ANNOUNCING Call for Papers and Panels: “Unleashing the Black Erotic:Gender and Sexuality-Passion, Power and Praxis”

Avery Research Center is inviting proposals from across disciplines for its Fall 2013 Conference and Symposium: “Unleashing the Black Erotic: Gender and Sexuality-Passion, Power and Praxis”. This conference and symposium seeks to articulate the wide, varied, and expansive nature of gender and sexuality, and the performance of both. It also aims to teach us how to understand, embrace, and harness the power, beauty, and essence of the erotic as a key to our positive evolution as people.

We invite proposals from across disciplines. We are most interested in proposals that address aspects of the following topics:

  • Black bodies in popular culture
  • Black sexuality in television, film, and literature
  • Queering the Black body in art and performance studies
  • Iconic Black Queer motifs
  • Sex and Sexuality and Black Faith
  • Naughty, but nice: Black women and the politics of respectability
  • Black Erotica, Romance Novels, Comic Books
  • The Black Body and Public Health
  • Hip Hop and the Hypersexuality of Black Women
  • Alternative Modes of Black Love and Family
  • The Politics and Economics of Porn

The deadline for proposals is May 10, 2013; complete papers due by August 1, 2013. Please
send all paper and panel proposals to with your name, institution, title,
email address, presentation title and format, along with a 150 word abstract, brief bio, and
recent cv. Please put “Unleashing the Erotic” in your subject line. Presentations will be
limited to twenty minutes.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Patricia Williams Lessane, Executive
Director, Avery Research Center, at and Dr. Conseula Francis,
Associate Professor, English Department and Program Director, African American Studies
Program (AAST) at

Information regarding registration, lodging, and symposium schedule will be available on
the Avery Research Center’s website beginning in May 2013.

Ongoing Exhibit: The Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club: Fostering Civic Engagement, Intellectual Exchange and Female Solidarity


Members of the Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club (circa 1949)

In celebration of Women’s History Month, members of the Avery Research Center staff have organized an exhibit titled, The Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club: Fostering Civic Engagement, Intellectual Exchange and Female Solidarity. Located on the first floor, adjacent to the SMART classroom, the exhibit highlights the Phillis Wheatley Club’s commitment to female empowerment and social activism in the Charleston community by drawing its content from Avery’s archival holdings on the club, which includes: manuscripts, correspondence, printed material and ephemera.

The Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club was one of the earliest black women’s clubs in Charleston and was founded on December 5th, 1916 by Jeanette Keeble Cox. Mrs. Cox was the wife of Benjamin F. Cox, the first African American principal of the Avery Normal Institute. The mission of the club was “to promote interest in literary and community work and to lift others as they climb to higher heights.”The club’s meetings were held bi-monthly at the members’ homes and monthly dues were ten cents. Members of the club were lovers of literature and stated among their goals the promotion of self-expansion by establishing a forum for discussion of literary works, and contributing to the welfare of the Charleston community. At the time the club was founded, it was natural for it to be named after Phillis Wheatley—a former slave woman who, in the 18th century, became the first person of African descent to publish a book of poetry in English.

The Phillis Wheatley clubwomen sponsored events that brought international and nationally known blacks to the local Charleston community. Some of the club’s most famous guests were W.E.B. DuBois, Marian Anderson, Mary McCleod Bethune, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Charleston natives, Edwin Harleston and Edmund Jenkins. Additionally, throughout its nearly one hundred year history, the club has raised funds and donated its services to support organizations such as Jenkins Institute for Children, the NAACP, the YMCA, the YWCA– as well as local Charleston schools, writers and artists. Thus “while quietly expanding their opportunities in the public sphere and promoting higher education for women, ”the club performed numerous social services for Charleston’s black community— in addition to “providing social contact for individual black women in the city.”3

This exhibit is free and open to the public.


1. Wall text, The Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club, Avery Research Center, Charleston, S.C.

2. Johnson, Joan Marie. 2004. Southern ladies, new women: Race, region, and clubwomen in South Carolina, 1890-1930. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

3. Jones, Cherisse Renee. 1997. “Loyal women of Palmetto”: Black women’s clubs in Charleston, South Carolina: 1916-1965. Thesis (M.S.)–University of Charleston (South Carolina) and The Citadel, 1997.

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

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