UM-Flint Alumni, Student, Professor Publish Book on Michigan’s Civil War History

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Two University of Michigan-Flint alumni, one student, and a faculty member are among the members of the iMichigan Productions (iMP) team that has independently published The American Civil War Years: The Michigan Experience (The Reenactors’ Telling).

UM-Flint’s representatives on the team are distinguished alumnus Michael J. Thorp, Flint author and broadcaster; multiple UM-Flint degree-earning alumnus Rodney W. Brown, Flint-based director of iMP’s public television series on the same subject; senior art major and book designer Shekinah Tapplin of Clio who designs under the name Shekinah Shazaam; and Communications faculty member Donna Ullrich of Perrinton, who edited the project. Tapplin’s work on the book was supported by a UM-Flint Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) grant.

The 136-page book features full-color photographs of American Civil War reenactors as their actions tell the stories of going off to war, camp life, battles, and surrender. The photography of Wayne Dabney of Ann Arbor and Leon C. Collins of Grand Blanc is featured.

The book focuses on Michigan’s role in the Civil War and its many contributions to the war effort. It highlights African-Americans and Native Americans who fought for the Union cause along with the rest of Michigan’s 90,000 soldiers. Michigan’s troops included specialized regiments of sharpshooters and engineers and at least 68 Michigan soldiers received the Medal of Honor for gallantry on the battlefield. The book demonstrates the roles of women both in battle and in society, and covers the politics of the times. The photos throughout the book were taken in Michigan, by Michigan photographers.

Says UM-Flint Art major Shekinah Tapplin on being involved in the project, “All in all, I’ve had an excellent experience working on these books for Donna and the rest of iMichigan Productions. Editorial Design and Photography are my favorite aspects of design and I am very fortunate to gain experience with them while I’m still in school.”

When asked to detail her involvement she said, “Basically, I was the designer for this pictorial representation of reenactors showcasing Michigan’s involvement in the Civil War. I participated in weekly meetings with iMichigan Production’s team to hear their feedback on each new version of the book I had. The team also helped a great deal with narrowing down specific images, storytelling, and the overall flow of the book. I also designed a few promotional flyers to help spread the word about this book.”

The book features a Foreword by noted Michigan historian John Gibney of Ann Arbor, and Introduction and Epilogue by Thorp. In addition, it offers a bounty of resources about Michigan’s Civil War history to encourage learning activities and day trips for families and classrooms alike.

The book evolved out of iMichigan Productions’ (iMP) hour-long living history television special that aired throughout the state on public television stations in 2011 and 2012.

All proceeds of the book stay in Michigan, paying Michigan media artists and supporting iMP educational projects. It is available at iMichigan Productions of Flint is a 501(c)3 educational multi-media production company.

Tapplin is also designing a companion coloring book for children: “For the coloring book currently underway, I was given a collection of the same photographs from the main book, but was instructed to simplify them into black-and-white line images in order to form coloring pages. For this companion project, I am not only the Graphic Designer, but also the Photo Editor. This involves a bit more detailed work, but it will be worthwhile in the end to help educate children about history in a fun way.”

For more information on the book, contact Donna Ullrich of UM-Flint’s Communications Department. Visit iMichigan Productions to learn more about their Civil War work.

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