 (16 views)