CofC Celebrates Life of Activist Septima Clark With New Exhibit, Mural
Many achievements of Charleston native, educator and activist Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) took place at locations on and near the College of Charleston campus. Clark was born at 105 Wentworth Street in 1898 (now part of the CofC campus) and was a student and later a teacher at the Avery Normal Institute (now the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston) at 125 Bull St.. In 1978, the College, during a ceremony in the Cistern Yard, awarded Clark an honorary doctorate in humane letters for 40 years of work as an educator, civil rights leader and advocate for the underprivileged.
Above: Kameelah Martin dressed in traditional white attire worn by initiates of the Yoruba religion. Initiates wear all white for a year as well as for a week after undergoing the Yoruba initiation. White symbolizes a rebirth. (Photo by Catie Cleveland)
Kameelah Martin, dean of the Graduate School and professor of African American studies and English at the College of Charleston, has spent the last 10 years researching the ancient Yoruba religion of West Africa, a religious practice that came to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade. The practice has flourished in places with large Catholic communities like Cuba, a country that is known for having the most pristine practice outside of Nigeria.
The HistoryMakers is a unique collection of oral history videos that provides an unprecedented and irreplaceable record of African American lives, history, and culture. The collection includes over 12,000 hours of video oral history interviews covering a variety of topics and fields including the arts, business, civic engagement, education, entertainment, law, medicine, and much more. Learn more about The HistoryMakers here.
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origin story outlines a family history of distant sisters, grieving mothers and daughters, and alcoholic fathers. These poems take us from Kansas to Korea and back again in an attempt to reconnect with estranged family and familial ghosts divided by years of diaspora. An interrogation of cultural and personal myths, origin story wrestles with the questions: Who will remember us? How do we deal with the failures of memory? Whose stories are told?
My Soul Is a Witness: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching by Mari N. Crabtree
Black southerners often shielded their loved ones from the most painful memories of local lynchings with strategic silences but also told lynching stories about vengeful ghosts or a wrathful God or the deathbed confessions of a lyncher tormented by his past. They protested lynching and its legacies through art and activism, and they mourned those lost to a mob’s fury. They infused a blues element into their lynching narratives to confront traumatic memories and keep the blues at bay, even if just for a spell. Telling their stories troubles the simplistic binary of resistance or submission that has tended to dominate narratives of Black life and reminds us that amid the utter devastation of lynching were glimmers of hope and an affirmation of life.
My Soul Is a Witness traces the long afterlife of lynching in the South through the traumatic memories it left in its wake. She unearths how African American victims and survivors found ways to live through and beyond the horrors of lynching, offering a theory of African American collective trauma and memory rooted in the ironic spirit of the blues sensibility—a spirit of misdirection and cunning that blends joy and pain.
In the early United States, a Black person committed an act of resistance simply by reading and writing. Yet we overlook that these activities also brought pleasure. In her book, Reading Pleasures: Everyday Black Living in Early America, Tara A. Bynum tells the compelling stories of four early American writers who expressed feeling good despite living while enslaved or only nominally free. The poet Phillis Wheatley delights in writing letters to a friend. Ministers John Marrant and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw memorialize their love for God. David Walker’s pamphlets ask Black Americans to claim their victory over slavery. Together, their writings reflect the joyous, if messy, humanity inside each of them. This proof of a thriving interior self in pursuit of good feeling forces us to reckon with the fact that Black lives do matter.