Dr. Bernard Powers – African American and Slavery Studies

Dr. Bernard Powers is a departmental director and professor emeritus at the College of Charleston whose research focuses on African American history and culture and slavery’s role in American history.  

Dr. Powers began studying history at Northwestern University. During his time there, he developed a specialized interest in American history. With a pre-developed interest in African Studies, Powers’ interests in African American and slavery studies began to take shape after observing the late Dr. Sterling Stuckey. Stuckey was a distinguished professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Riverside. He specialized in American slavery, the arts and history, and Afro-American intellectual and cultural history. Dr. Powers graduated from Northwestern University with a M.A. and Ph.D. in American history. Powers’ research of slavery in America inherently brought about a strong connection to Southern Studies.

Throughout the majority of Charleston and general South Carolina history, the region was populated by a majority of African Americans. 40% of all slaves that were brought into America were imported via the Charleston harbor. African Americans, as a result, had an especially large impact on the cultural development of the region. This piqued Dr. Powers’ interests and drew him to the College of Charleston. He began teaching history at the college in 1992 and taught until 2018. In 2018, he founded and began directing the Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston (CSSC). This program studies the influence and activity of African American slaves in the Charleston area and, more specifically, at the College of Charleston. CSSC is a part of a broader organization that studies the relationship between slaves and Universities. The organization is called the University Studying Slavery Consortium and it is a multi-institutional collaboration. Dr. Powers describes CSSC as a, “think tank,” that answers important questions about the role of both slaves and slaveholders in the running and construction of the College of Charleston.

Dr. Powers works often with projects independent of the College of Charleston. Powers is currently the president of the International African American Museum located on the Cooper River in Charleston. The museum has been in the works for over 20 years and is projected to open in 2022. It will be the premier African American museum in the Southeast. Dr. Powers has also done research on the African Methodist Church. AME was the first African American independent religious denomination in the country and its presence in America lies directly in Powers’ field of study.

 Powers also researches the modern sociopolitical aspects of the confederate monuments across the South and specifically in Charleston. He believes that the removal of the John C. Calhoun monument was a huge step in the right direction for the Charleston community. He says that, despite his thorough knowledge in the field, he never would’ve expected the monument to come down in his lifetime. Powers believes that this is one of the most fascinating and exciting things about his studies and says that, oftentimes, “you think you understand a situation, then something comes out of left field and surprises you.” He is now working to install monuments of important, positive African American historical figures where the confederates once stood.

Dr. Annette Watson (Political Science)

Dr. Annette Watson is a geographer who works as an Associate Professor in the Political Science department at CofC with a specialty in Human Environmental Geography. She teaches courses on environmental geography, Indigenous/Native American studies, and political ecology. Her research has focused on subsistence economies of North America, natural resource management, and the effect of climate change on indigenous wildlife policy. Dr. Watson got a B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic, an M.A. in Northern Studies from University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and a Ph.D. in Geography from University of Minnesota.

At the College of Charleston, Dr. Watson teaches Reading the Lowcountry Landscape (GEOG 219), where students learn about the coastal area of the South where CofC is located. In this class, students use a variety of geographical techniques to analyze places in the Lowcountry. Dr. Watson has also contributed to the field of Southern Studies by collaborating with several Gullah/Geechee communities to “understand their connection to the ecology of the Sea Islands” and the effect of gentrification on their economies. She even participates in the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank, which consists of community representatives and academics who research local Gullah communities. Through her collaborations, she has focused on the subsistence economies of these communities. In terms of her personal connection with the South, she says that she has “lived in Charleston since 2008, when [she] first was hired to teach at the College.” Along the way, she has developed many personal and professional relationships with the people who live in the region.

Dr. Watson told me that historical artifacts like “the shell midden rings left by Indigenous cultures from thousands of years ago” and “the sites of some of the earliest European settlement in the colonial era” are a major part of what makes the South such a unique place.” She noted that the varied histories that exist in the South provoke different responses across the cultures of the South and beyond. This is part of what she calls the continuous negotiation of Southern culture. The rich and diverse history of the region is what “produces the uniqueness of the South (and its sub-regions)”, according to Dr. Watson.

 Currently, Dr. Watson is continuing her research on Gullah/Geechee communities in the Lowcountry. She also recently conducted research on wildlife management and salmon fisheries conflict. Finally, Dr. Watson expressed her hope that some students in this class take her Reading the Lowcountry Landscape class at some point!


Dr. Gibbs Knotts- Political Science


Dr. Gibbs Knotts is currently the Interim Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at the College as well as a faculty member of the Southern Studies department.  Since he.   came to the College, he has been able to use his reformed view of the South to further the department and all the students that pass through it. His childhood as a “fraud” southerner has given him a unique perspective and respect for the South and everything he teaches. After obtaining degrees from both UNC and Emory, he has evolved from an “ashamed southerner” to someone that has a healthy respect for the evolution and complexities of the region.  Through his time at the College of Charleston, he has met other individuals that share similar thoughts about the South as well as music and authors, which has grown his interest in the region and its issues.  

Dr. Knotts has written several books throughout his career at both WCU and here at the College.  Through his work, he has studied the topics related to Southern Studies, such as the southern identity, which led him to co-author a book with another professor he met in his time at Western Carolina University.  Along with Dr. Christopher Cooper, Dr, Knotts wrote The Resilience of the Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People.  He has also written on topics more related to politics, which he also teaches at the College.  This resulted in a book he published in 2020 on the South Carolina Presidential Primary and it’s impact on the nation, as it is the first primary in the South.  He says that working as a professor has allowed him to be a “lifelong student” in both the Southern Studies department and beyond. 

Currently, Dr. Knotts is working on a project regarding the southern accent and the assumptions that can be made by hearing one.  This particular project involves the perception of southern politicians in comparison to those without an accent, and so far the results have shown that people prefer politicians without an accent.  He plans to add additional variables to the study before publishing it as an article sometime in the future. 


Leah Worthington (Lowcountry Digital History Initiative)

Leah Worthington is technically a librarian at the College of Charleston where she works to codirect both the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative and the Lowcountry Digital Library. She first came to the south to pursue her masters degree in History through the College of Charleston. Since the college did not offer a public history masters at the time she pursued internships with both of the programs she now helps direct alongside her degree in History in order to have a background that is fitting for her public history career. The Lowcountry Digital History Initiative is a collection of permanent online history exhibits and publications that tend to focus on more unrepresented history of the lowcountry. The Lowcountry Digital Library, though often confused, is different than the digital history initiative. The point of this program is to help make archives that store history about the lowcountry digital and accessible when the owner of the archive does not have the resources to do so themselves. What she days at the Digital History Initiative is manages the day to day operations. This includes finding authors to write for exhibits reading over said writings and working with graduate students to help them find pictures and write captions that can go along with exhibits as well. For the Digital Library the majority of her work has to do with verifying and digitizing the works that have to be put online so that they can be properly archived. When asked about why she chose these jobs in particular she explained some about public history. She told me how there was front of house work like giving tours on history and back of house work such as making sure information gets displayed. She said that, “I like the intellectual side of the backend or back of the house work” because of fact checking and making sure the public receives the right information. For the foreseeable future she plans to continue working on both of these projects and to constantly improve them.

Professor Joe Kelly (English)

Dr. Joe Kelly is a professor in the English department at the College of Charleston. He is currently the director of the Irish and Irish American Studies and has taught classes in modern Irish literature, modern British literature, composition, and western civilization. When Professor Kelly was 15, he moved from his home in New Jersey to Texas, which would later have a large impact on his career field. Professor Kelly would go on to attend the University of Dallas to get his bachelor’s degree in English and he would then attend the University of Texas at Austin to receive both his masters and doctorate in English. 

Being from an “old catholic Irish family”, Professor Kelly had a large interest in Irish literature and has written many pieces on the famous Irish author James Joyce. Although it may seem that Irish culture has little to do with the south, Professor Kelly does discuss how Irish nationalism was inspired by the civil rights movement in southern states. While he didn’t study the south specifically, Professor Kelly’s research and location in the south provided him the opportunity to write an article on Irish history in Charleston. After learning about the Irish history in the south, specifically looking towards Catholic Bishop John England, Professor Kelly took a turn in his career and began to look more at history than just literary criticism. He describes the situation as “it was just the fact that I happened to be living in the south that led to this encyclopedia article and then my fascination in writing this 500 word encyclopedia article led to this book which really changed the course of my career and I became, I would describe myself now as somebody who rights the history of ideas as opposed to the literary criticism”. Many of Professor Kelly’s works would now showcase this shift towards a different type of narrative. 

In his most recent novel Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin, Professor Kelly offers a different perspective to the beginning of America that focuses on reconstructing the confounding mythology of American history. He states that “It’s not so much that I’m interpreting things as I’m trying, myself at least in a small part, to contribute to that myth making”. In another one of his works that focuses more directly on the south, America’s Longest Siege: How Charleston Caused the Civil War, Professor Kelly is able to showcase the impact slavery had on Charleston culture which then affected the start of the Civil War. Both of these novels use the new type of narrative that Professor Kelly discovered while writing on the Irish south.

Professor Kelly’s current project is a novel showcasing the battle between two ideologies, liberal democracy and fascism, between World War l and World War ll. He plans on writing a narrative to show how modern writers were able to shift American culture in a way that allowed liberal democracy to succeed.

Professor Karen Chandler (Arts Management)

Karen Chandler is the Director of the Graduate Certificate in Arts and Cultural Management at the College of Charleston. She is also the Co-Founder of the Charleston Jazz Initiative and has researched the impact of Southern Jazz musicians on American and European history. Chandler has had experience directing the College of Charleston’s Research Center for African American History and Culture, specifically leading the arts and cultural programs. She received her Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Hampton University, her Master’s Degree for Music Education from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. for Studies in Arts and Humanities at New York University. Chandler was won many honors and awards pertaining to her work in South Carolinian connections to Jazz and African American Heritage. She has also published work focusing on Gullah Culture, Charleston Jazz, Management in the Arts, and other related topics.

Chandler’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee influenced her interest in studying the music and piano work of Southern African American composers as a child. Gathering the influence of both classical European music mixed with her connection to the Black Baptist churches of the South, Chandler was nurtured in two culturally mixed and interconnected backgrounds of music. Beyond personal connections to the South and its musical and cultural heritage, Chandler has continuously centered her professional work around similar topics. In much of her independent research, she has concentrated on the impact of Charleston’s Gullah music on the development of jazz in both the United States and Europe. Furthermore, Chandler confirms that “Gullah rhythms and musical Africanisms of Charleston deserve attention in the jazz canon as they are an undeniable American artifact.” In addition to her distinguished and plentiful publications, Chandler is currently “working on a jazz anthology based on the work of the Charleston Jazz Initiative.” She is also working on an extension of her 2018 essay, “Bin Yah (Been Here). Africanisms and Jazz Influences in Gullah Culture.”

Professor Jean Everett (Biology)

Professor Jean Everett is a Senior Instructor in the Biology department at the College of Charleston, whose expertise is on the natural environment of the south. She received her PhD in forest ecology and botany from North Carolina State University, her MS in environmental sciences with an emphasis on ecology from the University of Virginia, and her BS in forest resource management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Her interests include plant community and ecosystem interactions, forest ecology, seed banks, restoration ecology, particularly in longleaf pine systems, and rare plant and plant habitat surveys. 

Even though Professor Everett has lived in Charleston for almost 40 years, she does not consider herself a Southerner because most of her definitions of “southerners” are “quite negative based on experience”. She mentioned that she and her husband came to Charleston as “reluctant transfers for the company [her] husband worked for” because of a “scarce job market”. She did say that she would consider herself a mid-Atlantic southerner because it doesn’t have as close of an association with the “racist… conservative politics” that are typically tied to the deep south. 

Professor Everett has conducted several plant surveys for various state and national agencies, mainly for “rare plants in the Francis Marion National Forest”. She has helped relocate “several endangered plant populations” on SC Heritage Preserves. She has also done work with The Nature Conservancy which is a non-profit that helps combat climate change and protect our natural resources. Her expertise is on the Longleaf pine ecosystem. She is interested in the agricultural and ecological impacts that the declining population of longleaf pine has had on our society. She also mentioned the negative stereotypes that are associated with the longleaf pine such as “women sweeping the pine needles from dirt yards” when in reality, it was just a precassion for stopping the frequent fires from spreading. Her connection to the Southern Studies program is giving lectures on the dominant ecosystem of the longleaf, particularly in an agricultural aspect.

Professor Michael Lee (Communication)

Professor Michael Lee is a Communications professor at the College of Charleston with a Ph.D. in Communication studies, an M.A. in Communication, and a B.A. in Political Science. Besides teaching courses that focus on public speaking, argumentation, persuasive managing, political campaigns, and media in politics as well as researching political branding and audience responsiveness in American politics, Professor Lee is also the director of graduate studies at the College of Charleston. As one can see, communications is a wide-range field of study. 

Professor Lee makes clear that Communications “as a field is quite diverse,” offering possibilities in many different types of work including marketing, media, advertising, PR work, and consumer research. So, when asked to define communications, Lee led me to the original definition of rhetoric (a sub-area he studied) explaining it “as the faculty of observing the means of persuasion in any particular case. To drive this point even further, Lee stated that from his teaching, he wants his students “to become better arguers.” He says, “I hope that they’ll be more attuned to making precise arguments with plausible evidence, and I hope they’ll demand precise arguments with plausible evidence from others.”

Through communications, Lee is directly involved in Southern Studies personally and professionally. His personal connection to the south grew strongly in his time at the University of Georgia where he discovered college debate, which was the spark that became a wildfire of interest in communications for Professor Lee. In fact, he went on to write a book called Creating Conservatism: Postwar Worlds that Made an American Movement that deals with the postwar growth of conservatism and conservative politics. When asked what he wants his readers to take away from the book, Lee said, “I hoped that readers would understand that the growth of conservatism as a movement was tied to 10 or so key books all written after World War II.  I wanted readers to understand that the key words and phrases of conservative politics are directly tied to several sacred texts.” Because of the book’s immense success, Lee has spoken about his findings at top-of-the-line Universities such as University of Richmond, MIT, and University of Minnesota (where he earned his Ph.D.).

Becoming a successful communications academic is not only about hard work. Success in all fields comes to those who put in the work AND attempt every day, to the best of their ability, to enjoy life with a fine set of morals. Lee exhibits both of these extremely important factors and attempts to instill them in his students as well. To prove this, I asked Professor Lee what he pushes his students to achieve, and he said, “ I’d like them to enjoy their lives and make the world a little better at the same time.”

As an extra, interesting piece of this blog post, I decided to have Professor Lee choose one of his favorite quotes. He responded with a very timely and telling George Orwell quote: “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” 


Professor Allison Welch (Biology)

Professor Allison Welch teaches Biology of Sex and Gender; Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation Biology; and Herpetology here at the College of Charleston. She is originally from the Midwest but later decided to move down south. She got her B.S. from Truman University, her Ph.D. from University of Missouri, and her Post-doc from University of North Carolina. After school at North Carolina, she continued to live there for about 20 years.

At a first glance, I thought I would be asking questions about culture, music, or food. Professor Welch has a unique part in sustainability with respect to the South. She engages her students into her classes and they learn to appreciate what the South has to offer, naturally. Since she teaches these higher level biology courses, she has labs and projects for her students to truly connect with the material. She believes her class is like a “plug into the real world.” One specific example from her class happened over the summer. She described it as, “Two students did lab research this summer, they began collecting data on increase solidity levels on toad tadpoles.” She explained that these animals are affected by flooding and rising sea water levels. Welch sees her doing her part through this and explains it as, “I

See the source imagethink the preservation of our environment is a key part of preserving our culture as well.” She also mentioned she usually has field trips throughout the school year but because of the pandemic, all of those trips got cancelled. Another project she is involved in is an alternative for the field trip. Professor Welch explains this project involves research on amphibians and reptiles of South Carolina. She describes the overall goal like this, “This is a cooperative effort with the South Carolina Natural Resource Center to help their efforts.” Her students work with a department of the state to help maintain the natural environment in whatever area they are working on during that project. Overall, Professor Welch does a lot for the sustainability of the South and I think she enjoys it too.

Professor Julia Eichelberger (English)

Dr. Julia Eichelberger has taught at the College of Charleston since 1992 and became the director of the college’s Southern Studies program in 2017. She is currently Marybelle Higgins Howe Professor of Southern Literature. She attended Davidson College for her bachelor of arts in the english language and literature/letters. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is where she earned her PdD in the same subject. Born in South Carolina, she moved around the Low Country throughout her life. Even growing up, Dr. Eichelberger was aware of America’s views of the South. Media and literature throughout the country make it clear their condescending viewpoints. Thus, it’s no surprise she grew up with an internalized want to be normal or “Northern”. True, the South has many issues to be addressed: poverty as a class system, the upkeep of white supremacy, but she believes the South is largely misunderstood. Eichelberger grew up in a household surrounded by social justice which illuminated these issues to her since childhood. Such influences later led Eichelberger to become interested in studying literature; examining characters in a world like our own who adapt with rules and assumptions made by some ulterior power. 


This study of literature brought Eichelberger to her focus upon Eudora Welty. She has published two works upon Welty: Teaching the Works of Eudora Welty: Twenty-First Century Approaches, and Tell About Night Flowers: Eudora Welty’s Gardening Letters, 1940-1949. Welty has influenced Eichelberger’s teachings through her narrative writings of the South. Her ability to capture the Southern voice, humanizing the region by its citizens rather than characterizing it, gives a new perspective. Thus, Eichelberger values the telling of Southern history through stories and narratives as opposed to the easily villainized South in other forms of media. She claims it creates a connection to history and literature as the reader can see themselves within the narrative’s cast. History becomes reality, making present issues within the South, such as racism, easier to understand. Eichelberger believes literature creates a clear understanding of how conditions came to be and how we can continue writing in order to improve our own society.


This idea is crucial in Eichelberger’s course. She aims to help students improve and celebrate Southern culture. She brings to light the realization that racism not only happens in the South. Just as activism is not exclusive to the North. She asks students to be proud and enjoy all kinds of Southern culture. There are traditions to embrace and help us understand who we are. Eichelberger has allowed the Southern Studies department to show how lucky we are to be a part of something much bigger than our education.