Wisconsin Historical Society

Michael Edmonds

Speakers Bureau

Michael Edmonds | Wisconsin Historical Society
EnlargeMichael Edmonds

Michael Edmonds


Michael Edmonds is Director of Programs and Outreach at the WHS and author of several books and articles on Wisconsin history. For more information, see Michael-Edmonds.com. He's available to speak on several topics.

  • Birds and Humans in the Midwest. Based on his book Taking Flight, this presentation explores how and why people have worshiped, feared, studied, hunted, eaten, and protected the birds that surrounded them over the last 12,000 years. It discusses ancient Indian religion, early missionaries and scientists, the folklore of pioneer settlers, modern conservation efforts, and more.
  • Wisconsin's Capitol: Stories of a Monument and Its People - Our Capitol turned 100 years old in 2017, and this talk highlights a handful of the colorful personalities associated with it over the past century. It tells stories about governors, architects, legislators, protestors, receptionists, and activists, and how they carried out the American experiment of self-government under our Capitol dome. 
  • Warriors, Saints, and Scoundrels from Wisconsin History - Based on the book of the same name, this talk shares the stories of several obscure and eccentric people who were well-known in their day but are forgotten today. Each of them helped shape our state's history in some way. The talk also explains why a book sketching dozens of brief lives is a good fit for today's readers.
  • Bold, Not to Say Crazy: Collecting Civil Rights Manuscripts during the 1960s - The Wisconsin Historical Society owns one of the nation's richest archives on the civil rights movement -- tens of thousands of letters, diaries, meeting minutes, phone logs, internal memos, photographs, press releases, audio tapes, and other primary sources. For half a century, every serious researcher on the movement has used the Society's archives. They often ask why this national treasure is in Wisconsin rather than Washington. This talk explains how student workers saved these materials from destruction while events were still unfolding.
  • Risking Everything: The Story of Freedom Summer - 1964’s Freedom Summer was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, when 900 northern volunteers, 120 activists, and thousands of local Mississippi residents faced Ku Klux Klan firebombs and police shotguns to secure voting rights and challenge segregation. Presenter Michael Edmonds designed the Society's online archive of 40,000 documents about Freedom Summer, curated a travelling exhibit, and edited a book of eyewitness accounts of those events. In this talk he describes how America changed forever during the summer of 1964 and why one of the nation’s premier research collections on civil rights ended up in Wisconsin.
  • The Many Lives of Paul Bunyan - Learn about Paul Bunyan's origins among Wisconsin loggers in the 1880s. Michael Edmonds describes where the stories began, how they migrated from logging camps into print, and how publication changed them forever. This illustrated presentation also shares some of the earliest authentic Bunyan stories as they were actually told aloud by Wisconsin lumberjacks during the 1880’s and 1890’s and explains how the private jokes of illiterate lumberjacks became America's best-known folk hero.
  • African American History in Wisconsin - This illustrated talk describes the long and rich tradition of black history in Wisconsin, dating back to the 1700s. This includes the stories of enslaved people who escaped to Wisconsin before the Civil War, the descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemming who settled in Madison, the first organizing for civil rights more than 100 years ago, the Great Migration to Milwaukee and other cities in the 20th century, the struggle for fair housing and desegregated schools, and the work of notable activists like Vel Phillips and Lloyd Barbee.
  • The History of Genealogy in Wisconsin - Family history research is of one of the nation's most popular hobbies, and the Wisconsin Historical Society is one of the country's richest collections for investigating it, with sources documenting families from every state in the Union. This talk describes the history of genealogical research in Wisconsin and explains why one of the country's premier collections is located in our state.
  • The Federal Writers' Project in Wisconsin - During the New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s, every state received federal funding to research, write, and publish a guide to its history and culture. This talk describes how the Wisconsin project unearthed mountains of folklore, amassed a wealth of historical information, and guided it through political controversies and workplace challenges to publish several cherished books on our state's heritage.

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