Author Archive | Aaisha Haykal

Avery Research Center Updates



The past several months have been busy at Avery, with collections being processed and lectures occurring almost weekly. Our next lecture is on Thursday, March 22nd at 6pm featuring-Dr. Ronald E. Butchart, who will give a talk on his book Schooling the Freed People: Teaching, Learning, and the Struggle for Black Freedom, 1861—1876.


Check out our Facebook page for photos from our previous events including, but not limited to:

Women’s History Month talk by Distinguished Scholar Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole (Co-sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta Charleston Alumnae Chapter) and  Women’s History Month Artist Marketplace

The Tinsmith of Tradd Street, William James Parker (1835-1907): A Journey of Discovery by Paul Garbarini

Children’s Sweetgrass Basket Making Workshop with Henrietta Snype

Celebrating Black Women in America


Celebrating Black Women in American Culture and History Exhibit (1st floor)

Word, Shout, Song: Lorenzo Dow Turner Exhibition (2nd and 3rd floors), which will be closing on April 4th, 2012

Archival Collections

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Collection

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Collection has been processed and is comprised of 17 boxes divided into the following series:

1. Administrative, 1977-1994, and undated

1.1 Committees, 1977-1995, and undated

2. Programs and Events, 1975-1995 and undated

3. Publications, 1973-1994, and undated

4. Subject Files, 1920, 1960-1994, and undated

5. Photographs, 1992 and undated

6. Miscellaneous, 1987-1994, and undated

The following is a snippet of the abstract:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was started on February 12, 1909, partly in response to the prevalence of lynching of African-Americans in America and the 1908 race riot that occurred in Springfield, Illinois. The Charleston Branch of the NAACP was founded in February 1917 by Edwin Harleston. The branch was established to advocate and fight for the rights of African Americans in South Carolina and Charleston.

The Charleston Branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) collection contains branch and

committee correspondence, financial records, materials relating to events and programs sponsored by the Association, subject files, photographs, and miscellaneous material.

Lois A. Simms Collection

Page 21 of Scrapbook

Page 21 of Scrapbook

Currently, I am processing Lois A. Simms’ personal papers. Simms graduated from Avery Normal Institute in 1937 and went on to pursue degrees in Education, English, and Social Studies. She taught in various elementary and high schools in Charleston before she retired in 1976. Simms remains an active member of Zion-Olivet Presbyterian church in Charleston. Furthermore, she is the author of Profiles of African-American Females in the Low Country of South Carolina (1992); Growing up Presbyterian: Life in Presbyterian Colleges and Churches (1992); and A Chalk and Chalkboard Career in Carolina (1996).

Items in her collection include papers from her higher education work, professional records tha

t document her teaching at Burke High School and Charleston High School, student photographs and thank you notes, four scrapbooks (1935-2003), and published copies and proofs of Zion-Olivet’s Scroll newsletter.

Page 25 of Scrapbook

Phillis Wheatley Reading Room

In the Reading Room Ms. Wright, Ms. Mayo, and graduate assistants, Emily Rousseau and Sheila Harrell-Roye have been busy assisting patrons with their reference requests via in-person, phone, or e-mail. Topics scholars are researching include; resistance movements, music, Gullah-Geechee language and culture, the connection between South Carolina and Liberia, African-Americans and Civil War involvement, the lives of free-blacks in Charleston, genealogy, etc. It is quite exciting to locate documents in our collection that benefit researchers, scholars, students, and others in their hunt for information.

ANNOUNCING Call for Papers and Panels: “The Fire Every Time: Reframing Black Power across the Twentieth Century and Beyond”

“The Fire Every Time: Reframing Black Power across the Twentieth Century and Beyond”

In the Fall of 2012, the Avery Research Center will host a public history symposium, dialogue, and community event examining the Black Power Movement in the Twentieth Century.

Generally typecast as radical, violent, and ultimately self-defeating, the Black Power Movement has been considered by some as an aberration of the Civil Rights Movement.  Still, others have viewed it as a destructive interruption and a politically ineffectual movement that derailed the civil rights agenda, resulting in white backlash, conservative retrenchment, and urban unrest.

Recent scholarship, however, has begun to rethink the meaning, geographical placement, periodization, and effect of “Black Power”, revealing deep historical roots in black communities and a profound and far more positive legacy than previously indicated. This conference will bring together activists, scholars, and students to review and discuss the Black Power Movement, its manifestations, and continuing impact.

For more information:

Dr. Robert Chase’s Conference Updates

As a part of our efforts to educate the public about the scholarship that is being done here at the Avery Research Center here is a post written by the Public Historian, Dr. Robert Chase, about his upcoming conference.

In the Fall, Dr. Chase presented his research on the history of the prisoners’ rights movement and the construction of the carceral state to three conferences:  Rutgers University’s conference on “From Post Modern to Post Blackness”; University of Colorado, Boulder’s “Sunbelt Prisons and the Carceral State: New Frontiers of State Power, Resistance, and Racial Oppression” symposium; and at the Western History Association’s annual meeting.

Sunbelt Prisons and the Carceral State: New Frontiers of Racial Oppression, State Power, and Resistance

Conference Website

At the invitation of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Dr. Chase is presently coordinating a symposium and co-editing an anthology titled, Sunbelt Prisons and the Carceral State: New Frontiers of Racial Oppression, State Power, and Resistance.  This anthology and interdisciplinary symposium brings together scholars of the state and state formation, borderlands, Chicano/a history, the Black Power movement, politics and social movements.  It is co-sponsored by the Clements Center for Southwest Studies of Southern Methodist University and by the Center of the American West of the University of Colorado, Boulder.  The Clements Center has co-sponsored ten such symposiums, each of which has resulted in a published groundbreaking anthology based on a specific theme or field of pioneering historical studies.

Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander (image from

Declaring that today’s racially disproportionate rates of incarceration represent “a New Jim Crow,” legal scholar Michelle Alexander has advanced the argument that “We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” Historians should have something important to say about whether our age is indeed a “New Jim Crow,” and the history of region, geography, and space plays a crucial role in this reconsideration. Dr. Chase takes up Professor Alexander’s charge by considering the historic role of the American Southwest and Borderlands in shaping today’s contemporary era of mass incarceration and the construction of what many historians now call the “carceral state.”

Building on the innovative fall 2011 symposium held at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Center of the American West, the spring 2012 symposium (March 22-24) offers a different platform than the academic seminars of years past. This year’s seminar features a public history event and public policy symposium where some of the nation’s leading scholars, politicians, civil rights attorneys, formerly incarcerated activists, journalists, and community organizers in Dallas will collectively discuss the historical roots of mass incarceration and problems, possibilities, and potential solutions. The day-long event includes a series of four roundtable panels that will include dialogue with the audience. The final panel of the day will create a space for academics, students, and faculty to exchange ideas and experiences with those who have experienced incarceration as well those who have challenged the problem of mass incarceration through the legislature, the courts, and grass-roots activism. The day’s final panel will include Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (invited); Ernest McMillan – civil rights veteran and formerly incarcerated activist; Ray Hill – formerly incarcerated activist and host of “The Prison Radio Program;” Bill Habern – long-time civil rights and criminal defense attorney; and Lisa Graybill – legal director of ACLU, Texas.

Below is a recap of a conference that Dr. Chase attended in October 2011.

Narratives of Power-Center for Historical Analysis, Rutgers  University

From Black Modern to Post Blackness: A Retrospective Look at Identity.”

Conference Schedule

Conference Program

This conference addressed the changing narratives of power in a time of historical transformation. Inspired by the election of Barack Obama, media pundits, scholars, and the public more broadly are asking how this momentous shift in the United States’ polity has changed the way that we understand the American past and present. Given the history of New World slavery, segregation, and disfranchisement, the election of the country’s first black president has led many to reflect on the operation and exercise of power in the United States. Although his election has been widely celebrated by supporters, Barack Obama’s campaign highlighted many of the growing fault lines and demographic shifts within the American public. Shifting parameters of identity created both the opportunity for new coalition and division. One of the most striking elements of the election was the remapping of the U.S. electorate based on multiple vectors of identity and voting behavior. The mass media focused an unprecedented level of attention on region, gender, intergenerational change, immigration status and linguistic designation as analysts stressed the increasing power of new political constituencies.

Using both President Obama’s campaign and election as starting point, we plan to use this topical theme as an opportunity to create an expansive, interdisciplinary dialogue about the intersection, overlap, and conflict across different channels of power and identity, including race, gender, sexuality and class. We have chosen to include narrative because as decades of scholarship questioning the interrelation of author and subject have shown, an interrogation of how the story is told, by whom, and to what end is essential to the process of understanding power.

Robert Chase’s Recent Publication

Announcing the publication of Dr. Robert Chase’s article “Slaves of the State’ Revolt: Southern Prison Labor and a Prison-Made Civil Rights Movement” in Robert Zieger’s collected anthology, Life and Labor in the New, New South (University Press of Florida 2012).

Dr. Chase, the new public historian at Avery, argues that a prison-made civil rights movement developed across the American South by building on the lessons of George Jackson’s murder in California and the Attica 1971 prison uprising. This article demonstrates how inmates confronted a southern prison modernization narrative with the imagery of slavery and the prisoner as slave. By constructing a prison-made civil rights movement across racial lines behind bars, this inter-racial inmate coalition defied the legal, social, and political definition of prisoners as civilly dead and “slaves of the state.”

Congratulations Robert! I look forward to reading your article as well as those of your colleagues.

Pre-order it now on Amazon

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Charleston Branch Collection

For the past couple of weeks, I have been inventorying the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Charleston Branch Collection. The local branch was started in 1916 by individuals who believed in being an advocate for the African-American voice in both Charleston and South Carolina. The collection has been asked about by several researchers, which provided the opportunity to prioritize the inventorying and eventual full processing of this collection

The bulk of the collection I have inventoried so far ranges from 1988 to 1994; and while we were hoping for some earlier materials from the Association, the years we have provide insight into the social conditions for African Americans in Charleston and South Carolina.


The types of letters found in the collection include thank-you letters, cards, calls for boycotts of stores, media outlets, and petitions. In addition, there are memorandums from the NAACP National Branch about what issues are important to the branch, such as the Benjamin Hooks controversy and Clarence Thomas’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

Some of the most interesting letters and correspondence to read in the collection are from people who write to the branch asking for assistance. In the letters, it is possible to read the desperation, hope, anger, frustration, and a range of other emotions people have about their situation. Issues include discrimination in the workplace, wrongful termination, police brutality, wrongful imprisonment, custody issues, gender discrimination, etc. There are a few full court cases in the collection, while others are comprised of letters asking for assistance. Institutions and business that were accused of discrimination by the complainants range from institutions of higher education (ex. the Citadel) to grocery stores (ex. Piggly Wiggly) to the public school system to department stores. The amount of letters that the association received asking for this kind of assistance is disappointing, disturbing, and overwhelming. By reading these letters, one becomes more aware of how much injustice is in the American justice system, and I wonder what happened to these individuals.  I have not found a form that notes how the branch decided which cases to investigate; however, I imagine the branch wanted to help as many people as possible, but had to be selective because of limited resources. According, to a 1991 Freedom Fund Drive press release:

“The Branch is the reliable and trusted voice airing their [African Americans] grievances, articulating their hopes and expressing their frustrations—whether it be to a local employer or to the Governor of South Carolina.”

Programs and Publications

The collection contains some copies of the NAACP’s Crisis Magazine (circa 1980s) as well as the local branch newsletter sent to the members of the organization. There are records detailing special programs and events undertaken by the association such as their Annual Freedom Fund programs, the ACT-SO Golf Classic, the 1992 Gospel Concert, and the NAACP Annual Conventions (regional and national).


As one would imagine, the social issues of politics, education, and voting comprises a lot of the collection. Records of note are those that detail statistics about the number of African-American teachers in the Charleston County School System; the number of Black politicians in South Carolina; the importance of voting for Black politicians; the need for minority businesses in South Carolina and particularly Charleston; media biases; and efforts relating to the struggle to take down the Confederate flag from the state house dome.

Other Records

Other important records include the rules, constitution, branch manual of the NAACP; the meeting minutes and the agendas for the branch executive board, general body, and various committees; membership lists, officer positions, and membership drive information; local and national newspaper clippings; and records relating the NAACP’s role in helping the community rebuild after Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston in 1989.

Exhibit: Lorenzo Dow Turner

The pieces for the exhibit arrived yesterday and we are all excited to see it up and to have people come and view it with us next Thursday, Jan 12th.

Exhibit Opening Information

Exhibit Background Information

The Avery Research Center is excited to host “Word, Shout, Song: Lorenzo Dow Turner Connecting Communities through Language”, the world-class exhibition developed by the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Community Museum, in January 2012. This exhibition is a beautiful and thought-provoking assemblage of artifacts, photographs, and text that documents the life and work of Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner, whom many scholars consider as the first African-American linguist and the Father of Gullah Studies. It also examines the visceral interconnections between African diasporan cultures on three continents: the Gullah-Geechee communities of South Carolina and Georgia; the Afro-Brazilian community of Bahia, Brazil; and the West African cultures from which the other two were born.

The Turner family had been free for four generations by the time Dow Turner was born in 1890, which helped him pursue a stellar education that included an undergraduate degree from Harvard College and a Ph.D from the University of Chicago. His studies eventually led him to the South Carolina Lowcountry and his introduction to the Gullah language. He immediately began to see similarities between it and various African languages. Turner’s curiosity of a language that sounded much like English, yet was without formal academic study, led him to twenty years of research on the language and its people, including many sojourns to West Africa to expand his research.

Before Dow Turner’s research, the Gullah language was unclassified, unstudied, and considered informal gibberish. Using an inquisitive ear, Turner was able to eventually link Portuguese and English words to their myriad of African roots within Gullah, and “Word, Shout, Song” visually and audibly explains this in a magnificent exhibition
Although born on American soil and free at the time of Dow Turner’s studies, the speakers had retained the past of their enslaved ancestors and beyond to their African heritages. In that vein, the Gullah language is a syncretic fusion of the African, American, and European ties that weave through the speakers’ legacies.

Dow Turner’s research helped bridge the gap between the descendants of the enslaved people on the Lowcountry Sea Islands to the descendants of the enslaved people on the mainland—linguistically as well as culturally. The exhibit chronicles all of the research, trips, recordings, and findings through aural and visual means. To have an exhibit not only of this importance, but also of this stature, come to the College of Charleston is an honor and a landmark.

Various generous donations to the Avery Research Center have made this exhibition possible, including the Office of the President at the College of Charleston, MUSC, the MeadWestvaco Community Development and Land Management Group, the City of Charleston, the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the National Park Service.

Part 1: Introduction to Community Archives

For the Fall 2011 Avery Messenger newsletter, I am writing a brief piece about what community archives are, some of the reasons why one would do community archiving project, and some of the benefits for the archive and archivist. In this post, I will provide a little bit more information about the role of an archivist in a community archive project. This is part one of a five-series posts.   

In May 2011, I graduated with my Masters of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science (, where I focused on the intersection of archives and community informatics (  There is variation within the scholarly and academic community about what the definition of community informatics is and how it differentiates between social work, service learning, human-computer interaction (HCI), and other academic disciplines that aim to connect communities with technology. However, despite the variations, there is a central idea/concept that drives it: helping underserved and underrepresented communities bridge the Digital Divide (which in itself is a loaded term).

Community Archives ApproachThe definition of community can be varied; it does not just have to encompass a geographic boundary (i.e. a town, a neighborhood, a street), but also can be defined by gender, sexuality, race, religious affiliation, ethnicity, culture, occupation, organizational and corporate affiliation, etc.  Thus, when a community archiving project is developed the individuals involved have to define the scope and content of what they are collecting.

There is potential and possibilities as seen by the various projects done around the country and even the world to bring the stories and histories of these communities to the digital world. Examples include:

Aurora Hernandez with her daughter in Davenport, Iowa, 1952.

  • Mujeres Latinas Project—
    • This project documents the lives and contributions of Latinas and their families to Iowa history.
  • The Black Metropolis Research Consortium—
    • Is dedicated to making Chicago based archival holdings relating to African American history, culture, and politics more accessible to the public
  • eBlackCU (eBlack Champaign-Urbana)—
    • Is an online collaborative collection that documents the history and culture of African Americans in Champaign-Urbana (IL)
  • Alive in Truth: The New Orleans Disaster Oral History and Memory Project—
    • Consists of the stories of displaced people after Hurricane Katrina from 2005 to 2006. The oral histories were recorded at the Austin (TX) Convention Center.
  • Hurricane Digital Memory Bank—
    • Is a digital collection that presents the stories and a digital record of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita survivors

However, for African-American communities, one needs to preserve and collect the physical documents before one can put the material online to be accessed by people and preserved (with the proper digital preservation policies in place). This is because much of the history of an African-American community has been dispersed, lost, and/or destroyed by those who did not know the value of what they had in their homes and/or offices. In addition, it is also important to acknowledge the fact that scholars/researchers/students who do research in communities often do not report back to those within the communities—the sources of the work. Instead, this information is kept with the scholar/researcher/student and/or institution with which the person is affiliated. Thus, the work of an archivist who wants to collaborate with and develop a community archive program is twofold.

Untitled Item from Collection


  1. Provide information to communities about what the archive has about their specific community. (Note: Depending on your institution, this may not be clearly established, but think about what kinds of papers you have and if there is information/records about a community project done in the archived papers of the institution? Is there a student thesis that talks about the community? Are there maps of area? Etc.) Any type of connection (i.e. trust) that you can establish with the community is a start, especially if your institution has historically had a negative relationship with it. Doing this says this new project is going to be a give and take between the community and the archives. The more open and honest communication can be between the archival institution and the community the better. The archivist should not just push information on the organization(s)/individual(s)/institution(s); s/he is also learning from the community about its history, culture, and heritage.
  2. Assist and collaborate with organizations, institutions, and individuals (key and low key) to document, preserve, and collect the records/papers/materials that demonstrate the activity of the community (historical and current). Key organizations and institutions refer to the mainstream African-American organizations in the community that one automatically thinks about (ex. NAACP, the Black churches, and the Urban League). Key individuals refer to the leaders of these organizations as well as people within the community who are heavily involved in community activism and Civil Rights. Low-key organizations and institutions refer to those in the community that are small, grassroots, underground, and may not get the attention they deserve because of the populations they serve. Low-key individuals refer to those whom people do not notice or think are important, and they are usually members of low-key organizations and institutions. An example of this would be The New York City (NYC) Taxi Cab project, which consists of oral histories and records of eight NYC taxi drivers (, and the Black Gay and Lesbian Archives at the Schomburg Center for Black History and Culture of the New York Public Library.

Throughout the time I am here, I will continue to post more about what community archives are, what they aim to achieve, how to start one, and the challenges and opportunities they provide.

Brief Bibliography

  1. Bastian, Jeannette and Ben Alexander, eds. Community Archives: The Shaping of Memory. London: Facet Publishing, 2009.
  2. Huvila, Isto. “Participatory archive: towards decentralised curation, radical user orientation, and broader contextualisation of records management. “Archival Science 8 (2008): 15–36.
  3. Ketelaar, Eric. “Sharing: Collected Memories in Communities of Records.” Archives and Manuscripts 33 (2005): 4.
  4. McDonald, Amy S. “Out of the Hollinger Box and Into the Streets: Activists, Archives and Under-Documented Populations” Master’s paper, UNC, 2008.
  5. Vos, Victor-Jan and Ketelaar, Eric. “Amsterdam Communities’ Memories: Research into how Modern Media can be applied to Archive Community Memory. “  In Constructing and Sharing Memory: Community Informatics Identity and Empowerment, edited by Larry Stillman and Graeme Johanson, 330-342. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.


Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

Skip to toolbar