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

SAWH Triennial Conference at the College of Charleston, June 11-14, 2015

From Thursday, June 11th to Sunday, June 14th, 2015, the College of Charleston will host the Southern Association of Women Historians’ (SAWH) Tenth Southern Conference on Women’s History. This year’s theme is “Re-membering/Gendering: Women, Historical Tourism, and Public History.” The conference is co-sponsored by Clemson University, The Citadel: Military College of South Carolina, and the College of Charleston.

This four-day conference will bring scholars from across the US South and the nation to Charleston to present on a wide range of topics. SAWH President, Lorri Glover, notes, “the research on the conference program is innovative and interdisciplinary, offering fresh insight into virtually every dimension of southern and gender history. The professional panels are as rich, speaking to the teaching, research, and career needs of our members.” Glover adds, “We come to SAWH for the intellectual stimulation and professional networking.”

SAWH was founded in 1970 and its membership includes over seven hundred women and men from around the world. The organization has several purposes: to stimulate interest in the study of southern history and women’s history, to advance the status of women in the historical profession in the US South, to provide a forum for women historians to discuss issues of professional concern, and to publicize and promote issues of concern to SAWH members.

Through funding support from the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program’s (CLAW) Wells Fargo Distinguished Public Lecture series, this year’s conference will feature three plenary sessions with distinguished scholars that are free and open to the public.


JUNE 11, 5:00 pm, Alumni House at The Citadel
Keynote Lecture: “The Limits of Commemoration: Civil Rights Memory and the Enduring Challenge of Innocence,” Renee Romano, PhD, Oberlin College
Overview: Recent decades have witnessed a flurry of commemorative activity about the black freedom struggle and the history of racial violence in the United States, from the building of museums and monuments to the marking of anniversaries and the celebration of holidays. At the same time, racial inequalities remain deep and pervasive, as does ra­cial violence in the form of police harassment and killing of people of color. In this keynote address, Renee Romano will bring togeth­er her work on historical memory and on civil rights-era violence to explore the relationship between commemoration and racial justice and to ask what role commemoration can play in helping achieve what James Baldwin described as one of the most powerful barriers to change: the willful ignorance of white Americans of the depth and extent of racism and racial violence in the nation’s history.


JUNE 12, 5:00 pm, Stern Center Ballroom at the College of Charleston

Plenary Lecture: “Making Public the Most Private: Children, Families, and Household as a Challenge to Historians,” Susan J. Pearson, PhD, Northwestern University; James D. Schmidt, PhD, Northern Illinois University; Marcia Chatelain, PhD, Georgetown University.

Overview: “Children, Families, Household as a Challenge to Historians” presents the experiences of historians uncovering the seemingly private spheres of home and family in various archives. By examining how the state and its institutions shape the inner lives of citizens, the panelists will engage the audience in strategies for uncovering these private stories.


JUNE 13, 5:00 pm, Stern Center Ballroom at the College of Charleston

Plenary Lecture: “Women, Historical Tourism, and Public History in the Lowcountry,” Katherine Mellen Charron, PhD, North Carolina State University; Leslie M. Harris, PhD, Emory University; Stephanie Yuhl, PhD, College of the Holy Cross.

Overview: In this plenary session, prominent scholars consider the role of gender, race, and class in representations of the Lowcountry region throughout a range of public history contexts. This discussion draws from each panelist’s research on Lowcountry history, from the colonial period to the twentieth century civil rights movement.


Registration to attend all panel sessions and presentations for the SAWH conference will be available onsite, at $100 for SAWH members, $150 for nonmembers, and $60 for graduate students. Please bring a check or exact change to the registration desk on the first floor of the Stern Center.

For a complete listing of SAWH 2015 Conference sessions and registration times, check out the program here. (

For more information about SAWH, check out their website here. (

Questions? Contact Megan Taylor Shockley,


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

New CLAW Publication: The Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meanings of the American Civil War


The CLAW program is pleased to announce the publication of David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis’s new book, The Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meanings of the American Civil War. This edited volume developed from CLAW’s  “Civil War—Global Conflict” conference, which was held at the College of Charleston in March 2011 as part of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War. It is the twentieth publication in the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World book series with the University of South Carolina Press.

The Civil War as Global Conflict attempts to expand the insular national and regional narratives that have shaped much of the popular and scholarly discussions of the history of the US Civil War. As Gary W. Gallagher, Nau Professor of History at the University of Virginia and author of The Union War says, “The essays in this welcome volume place aspects of the Civil War within a spacious world context. Taking up topics that address economics, diplomacy, ethnicity, politics, gender, race, and memory, they remind us that the greatest military event in American history reverberated far beyond the shores of the United States and the Confederacy.”

Highly distinguished Civil War scholars such as James M. McPherson and Aaron Sheehan-Dean examine the struggles over slavery and sovereignty in the United States in the context of other conflicts and political developments elsewhere in the western hemisphere. Although the Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in US history, and one of the nation’s most defining events, this volume underscores that the war was by no means the only conflict that ensnared global imperial powers in the mid-nineteenth century. In some ways the Civil War was just another element in contemporary conflicts over the definitions of liberty, democracy, and nationhood occurring throughout the world.

The volume’s twelve individual essays address numerous provocative themes covering a wide array of topics, ranging from discussions of the legality of retaliation in the war, through cultural and diplomatic history, to analyses of the significance of Florence Nightingale in Civil War and post-Civil War nursing practices. The book concludes with a coda in which noted local, national, and international historians reflect on how we remember the war—what we remember and what we forget—and the reasons why we should remember the war. While we now take for granted the nation’s values of freedom and democracy, we cannot understand the impact of the Civil War and the victorious “new birth of freedom” without considering the global influences and impacts of this event

Brian Schoen, associate professor of history and director of Undergraduate Studies at Ohio University describes the volume as “highly original in conceptualization and execution” and likely to revise our understanding of the war, the broader context within which it was fought, and especially its meaning across time and space.”

A native of Ireland, David T. Gleeson is a professor of American history at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne and a former director of the College of Charleston’s Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World program. He is the editor of The Irish in the Atlantic World, co-editor of Ambiguous Anniversary: The Bicentennial of the International Slave Trade Bans, and author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America.

Simon Lewis is a professor of world literature at the College of Charleston, where he is also an associate director of the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World program. Lewis is the author of White Women Writers and Their African Invention and British and African Literature in Transnational Context. He is also the co-editor of Ambiguous Anniversary: The Bicentennial of the International Slave Trade Bans.

For additional information on this book and the USC Press’s Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World book series, please visit


Kokanko Sata Doumba: A Queen of Wassoulou Music Visits the American South

After her visit with Afropop, Kokanko headed south for appearances at the College of Charleston, the University of Georgia, and Furman  and Duke Universities. This tour was organized by Julie Moore, the executive director of the Cradle of Jazz Project, and an adjunct professor of music at Furman.  Moore has studied West African music and dance for 15 years, and in 2010 began uncovering new evidence that the Mande played a critical role in the formation of the cornerstone of black New Orleans culture during the 1700s.



Upcoming MUSC Lecture: “Pestilence in Paradise: Dr. William Hillary’s Epidemiology in Colonial Barbados,” Dr. Henry Fraser, April 10, 5:30 pm, Basic Sciences Building auditorium

The Waring Historical Library at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) announces that its annual Joseph I. Waring Jr. Lecture and annual membership meeting will take place on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 5:30 pm in the Basic Sciences Building auditorium on the campus of the Medical University of South Carolina.

Dr. Henry Fraser will present his talk, “Pestilence in Paradise: Dr. William Hillary’s Epidemiology in Colonial Barbados.” In 2012, Dr. Fraser and Dr. J. Edward Hutson edited the reissue of Dr. William Hillary’s Observations on the Changes of the Air and the Concomitant Epidemical Diseases in the Island of Barbadoes, first published in 1759 in London.

Dr. Henry Fraser GCM, BSc (Physiology), MBBS, PhD (Pharmacology), FACP, FRCP is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Barbados. He was the founding director of the Chronic Disease Research Center at the University of the West Indies and served as dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences in Barbados from 2001 until his retirement in 2010. He has also been an active writer, artist, public orator, architectural historian and conservationist. His publications include more than one hundred peer-reviewed medical and scientific papers on medical education, drug treatment, epilepsy, hypertension, obesity, stroke and many other subjects. He is also the author of hundreds of articles and newspaper columns, along with several books about Barbados history, heritage, architecture, and culture, including Treasures of Barbados, Illustrious West Indians, and the co-authored Historic Houses of Barbados and A–Z of Barbados Heritage.

A reception will follow at the Wickliffe House. This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact the library at 843-792-2288 or

Fraser flyer

Graduate Historical Society, Evening Lecture: “From Graduate School to Public History and Federal Opportunities,” Dr. John Sprinkle, Bureau Historian for the National Park Service. Wednesday, March 26, 7:00pm, location TBA.

The Graduate Historical Society, the History Department and Graduate School at the College of Charleston, and the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World program will be presenting an evening lecture by Dr. John Sprinkle on Wednesday, March 26. Dr. Sprinkle is the Bureau Historian for the National Park Service and author of Crafting Preservation Criteria: The National Register of Historic Places and American Historic Preservation. He will be speaking about careers in public history, employment opportunities for historians with the federal government, and how to prepare for post-graduate school positions related to history.

The joint MA program in History at the Citadel and the College of Charleston has continually worked to provide opportunities for young historians to develop skills that translate into employment beyond graduate school. Dr. Sprinkle’s academic background as a historian, which transitioned into public history work at the federal level, provides a unique perspective for graduate history students who want to branch out from post-grad careers in teaching or Ph.D. programs. In addition, his experience with grant writing, research, and doctoral work is invaluable for those students hoping to continue their graduate education and historical research. Building off the mission of CLAW to promote scholarship on the Lowcountry, and public understanding of this region and its place in a broader international context, the GHS intends for this lecture to inform graduate students about the opportunities of public history initiatives in Charleston and the surrounding areas, while also exploring ways in which MA graduates can contribute to this research and present information to the public. With the help of the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World program, we hope that this lecture will further develop our established commitment to provide opportunities for post-MA students.

The Graduate Historical Society would like to thank Dr. John White and the CLAW program for their generous support for this event, as well as Dr. Amy McCandless, the Dean of the Graduate School, and Dr. Jason Coy, program director of Master of Arts in History, without whom this event would not be possible.