The Civil War, specifically the role Ironton played in it, will be the focus of a four-day festival next month at Ohio University Southern.

The Freedom Festival on Sept. 19 through 22 will include activities at the Ironton campus of OUS, the Lake Vesuvius Recreation Center north of Ironton and the Lawrence County Courthouse in downtown Ironton.

Most events will be free and open to the public; some will be offered as for-credit courses for a tuition fee.

The festival will focus on four areas, the role of Lawrence County in the Underground Railroad, the roles of John Rankin and John Campbell in the abolitionist movement, the leadership of Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Students at OUS will take part in a campuswide reading of the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An African Slave,” and Harriet Jacobs’ “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.”

Two field trips will be available, a one-day excursion to Underground Railroad sites in Ripley, Ohio, Old Washington, Ky., and Maysville, Ky., and an overnight journey tracing the early Lincoln years that will take participants to Lincoln’s birthplace, the Mary Todd Lincoln home and other sites.

While not required, both trips are available for credit. Details and prices are available at the OUS travel agency Travel World at (740) 533-4630 or (800) 210-3550.

The festival fits in with OU’s strategic plan, Vision Ohio, which emphasizes learning outside the classroom, community service and bringing students together for a common intellectual experience, said interim Dean Bill Willan.

Across the campus, students will incorporate aspects of the festival into their studies.

Activities the first day of the festival, mostly lectures, will be in the Bowman Auditorium on the campus. Days two and three will move to the OUS Nature Center at Lake Vesuvius. The final day of the festival will take place at the Lawrence County Courthouse and will include re-enactors portraying historical figures.

The event isn’t meant to replace the Festival of the Hills, which for some years was at OUS, and won’t much resemble it, Willan said.

Instead, it will be a more cerebral exploration of the effect of the Civil War years on American values.

Schools in the region are encouraged to send classes to the festival.

A full schedule of events will be posted at the festival’s web page at

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