Events June 4-6: The Middle Passage, the Battle of Vicksburg and Whales

This week, hear stories of the slave trade, learn about one of the Civil War’s most pivotal battles and discover Smithsonian’s whale collection

From May 17 to July 4, 1863, Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army placed the city of Vicksburg, MS under siege to defeat Confederate troops. Hear the play-by-play of this turning point in the Civil War in a talk by best-selling author Jeff Shaara on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Paul Lowry

Tuesday, June 4: On the Water

Over centuries, Africans were traded for goods into slavery and shipped across the Atlantic to the New World. Millions of Africans were forced to endure this overseas journey, and it is estimated that more than two million did not survive it—some succumbing to sickness or killed, others by self-starvation or jumping from the ship in resistance. Learn about these Africans who traveled across the Atlantic and Smithsonian’s efforts to recover their stories at “On the Water,” an all-ages, hands-on cart demonstration. Free. 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. American History Museum.

Wednesday, June 5: Jeff Shaara on the Battle of Vicksburg

Grant vs. Pemberton. Sherman vs. Johnson. The Battle of Vicksburg, one of the Civil War’s most pivotal battles, pitted some of the Union’s and Confederacy’s best commanders against each other after Union troops crossed the Mississippi River and eventually forced the Confederacy’s soldiers into the Mississippi city, which Grant and Sherman besieged for six weeks until the Southerners surrendered. This evening, Jeff Shaara, best-selling author of the Battle-of-Vicksburg-based historical novel A Chain of Thunder, breaks down each commanders’ key actions and decisions in this Civil War turning point. A book signing follows the talk. $42 general admission, $30 member, $28 senior member. 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Ripley Center.

Thursday, June 6: Whale Research at the Smithsonian

For more than 150 years, the Smithsonian has assembled one of the world’s best collections of whale-related objects. In addition to fossils, the collection includes, tools used for collecting specimens, scientific illustrations by Sydney Prentice, scientific articles and printing blocks used for creating books on the sea creatures. Today, in an extended panel discussion, scholars R. Ewan Fordyce (University of Otago, New Zealand), D. Graham Burnett (Princeton University), Steven Godfrey (Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons, Maryland) and Nick Pyenson (National Museum of Natural History) talk about the Smithsonian whale collection’s legacy and future. Free, registration required (e-mail or call 202 633-1699). 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Natural History Museum.


Also, check out our Visitors Guide App. Get the most out of your trip to Washington, D.C. and the National Mall with this selection of custom-built tours, based on your available time and passions. From the editors of Smithsonian magazine, the app is packed with handy navigational tools, maps, museum floor plans and museum information including ‘Greatest Hits’ for each Smithsonian museum.

For a complete listing of Smithsonian events and exhibitions visit the goSmithsonian Visitors Guide. Additional reporting by Michelle Strange.

About Paul Bisceglio
Paul Bisceglio

Paul Bisceglio is an editorial fellow at Pacific Standard and co-editor of the website "Land That I Live." He was previously the editorial intern for Smithsonian magazine. Follow him on Twitter @PaulBisceglio

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