Charleston Syllabus Prompts Discussions on Race


Following the tragedy at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston June 17, 2015, scholars around the world began compiling a #charlestonsyllabus to provide context for the attack, especially in regards to race relations, racially-inspired violence, and the history of race in South Carolina and the United States. This syllabus was conceived and coordinated by Chad Williams, associate professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University, and it follows the creation of separate syllabi created in the aftermath of other violent incidents that have occurred in the U.S., such as the fatal civilian confrontations with police in Baltimore, Md., and Ferguson, Mo.

In the wake of the Emanuel AME Church shooting, and in the spirit of these syllabi, the College of Charleston has compiled its own Charleston Syllabus featuring campus and Lowcountry events that focus on the issues of race relations, black culture in the U.S. and civil rights.

This Charleston Syllabus, compiled by Simon Lewis, professor of English at the College, is not meant to be an exhaustive account of all events at the College related to these themes. But participation in any of these events, Lewis believes, can help our community transcend existing narratives of “division, separation, and hatred.”

Statement from CLAW Director on the Emanuel AME Massacre

Dear Colleagues All,

In her most recent commentary on the Emanuel AME Massacre and Charleston’s response, Julia Eichelberger writes,  “It’s starting to seem possible that we could begin to accord our grief its proper weight. Grief could spur us to make things better, to undertake the much more confusing, much more uncertain work of justice and fairness, of a social infrastructure worthy of the name “community.” We’re succeeding, in this moment, at expressing our wish for that, and that is a start.”  Using Julia’s beautifully eloquent words as a starting point I want to set out some of my own thoughts both as an individual and specifically as the director of the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) program here at the College. Like everyone else I’ve had great difficulty articulating my response—I’ve made more false starts on this statement than I care to count—and I expect that this one too will fail to express what I want it to, and will hit false notes both in my ears and some of yours. So my apologies in advance for inevitably falling short.

Last week’s mass-murder at Mother Emanuel left us in shock and tears. The subsequent response at the prayer vigils at Morris Brown AME, at the TD Arena, and elsewhere, and the resumption of services at Emanuel, including last night’s prayer meeting, has shown a more defiant joy than any of us could have imagined.  Is it right to be proud of this city on such an occasion? Maybe it really is. We are not an integrated city, but we are one city, sharing in grief and outrage, and asserting a common desire for love and unity to overcome this latest manifestation of hatred and division that, though centuries old, still lingers. And all who live here now, today, are part of this beautiful city’s troubled, troubling, and often brutal history.

For the past 20 years or so the CLAW program has been exploring the nature of this shared history and the radically uneven ways in which different groups have experienced the “same” events. I’d like to think we have been working in exactly the same spirit and with the same ultimate end as set out in Julia’s words above: undertaking that confusing  and complicated work that leads to justice and fairness, and a social infrastructure worthy of the name “community.” This is why on a recent Facebook post I wrote that our work begins again.

Less than two weeks ago, but still days before our most recent end of innocence and complacency, Stephanie Yuhl, a historian whose book, A Golden Haze of Memory: The Making of Historic Charleston, takes Charleston to task for glossing over its history in the manner of the beguilingly beautiful watercolors of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, gave the final presentation at the CLAW-sponsored Southern Association of Women’s Historians conference. Although she still remains critical of Charleston’s history and its white elite’s narcissistic self-representation, she clearly also still loves this place, and her love is encouraged by the strides the city has made in the last few years to present a more comprehensive and inclusive story. In conversation after the presentation, Stephanie was light-hearted and upbeat.  No less harsh on past failures she told us that she thought “Charleston’s going to be all right.”  It was heartening and validating to hear her say so.

Four days later Dylann Roof vented his violent hatred in the basement of Emanuel AME, taking the lives of nine—nine—of our fellow citizens, including one of this community’s finest spiritual and political leaders.

I do not claim Clementa Pinckney as a personal friend, but we had worked together on a number of CLAW programs. At the end of 2012 he had allowed us to promote Emanuel AME as the go-to church for the “Watch Night” service on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation’s coming into effect on January 1st 1863.  He had twice allowed me to apply (unsuccessfully, alas, on both occasions) to the BBC to have the producers of their weekly television show “Songs of Praise come to Charleston” as part of the Jubilee Project or as part of our commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War.  Most recently he had stepped in at the very last minute to give the homily at our memorial service on Hampton Park in honor of all of the dead of the Civil War. You can see that thoughtful, wise and generous address on YouTube at, and read an account of it by Yale University historian David Blight at (Blight was actually anxious that Pinckney had been too generous in his comments). Immediately after the memorial service, Pinckney had had to go to another event at 4pm (I believe in response to the Walter Scott shooting), before ending the day at the Nat Fuller’s Feast reenactment that brought together an eclectic array of community leaders in the spirit of reconciliation—literally breaking bread at the same table (and partaking of a fabulous feast, too!). For Chef Kevin Mitchell’s account of that event in the form of his “Letter to Nat Fuller,” please check out, and for context on the original feast in 1865, take some time to explore the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI) online exhibition at

All of this is to show not just what a terrible terrible loss we have suffered as a community as a result of the murder of Reverend Clementa Pinckney and his eight parishioners, but also to show how intentionally the CLAW program has been working toward Julia’s “social infrastructure worthy of the name of community.” But where do we go from here, and how do we continue? Mercifully, the public response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, so much so that a number of commentators have become wary that we will again retreat into the complacent belief that the love and unity of the bridge demonstration, for instance, really means that Charleston is going to be “all right,” already is “all right” without any further structural change or any further self-scrutiny.  The CLAW program is absolutely committed to facilitating that further self-scrutiny as a means to effecting structural change. Indeed, for me, Roof’s attack reasserts for me the vital—life-and-death—importance of this work. I hope all at the College will join me in rededicating ourselves to our fundamental mission as educators in inculcating the wisdom (not technical knowledge) that is itself liberty. For all.

Part of that self-scrutiny must include the uncomfortable truth that for most of its history the College, as an exclusively white institution, has been part of the problem, and that without appropriate action and leadership we can still be—or at least be painted as—part of the problem. Today, however, and in the coming months, I believe we as a faculty have a unique opportunity to be part of the solution. Kevin Keenan circulated an e-mail yesterday indicating one way in which our choice of Freedom Summer as a common read enables us to hold the necessary dialogues. If you have suggestions for additional events or additional steps that we need to take, please share them with us so that come August we can set out an appropriate program that honors the memory of the men and women killed last week, and that lets us do our part in trying to ensure that no such event happens again.


Director of the Program in the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World

“The Dead of the Civil War Remembered: 150 Years Later”

On Sunday, April 19th, at 3pm, a brief but solemn service was held in Hampton Park, Charleston SC. A small crowd gathered in the park to honor the memory of all who died in the American Civil War, both Union and Confederate, black and white, enslaved and free, men, women, and children. After the Citadel Chamber Choir led the attendees in the singing of “God Bless America,” Lieutenant Colonel Joel Harris, Chaplain to the Corps of Cadets at the Citadel, began the service with an invocation. Then historian David Blight, the Class of 1954 Professor of History at Yale University, spoke to the audience about the historical significance of Hampton Park. He described what may have been America’s first Memorial Days, May 1, 1865—a ceremony at which African-American citizens of Charleston reinterred more than 200 Union prisoners-of-war previously buried in a mass-grave at the site. The day consisted of a parade, which included African-American troops of the 54th Massachusetts, the construction of a monument to the dead, sermons and readings from Scripture, and feasting and games. Blight thought it well that almost 150 years later we were gathered in that same space to honor and commemorate the dead of the Civil War. Following a singing of “America the Beautiful,” led by the Choir, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, gave a homily. He read from the nineteenth chapter of Second Samuel, in which King David mourns the death of Absalom, the son who rebelled against him. Pinckney urged the audience not only to remember the ultimate sacrifice of so many but also to honor their sacrifice by continuing to work for the ideals presented by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. The Choir then led the attendees in the singing of the “Navy-hymn” “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” and this was followed by a moment of silence, so that all could in their own way ponder and pray over all those who gave their lives in the war. A member of the Choir then played “Taps” as the audience continued to think and reflect. Rev. Harris brought the service to a close with a final prayer that reflected the solemn and conciliatory tone of the ceremony.

We would like to express our thanks to all who came out to join in the commemoration of the end of America’s bloodiest war and the honoring of all who paid the ultimate price in that terrible time of our national history.

CLAW Commemorates Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

On March 11, 2015, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program joined with the Bully Pulpit Series and Friends of the Addlestone Library to present, through the generous support of Wells Fargo, the Wells Fargo Distinguished Public Lecture for this semester. In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, Dr. Richard Carwardine presented a lecture entitled “The Religion and Politics of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.” Carwardine is the President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, where he studied as an undergraduate. He has written prolifically on American political and religious life in the nineteenth century, and his work includes a biography of Lincoln that won the Lincoln Book Prize in 2004 and was published in the U.S. as Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (2006). Carwardine was introduced by the Dr. Orville Vernon Burton, the executive director of the CLAW program. Burton is Creativity Professor of Humanities, Professor of History and Computer Science at Clemson University, and he is also the director of the Clemson Cyber Institute. Burton is also a prolific scholar, having authored and edited twenty books, including The Age of Lincoln (2007), which won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Literary Award for Nonfiction and was nominated for a Pulitzer.

In his lecture, Carwardine argued that the address provides a view into the connected world of politics and religion in nineteenth-century America. While the opening paragraph of the speech is rather matter-of-fact about the war situation, the remaining paragraphs are amazingly nuanced. Carwardine pointed out that Lincoln chose to be even-handed, as he did not lay the blame for the fighting on one side or the other. Lincoln continued by stating that it was American slavery, allowed by both North and South to continue, that was the cause of the war. Then Lincoln’s address took a turn towards the religious. Scholars have long debated Lincoln’s exact religious beliefs, beginning shortly after his death. Carwardine believes while Lincoln exhibited what could be termed “rational religion” in his earlier life, it seems that during his presidency he turned toward a more spiritual piety. This shift is evident in the second inaugural, for Lincoln states that a living God may be using the war as a judgment on North and South for perpetuating slavery so long. Carwardine noted that Lincoln’s intensely religious language shows how interconnected religion and politics could be in the period. The last paragraph, beginning with the famous lines “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” made clear the political purpose of Lincoln’s address. He asked for an end to the war that would put aside bitterness and focus on a reconciliation that would be just. In his conclusion Carwardine pointed out that Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was clearly a masterpiece of rhetoric and even American writing.

Following the lecture there was just enough time for Carwardine to answer a few questions. When quizzed about Lincoln’s view of American exceptionalism, Carwardine pointed out that at the time the United States was indeed a special case among nations. He added that Lincoln indeed saw the American struggle in international terms as a major part of the international struggle for freedom and human dignity. On a more hypothetical note, one audience member asked Carwardine what Lincoln’s reconstruction would have been like had he lived to carry it out. While there is no way to say for sure, Carwardine himself believes that while it would have been much different from Andrew Johnson’s, Lincoln’s effort would still have run against opposition in Congress. Thanks to all who came for making this commemorative event a rousing success!

CLAW Commemorates 150th Anniversary of the Capture of Charleston by the Union

Last week, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program commemorated the 150th anniversary of the occupation of Charleston by Union forces with two events.

First, on February 18th, the day Charleston fell 150 years ago, a panel discussion was held in College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library. Participating in the panel were Dr. Amy McCandless, Dr. Bernard Powers, and Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney. Dr. McCandless is Dean of the Graduate School, University of Charleston, South Carolina at the College of Charleston and has undertaken research on the history of South Carolina’s women. Dr. Powers is a Professor of History at the College of Charleston whose work on African-Americans in the Lowcountry is well represented by his book Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822-1865. Dr. Dulaney is the chair of the Department of History at the University of Texas at Arlington, and he previously worked at the College of Charleston and spent a number of years as director of the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture. Dr. McCandless began the panel by exploring the experiences of women during the siege, focusing on the diary of well-to-do Charleston resident Miss Emma Holmes. Miss Holmes’s disgust and grief over the fall of Charleston contrasted greatly with the joy and celebration of free blacks and formerly enslaved people, which Powers and Dulaney explored in their presentations. Free blacks who had fled the city, such as preacher Daniel Payne, returned and the African-American population lost no time in establishing churches and civic organizations and taking advantage of their freedom. Following the panelists’ presentations, a number of great questions were asked, including one about the attitudes of white citizens in the days following occupation and one about enslaved attempts to use the siege to escape captivity. These questions and others allowed the discussion to dig deeper into the history of Charleston and the Civil War.

Then, on February 20th, College of Charleston English professor Joseph Kelly led a discussion of his book America’s Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March toward Civil War. While much of Dr. Kelly’s research has focused on the work of James Joyce, he has also become very interested in Charleston’s history and its place in the American Civil War. At the beginning of the discussion, Kelly overviewed the driving argument of his book. In America’s Longest Siege, he argues that the actions of several individuals, including Charleston clergyman Bishop England as well as John C. Calhoun, led to the survival of slavery and the emerging view of slavery as a positive good. Kelly examines this uncompromising view through the lens of Charleston’s history and finds that it led to the declaration of secession which doomed the city to its eventual fate. Following Kelly’s opening remarks, several questions were brought up, such as one asking about the view of the Founding Fathers toward slavery and about John Rutledge’s role in the slavery compromises of the Constitutional Convention. This and other questions further explored the ideas brought up in Kelly’s book and their importance for our understanding of the conflict that ended 150 years ago.        

Southern Intellectual History Circle Annual Meeting!

The 2015 Annual Meeting of the Southern Intellectual History Circle is being coordinated by O. Vernon Burton, executive director of the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World program.

The Edgefield County Historical Society is pleased to announce that the Annual Meeting of the Southern Intellectual History Circle (“SIHC”) will be held in Edgefield on February 19-21, 2015.  This interdisciplinary group of scholars, mostly historians and students of literature and other humanities fields, includes some of the foremost authorities on Southern thought and culture from universities and colleges around the United States and abroad. It is expected that approximately fifty scholars will attend the three-day event.  The group gathers annually to hear and discuss presentations based on fresh research by its members on a broad range of topics related to the intellectual life of the South over the four centuries of its history.

One of the most active organizations of its kind in the state, the Edgefield County Historical Society hosted the SIHC’s meeting in 1999, and the SIHC accepted the Society’s invitation to return to Edgefield for its 2015 meeting.  This year the South Carolina Historical Society, the University of South Carolina’s Caroliniana Society, the Pearce Center for Professional Communication at Clemson University, Clemson University College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities will be co-sponsors of the event.  At the 1999 meeting, participants included C. Vann Woodward, one of the most renowned Southern historians of all time, Sheldon Hackney, then President of the University of Pennsylvania and Drew Gilpin Faust, now President of Harvard University.  The 1999 meeting was a resounding success, with many participants saying that their experience in Edgefield was the best that they had known in all of the years of the organization’s history.

The Society will provide session and meal venues unique to Edgefield, including historic churches, homes, and the Court House. Presentations will be open to area residents without charge. An unusual feature of the SIHC meetings is the separate blocks of time reserved for discussion of the presentations, led by other qualified scholars.  The conference will open on Thursday evening with a keynote address by Susan Donaldson, National Endowment of the Humanities Professor of English at the College of William and Mary.  At the Friday morning session, scholars who have read the keynote address in advance will comment upon it.  Other Friday sessions will be of varying lengths in which up to four scholars present their research formally with one or more respondents, having read the papers in advance, commenting upon them. At the Saturday sessions, all participants are invited to join in discussing the papers presented earlier.

The Edgefield County Historical Society believes that this event can have an enormously favorable impact on Edgefield County.  The dozens of eminent scholars who will be here for this event will be writing many papers and books in the coming years.  Their positive experience while they are here will hopefully result in more favorable treatment to our community.

Southern Intellectual History Circle

2015 Annual Meeting

February 19-21, 2015

Edgefield, South Carolina

Program Schedule

Thursday, February 19th

3 to 5:00 p.m.       Check-in at the Edgefield Inn

5:00 p.m.               Welcoming Reception – Oakley Park

6:30 p.m.               Dinner at the Old Edgefield Grill

8:00 p.m.               Session Begins – Edgefield County Courthouse

Introduction: Jim Farmer, University of South Carolina, Aiken

Keynote Address, Susan Donaldson, College of William and Mary

“Why We’re Still Talking about Southern Stories and Storytellers

in the Age of Obama, Tea Party Politics, and The Help”

10:00 p.m.             Adjourn to the Edgefield Inn for reception and mingling

Friday, February 20th

9:00 a.m.               Session – Trinity Episcopal Church

Responses to Keynote Address:

Chair, Vernon Burton, Clemson University

Eric Gary Anderson, George Mason University

  1. Fitzhugh Brundage, University of North Carolina

Natalie Ring, University of Texas, Dallas

Jay Watson, University of Mississippi

11:00-11:15           Coffee Break

11:15                     Session I – Edgefield First Baptist Church

Print Culture in the Nineteenth Century South

Chair: Margaret Abruzzo, University of Alabama

Beth Schweiger, University of Arkansas

Michael Winship, University of Texas, Austin

Responses: Jonathan Wells, University of Michigan

Sarah Gardner, Mercer University

1:15-2:30               Lunch – Willowbrook Cemetery (weather permitting)

Friday, February 20th (continued)

2:30-4:30               Session II – St. Mary’s Catholic Church

Revisiting and Revising the Lost Cause:

Chair, Doug Thompson, Mercer University

Art Remillard, Saint Francis University

Keith Harper, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Edward Crowther, Adams State University


Chad Seales, University of Texas (Austin)

Charles Reagan Wilson, University of Mississippi

6:00 p.m.               Leave on the bus for Redcliff Plantation via Graniteville

7:00 p.m.               Dinner at Redcliff

9:00 p.m.               Get on Bus to return to Edgefield Inn

9:30 p.m.               Social at the Edgefield Inn

Saturday, Feb 21

9:30-11:30             Session – Macedonia Church

Circle Discussion of Session I Margaret Abruzzo, Moderator

11:30-1:00             Lunch – Magnolia Dale house museum

1:00-3:00               Session – Edgefield United Methodist Church

Circle Discussion of Session II: Doug Thompson, Moderator

For those who are not leaving immediately after the last session, tours will be available in the afternoon and an evening dinner party given.

February 5th: News from H-Atlantic section of H-Net

Lewis B. H. Eliot, a PhD candidate at the University of South Carolina, is working to form a panel at the American Historical Association’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Atlanta. He is looking for papers that explore the wider Atlantic World’s attitudes toward the American Civil War.

Eliot can also be reached at

Columbia University and the London School of Economics are seeking applicants for the Fall 2015 entry into their MA/MSc program in International and World History. By working with historians at Columbia University and the London School of Economics, students in the two-year program explore the transnational forces that have influenced and continue to influence our world. The program offers summer research fellowships and financial aid opportunities.

American Quarterly is launching a Call for Papers for its 2016 special issue. Tentatively titled “Tours of Duty and Tours of Leisure,” the special issue will focus on the convergences of militarism and tourism as crucial manifestations of United States imperial strategy. Submissions are due by August 1st, 2015.

Michael J. Jarvis, Associate Professor of History at the University of Rochester, is holding an archaeology field school on Smiths Island, Bermuda from May 23 and June 28, 2015. The field school will investigate a range of 17th and 18th century sites on Smiths Island, including one of Bermuda’s first home sites. Students will participate in fieldwork as well as learn about Bermuda’s history and the early modern Atlantic World. Deadline to apply is March 1st.

The application can be downloaded at Jarvis’s department website:

Link to the project’s flyer:

News from H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online

Below you’ll find news from the H-Atlantic section of the Humanities and Social Sciences Online, as well as links for the various bits of news.

New Book on Atlantic Slavery and Childhood:

In his new book Amistad’s Orphans: An Atlantic Story of Children, Slavery, and Smuggling (Yale University Press), Benjamin N. Lawrance reconstructs the stories of the six children aboard the schooner La Amistad whose lives were forever altered by the slave revolt. By exploring their stories, Lawrance sheds new light on Atlantic slavery, slave smuggling, and child slavery in the nineteenth century.


New Online Collections in Atlantic World history from Readex and the Library Company of Philadelphia:

Readex, in partnership with the Library Company of Philadelphia, will launch three new collections in March of 2015: African History and Culture, 1540-1921; Black Authors, 1556-1922; and Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920, each of which is based on the Library Company’s preeminent Afro-Americana collection.


Faculty and Postdoctoral Fellowships from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition:

Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition desires applications for its 2015-2016 Fellowship Program. The GLC seeks to promote an understanding of the institution of slavery from the earliest times to the present day, and especially welcomes proposals that would utilize Yale University’s special collections or other research collections in the New England area. For more details about fellowship requirements and application process, follow the link:


Also, for those doing research on Atlantic World society or economy, this fellowship might be of interest to you:

Congrats to Adam Mendelsohn!

The Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program would like to announce that Adam Mendelsohn, a member of the CLAW Steering Committee, has won a 2014 National Jewish Book Award for his book The Rag Race: How Jews Sewed Their Way to Success in America and the British Empire (New York University Press). In his book Mendelsohn explores how “rag picking” and dealing in secondhand clothes served as a pathway for Jews to enter the middle and upper classes. Congratulations to you, Adam!   

Mapping the Freedman’s Bureau: An Interactive Research Guide

New Website Helps Researchers Locate Reconstruction-Era Records for African American Genealogy and History

For Immediate Release

Angela Walton-Raji (
Toni Carrier (

Did you know that the majority of Freedmen’s Bureau records are now digitized and available online for free? Did you know that there are also digitized images of the records of other institutions that served newly-freed African Americans during Reconstruction, such as the Freedman’s Savings and Trust?

Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier have built a new website called “Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau – An Interactive Research Guide” ( to assist researchers in locating and accessing records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, Freedmen’s hospitals, contraband camps and Freedman’s Bank branches.

Researchers can use the website’s interactive map to learn which of these services were located near their area of research interest. If the records are online, the map provides a link to the records that tell the stories of newly-freed former slaves in the United States. The site also maps the locations where African Americans who served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) fought in battle.

The goal of this mapping project is to provide researchers, from the professional to the novice, a useful tool to more effectively tell the family story, the local history and the greater story of the nation during Reconstruction.

“Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau – An Interactive Guide” is available at