Civil War Talk Radio: December 5, 2008

by Brett Schulte on December 5, 2008 · 1 comment

Air Date: 120508
Subject: Civil War Round Tables
Web Site: Civil War News
Guest: Matthew Borowick

Summary: Civil War News writer Matthew Borowick discusses Civil War Round Tables around the country.

Brett’s Summary: Civil War Talk Radio has a new home for information on the episodes, http://www.cwtr.org.

Gerry interviews Matthew Borowick about Civil War Round Tables.  Matt Borowick begins the hour talking about the Civil War News.  Pete and Kay Jorgensen publish the newspaper out of Vermont.  The online site is at http://www.civilwarnews.com.

Matt hails from New Jersey and has had a lifelong interest in the Civil War.  He works for Seton Hall University in their External Relations Department.

Matt writes a column about Civil War Round Tables for the Civil War News.  The Chicago Civil War Round Table is the “grandfather” of all CWRTs.  These groups exist to foster education about the Civil War in a specific geographic location.  There is NOT a central Civil War Round Table.  Each group is on its own as an educational group.  Gerry calls it a “Congregationalist” model.

As the second section opened, Gerry and Matt go over what to expect when going to a Civil War Round Table meeting.  Matt commented that attendance has continued to grow the longer Round Table are in existence.  He says they have evolved into groups where they usually have a speaker at a monthly meeting, but they do have time for Q&A.  Matt calls it more of a “classroom” setting.  Gerry asked how many CWRTs there are and Matt said there are hundreds in the United States and dozens in the rest of the world.  He does not have a specific count.

To join a local CWRT, Matt said the best way is to check online for a group near you or check out the Civil War News for upcoming events in CWRTs.  He encourages people to go to a meeting and introduce yourself.  CWRTs meet at a variety of places and as a result may have a different feel from others.  Matt used the examples of the informal Topeka (KS) CWRT and the more formal Kansas City CWRT.

Gerry commented on his own experiences about CWRTs he has been around or presented to.  Gerry mentioned that he believes food tends to bring more people in.  Matt believes dinners can “promote camaraderie” among the CWRT members.

CWRTs use raffles and other promotional ideas in order to raise money for things like battlefield preservation and other worthwhile causes.  One major need for money involves speakers.  Matt says Civil War Round Tables vary wildly in terms of their ability to pay speakers a stipend or to put an author up overnight.  He encourages speakers and Round Tables to discuss stipends PRIOR to the actual speaking engagement.  Matt likes it when CWRTs have the speaker eat dinner with the members prior to the speech and when the CWRTs give mementos such as a coffee mug or t-shirt featuring their logo to their speakers.

Matt says the best experiences occur when you get a good, intelligent, passionate speaker who is enthusiastic about his subject matter.  He does not like it when a speaker simply reads from a prepared document.  He says he remembers speakers for years, both good and bad, based on their presentations.

At the beginning of the third portion of the episode, Gerry mentions “Abraham Lincoln Round Tables”, an offshoot of CWRTs.  Gerry wonders if there is an overlap between the two.  Matt believes there is some overlap, and also mentions the overlap between CWRTs and reenactment groups.  Gerry also asked Matt if CWRTs compete with groups like the SCV, reenactment groups, historical societies, etc. for members.  Matt doesn’t believe so because the approach to the Civil War is different among these various groups.  He calls their approaches complementary.

Gerry next asked how one goes about starting a Civil War Round Table.  Matt mentions Jay Jorgensen’s founding of the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table.  He started from scratch, and was his own CWRT’s first presenter.  Years later, there are 120 members with a 2000+ book Civil War library which is open to the public.  Matt also mentioned the Seton Hall University Civil War Round Table.  One of the members, a reenactor, founded the group by sending out an email to fellow Seton Hall employees and inviting them to talk about Gettysburg.  Several years later, there are 25 or so members who continue to discuss various facets of the Civil War.  Models vary from “President for Life” to volunteers to member rotation, to elections.  The model varies tremendously from group to group.  Some Round Tables have formed as not-for-profit organizations as well.

As the show ended, Gerry asked an interesting question about whether or not the membership, many of whom became interested in the 1960s during the Centennial, is getting older.  He asked Matt how CWRTs get younger people to join as members.  Matt responded that current members spread their interest by creating scholarship programs and to work with schools to bring visual presentations into the classroom.  Gerry believes the internet is a great tool to get the younger generations involved.

I was surprised by just how different individual CWRTs are from each other. I drive right by the banquet center where the Civil War Round Table of St. Louis holds its monthly meetings, but I have never seriously considered joining.   I might have to check it out as a guest some time and report my findings here on TOCWOC.  It would make for an interesting blog entry I am sure.

Civil War Talk Radio airs most Fridays at 12 PM Pacific on World Talk Radio Studio A. Host Gerry Prokopowicz, the History Chair at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, interviews a guest each week and discusses their interest in the Civil War. Most interviews center around a book or books if the guest is an author. Other guests over the years have included public historians such as park rangers and museum curators, wargamers, bloggers, and even a member of an American Civil War Round Table located in London, England.

In this series of blog entries, I will be posting air dates, subjects, and guests, and if I have time, I’ll provide a brief summary of the program. You can find all of the past episodes I’ve entered into the blog by clicking on the Civil War Talk Radio category. Each program should appear either on or near the date it was first broadcast.

Check out more summaries of Civil War Talk Radio at TOCWOC.

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