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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

A Confederate Empire: The Knights of the Golden Circle

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0651
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$20 - Member
$25 - Non-Member
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Seal of the President of the Knights of the Golden Circle

As anti-slavery sentiment began to gain momentum in the 1850s, white Southerners became increasingly militant about preserving and expanding their system of slavery. Not content to simply safeguard the institution where it was already practiced, they insisted on spreading slavery even further, guaranteeing that it—and the white supremacy upon which it rested—would endure.

In 1854 a small group of pro-slavery sympathizers formed the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret society whose goal it was to create a vast new empire for slavery—one that traced a “golden circle” from the deep South through Mexico, Central America, parts of South America, and the Caribbean. Various clandestine actions were undertaken to accomplish this, including a plan in 1861 to intercept Abraham Lincoln in Baltimore and kidnap him before he could take the Oath of Office (which Allen Pinkerton scuttled). With the start of the Civil War, the semi-military group threw its support to the Confederacy.

Historian Christopher Hamner examines the strange history of the secret society in the context of the turbulent debate over slavery and its future that overwhelmed the country in the 1850s and 1860s.

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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.