Harry Truman once observed that there’s nothing new except the history with which we’re not familiar.
Greg Wolk hopes to educate and entertain with pieces from Pike County’s past as the featured speaker during the Louisiana Area Historical Museum’s annual dinner. The event is Nov. 14 at the American Legion, 420 Kelly Lane in Louisiana. Doors open at 6 p.m., with dinner at 6:30. Musical entertainment will be provided.
Wolk is heritage programs coordinator for the Missouri Humanities Council and is director of Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation. The lifelong St. Louisan and former trial lawyer is a passionate student of history.
More than 150 years after the final shots, the Civil War continues to be intriguing. Pike County played a key role during the conflict, providing Union and Confederate soldiers and later serving as the battleground for the loyalty oath freedom of speech dispute.
“The study of law is in large part the study of history, and in that sense history has been a daily companion of mine in my working life.” Wolk said. “My interest in Civil War history stems from some experiences as a child, but it ramped up when I realized that Missouri’s experience in the war is crucial to an understanding of that era in American history.”
One Union commander from Louisiana, John Brooks Henderson, contributed significantly on a national level. As a U.S. Senator, he drafted and introduced the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. Another prominent role came when he was among those representing Virginia Minor in her voting rights case, which went to the Supreme Court.
“The decision was handed down in 1875,” Wolk said. “The case was a culmination, for a time, of an argument that first surfaced when African American men gained their right to vote by virtue of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. Like many lawyers before him after, Henderson used the 14th Amendment to argue that the state of Missouri was infringing Virginia Minor’s privilege to vote. The Supreme Court disagreed, extending the fight for suffrage for 45 years.”
Henderson’s wife, Mary, and his mother-in-law, Eunice Newton Foote, were leading national promoters of women’s rights. Eunice Foote also was a scientist and inventor who in 1856 was the first to link changes in carbon dioxide to atmospheric shifts.
Wolk said he’s impressed with the eight decades of involvement by the Hendersons and Footes in the suffrage movement. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of ratification for the 19th Amendment, which gave women national voting rights. Eunice Foote and John Brooks Henderson did not live to see it, but Mary Foote Henderson did.
“Groundbreaking history sometimes begins in small increments and far-away places,” Wolk said.