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The Anson Street African Burial Ground (ASABG) Project Team will be hosting two days of events titled “Truth Rising: Honoring African Presence in Charleston.” These activities reflect the group’s work studying, protecting, and honoring Gullah Geechee burial grounds, including the unmarked graves found during construction on the Gaillard Center in 2013.

On Tuesday, May 3rd from 6:30pm to 8:30pm the group will be at the Cannon Street Arts Center at 134 Cannon Street, where attendees can learn more about the ongoing research into the thirty-six individuals found at the Gaillard Center site. Between 5pm and 6pm free DNA testing will also be available.

Wednesday, May 4th is the third anniversary of the Gaillard Center site reburial ceremony, and the ASABG will be hosting a celebration with libations, music, and speeches. The event will be at 2 George Street from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, and attendees will have another free DNA testing opportunity from 7pm to 8pm.

The full itinerary is below. Participants can learn more about these events and RSVP at ASABGProject.com.

Two Upcoming Events with Dr. James O’Neil Spady

By Danielle Cox
Posted on 7 April 2022 | 1:02 pm — 

A bronze statue of Denmark VeseyThe Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston will be hosting two upcoming events with the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) program featuring Dr. James O’Neil Spady, Associate Professor of American History at Soka University in Aliso Viejo, California. Dr. Spady is the author of Education and the Racial Dynamics of Settler Colonialism in Early America: Georgia and South Carolina, ca. 1700 – ca. 1820, and editor and contributor of the book Fugitive Movements: Commemorating the Denmark Vesey Affair and Black Radical Antislavery in the Atlantic World.

On April 18th at 6pm EST Dr. Spady will be giving CSSC’s annual lecture entitled “A Movement, not a Conspiracy: A New Narrative of the 1822 Denmark Vesey ‘Affair.'” Attendees can join online via Zoom or in person in Room 101 at the Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center at 58 Coming Street, Charleston. Register for tickets on Eventbrite.

Dr. Spady will also be leading the seminar “Mapping a Movement: Archival and Digital Methods for Representing the Social and Spatial Connections of the 1822 Denmark Vesey ‘Affair'” on April 19th at 3:30pm EST in Room 360 of Addlestone Library. Addlestone Library currently requires a College of Charleston faculty or student ID for entrance.

a man and two women, Polly Sheppard and Margaret Seidler, standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge

Polly Sheppard and Margaret Seidler on the Edmund Pettus Bridge along with Margaret’s husband, Bob, Summer 2021.

On Wednesday, March 30, the Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston will be hosting a talk as part of the Critical Conversations Featured Series. Participants are Polly Sheppard, survivor of the 2015 Mother Emanuel AME shooting, and Margaret Seidler, a descendant of three generations of Charleston slave traders. The event will be moderated by Marjory Wentworth, former poet laureate of South Carolina, and Dr. Bernard Powers of the CSSC.

Sheppard is a Licensed Practical Nurse from Florence, SC, who has spoken about her experiences at Mother Emanuel before Barack Obama and the Democratic National Convention. She serves as a member of the Board to construct the Mother Emanuel Memorial at the tragedy’s site, and founded the Polly Sheppard Foundation scholarship to provide financial support to Trident Technical College nursing students pursuing careers in prison health.

Seidler is a retired leadership and organization development consultant, and has authored several books on business and human resources. Since the Mother Emanuel AME shooting she has advocated for local voices in community and racial healing initiatives. With former Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen she started the Charleston Illumination Project, a year-long project to strengthen respect and relationships between police and communities.

The event will be at 6pm EST, in person at the Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center Auditorium (58 Coming St, Charleston, SC, 29401) and over Zoom. Participants must register online.

Upcoming Event: “Black Lives Book Talk”

By Danielle Cox
Posted on 24 February 2022 | 3:16 pm — 
Dr. Mari Crabtree

Dr. Mari Crabtree, author of “My Soul is a Witness”: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching, 1940−1970.

As part of the Black Lives World Affairs Signature Series, hosted by the College of Charleston’s School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs, Dr. Mari Crabtree will be holding a book talk entitled “Lynching’s Afterlives: Memory, Trauma, and the Sensibility of the Blues.” The talk will be over Zoom on Thursday, March 3 at 6pm.

Dr. Crabtree teaches at the College of Charleston in the department of African American studies. Her book “My Soul is a Witness”: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching, 1940−1970 is set to be published by Yale University Press this year:

My Soul is a Witness ­­­­­traces the long afterlife of lynching in the South through the traumatic memories it left in its wake. By interweaving the stories of people and places haunted by lynching, Mari N. Crabtree unearths how Black southerners lived through and beyond these horrors, offering a theory of Black collective trauma and memory rooted in the ironic spirit of the blues sensibility—a spirit of misdirection and cunning that blends joy and pain.

Jim Crow and its threat of violent, if not deadly, reprisals tried to impose silence upon Black southerners, but they did find their voices. They 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. In these and other ways, they infused a blues element into their lynching narratives as they confronted traumatic memories and kept the blues at bay, even if just for a spell. Telling their stories troubles the simplistic binary of resistance or suffering 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.

View Dr. Crabtree’s faculty profile for more information on her work.

To register for this event: https://cofc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_CI3GDDlUSH6_9oLPjccMyw 

Upcoming Event: “The International African American Museum”

By Danielle Cox
Posted on 24 February 2022 | 12:52 pm — 
An 1808 advertisement for the sale of slaves at Gadsden's Wharf

Charleston Courier, January 27, 1808

This Saturday, February 26, 2022, the Town of Mount Pleasant will be hosting a presentation on the International African American Museum (IAAM) as part of its Black History Month events series. The museum is scheduled to open later this year and will house memorial gardens, exhibits and collections, event spaces, and a genealogy research center. It stands at Gadsden’s Wharf, where many enslaved Africans first stepped foot on American soil.

The event will be held at 3pm in the Town Hall Council Chambers, 100 Ann Edwards Lane, Mount Pleasant, SC, and will also be broadcast live on YouTube.

Speakers will include Dr. Tonya M. Matthews, CEO of the IAAM, and Dr. Bernard E. Powers, Jr., member of the IAAM Board of Directors and its former interim president. The presentation will also include a performance by Ms. Ann Caldwell, a singer, songwriter, producer, and storyteller who has been a part of the Charleston music scene for twenty-five years.

For more information on the Mount Pleasant Historical Commission’s Black History Month events, please visit their website.

Please also see the IAAM site for more about their mission and events, including updates on its opening.

Bernie Powers and CSSC Executive Committee members will be part of a Critical Conversations event Oct 20, 3 pm. In this informal conversation moderated by Simon Lewis, CSSC director Bernie Powers and Julia Eichelberger, co-founder of the program in Southern Studies, will discuss race and the legacies of slavery at C of C and beyond. The current wave of activism and protest against racial injustice inspires us to reflect on the activism of the past that brought about the advances C of C and our society has made towards becoming more equitable. We will also discuss the ways both the Center for the Study of Slavery and the program in Southern Studies promote antiracism.

There are many intersections between the work of CSSC and other programs on campus—far too many for us to discuss in just an hour. Here are a few examples; in the future, we hope to follow up with more detailed posts on some of these projects.

Statements of Antiracism and CSSC’s Call for Social Justice

In response to summer protests over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black citizens, departments and programs across campus posted statements of solidarity with the outrage and desire for change that these protests are expressing. These statements were posted on the Office of Institutional Diversity’s website. Later in the summer, CSSC’s Social Justice Working Group completed this Call to Action, a challenge to C of C to become more equitable and inclusive.

College of Charleston 250th Anniversary, Historical Documentation Committee, 2019-20

This group was responsible for the installation of a State Historical Marker on George Street that included recognition that the College became a private school in order to avoid integration. This marker was unveiled as part of the College’s Founders’ Day celebration on January 30, 2020. The committee also established the C of C website Discovering Our Past and researched 13 campus locations, most of which were directly linked to enslaved labor and African American history. In-person tours based on this material will be available post-pandemic. CSSC’s Academic Research Group has done signifincat research on the slave ownership of C of C past presidents and trustees, and this work formed a crucial part of the essays on Randolph Hall and the President’s House on Glebe Street. The website is available for ongoing publication of research by others, including the Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston. Graduate students in Rachel Donaldson’s Public History class researched and wrote dozens of essays that have been vetted by the CSSC’s Public History Working Group and are now being prepared for publication on the College’s Discovering Our Past website.

Gullah Society Reburial of Ancestors Interred near Gaillard Auditorium, May 2019

A grand procession carried the remains of African-descended individuals whose remains were discovered during renovations to the Gaillard grounds. DNA and isotope analysis revealed the areas of Africa where these individuals had most likely come from. DNA analysis was also done for living Charlestonians who wished to learn more about their genetic ancestry. The Center for the Study of Slavery’s Social Justice Working Group sponsored the start of the procession at Barnet Park, and Executive Committee member Kameelah Martin spoke at the ceremony. “Remembering Charleston’s Ancestors,” Post and Courier, May 3, 2019

Community Forum on Reparations  This was planned for March 2020 but cancelled due to the pandemic. A virtual event is being planned for Spring 2021.

Fortunately, the pandemic did not prevent the showing of an Avery Digital Classroom presentation giving detailed accounts of several other forms of research and public history work by CSSC and by others on campus.

The Hidden Hands That Built These Walls, a documentary produced by the Office of Institutional Diversity, will be screened this semester. It discusses Randolph Hall and the enslaved people who were crucial to its construction. CSSC members contributed research and were interviewed as part of the documentary.

A new initiative, the 1967 Scholars program, will begin in Fall 2021, providing scholarships and a four-year mentoring and leadership program for African American and African students.

Slavery and Its Legacies at the College of Charleston—Research and Teaching    Created in 2019, this list identifies scholarship and courses in which colleagues at C of C have studied slavery and its legacies. These legacies are widespread, so perhaps it is not surprising that as of June 2019, over sixty C of C faculty are listed as authors of relevant publications in the listings below, and that over forty-five faculty have been identified as teaching courses related to slavery and its legacies since Fall 2016. These publications and courses cover many aspects of slavery and its legacies–the history of slavery, the history of C of C and Charleston, racial identities and the construction of race in the U. S. and elsewhere; the experiences and cultural traditions of enslaved people and their descendants; connections between the diaspora and Africa, etc.  By identifying this scholarship and teaching, the Center for the Study of Slavery seeks to encourage C of C faculty and students to continue building upon each other’s work.

A Few Student Projects, 2018-present

ARTH 396. The Architecture of Memory, Nathaniel Walker  (2018, 2019) Students in this course have designed alternative monuments in tribute to those who suffered during Atlantic Slave trade, in response to the Calhoun statue and as a memorial on Anson Street burial ground  [Monument designs were displayed in library rotunda and exhibited at public events, including one associated with Gullah Society & Anson Street Burial.]

For several years, students in HPCP and AAST courses have conducted research on campus historic structures using property, census and city records. Some of this research was incorporated into the 2020 Discovering Our Past essays on these structures.

CSSC Executive Committee Member Celeste Green ‘21 researched several campus buildings named for slave-owners as part of an SGA presentation in April 2018. The SGA unanimously endorsed Green’s resolution that the campus create signage identifying the buildings that were constructed using slave labor, as proposed in 2017 by Grant Gilmore and the Program in Southern Studies.

Tanner Crunelle ‘20 researched C of C archives and created a new oratorical competition in honor of a 1951 speech by C of C student Frank Sturcken advocating for racial integration at C of C. Tanner published some of his research in “History of the Sturcken Oratorical Competition.”

Trent Humphreys and Keyasia Pride ‘20 researched the slaveholding records of several C of C leaders and proposed a monument, representing a bottle tree, to be installed on campus in honor of enslaved people who constructed campus buildings, entitled “The Hidden Hands that Built These Walls.”  They discuss their research and proposed monument in the Spring 2020  Avery Digital Classroom presentation

In Fall 2020, the Program in Southern Studies established “Markers & Names @ College of Charleston,” an online project on the map-based platform Historypin. This project is intended to document all the monuments, memorials, and named buildings on all C of C campus locations. It is also intended to spark more discussion and awareness of what the College commemorates and why. The public is invited to contribute images and information on these marked sites and to comment on why these events and people are being commemorated in our landscape. Anyone may participate by registering at Historypin and uploading new sites and posting comments and information about sites that have already been posted (“pinned”) to our collection.

Complementing these efforts are an upcoming course, HPCP 340, Buildings and Landscapes at C of C, to be taught Spring 201 by Professor James Ward, and a comprehensive inventory of all campus markers, monuments, plaques, etc. being developed by the Southern Studies program and our graduate assistant, Abby Stahl. We are eager to find collaborators to assist us as we photograph each marker, transcribe any text it contains, and research who put it in placeThis inventory will make it possible to analyze the demographics and concepts of our markers and help us decide what we want to commemorate in the future.

Call for Racial and Social Justice at C of C

By Julia Eichelberger
Posted on 21 September 2020 | 1:56 pm — 

Call for Racial and Social Justice at the College of Charleston

CSSC Social Justice Working Group

September 2020

As members of CSSC, which studies slavery’s history and legacies, we recognize this summer’s recent instances of brutality as manifestations of our country’s long history of violence against Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples. The histories of racism and white supremacy are clearly not past: we are still living them, and they are ever-present in our daily interactions and institutions. Because of this, the CSSC was established in 2018 to foster a deeper public understanding of slavery and its complex legacies, and to use that understanding to bring about racial reconciliation, healing, and repair. It is to this end that we demand reparations and social justice. 

We call upon the College to commit resources to promoting racial healing and repairing the systemic injustices created by slavery and racism on our campus and in our local community. Our policies, curriculum, and spending priorities must be intentionally and explicitly antiracist. 

In our new Strategic Plan, the College defines itself as a “transformative national university.” To transform our students, faculty/staff, and community, the College must prioritize all the “Initiatives for Implementation” in the Strategic Plan that address the inequities and injustices of systemic racism.  We also call upon the College to enable CSSC and other campus and community groups to play an active role in developing and implementing these initiatives and measuring the College’s progress.

We call upon upon the College to transform itself into a fully anti-racist and equitable campus by prioritizing the following: 

  1. Permanently fund the Center for the Study of Slavery to function as an educational resource and a thought-action leader. The College and the city of Charleston were built by enslaved bodies and souls. We must become conscious of our community’s true history. If the College sees the Center as a way of reckoning with the vestiges of slavery, as it was founded to do, then it is imperative for the Center to be adequately supported to carry out that mission of education, reconciliation, and repair.
  2. Require all College of Charleston students to study Charleston’s transnational history of slavery, colonialism, and race. Charleston’s history includes African, Caribbean, and European cultures and took shape in an indigenous America. Let’s be sure our students and community know this history, and its value to the present. We support the 2-course series proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Creation of a Race, Equity, and Inclusion Requirement. To carry out this work, the College must provide increased funding for the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and convert African American Studies from a program into a full department.
  3. Increase co-curricular opportunities for students to engage with the campus and community in pursuit of anti-racism and social and environmental justice. The College must increase substantive opportunities (internships, fellowships, etc) for students to engage in this work so that at least half of our students do so during their time at CofC.
  4. Bring the College’s Black student population up to at least 30% of the student body. The current population of Black students at this public university is only 8%. Meanwhile the African American population in the City of Charleston is 28%,  47% percent in North Charleston, and approximately 30% in the state of South Carolina.  The College of Charleston has an historical and moral duty to make the College representative of the entire Charleston community. We also must support students with a welcoming and inclusive campus environment and create much stronger connections with Black alumni. All this will demonstrate C of C’s 21st century commitment to Black lives and Black agency.
  5. Provide transformational financial support, in partnership with local and state government, in the form of student scholarships for Charleston residents of color in order to combat the underrepresentation of students of color on campus. The College, the city, and the state must make amends for the economic and social opportunities stolen away from people of African and indigenous descent. One example of the substantive support the College should provide is the McNair Scholars Program, which is designed to provide first generation and minority students with financial and academic support to prepare for graduate school. This program was originally launched at CofC in 2009-2010, but then was not successfully renewed.
  6. Transform the visual and memorial landscape of the campus by changing names and signage honoring slave owners, segregationists, and those who promoted racist policies, and by including visual recognitions of the contributions and achievements of African-descended people. As alumni and students have advocated, the College needs to create an inclusive and safe space for learning and educational exchange for the entire community. To support this, we also demand that the College commit to ongoing research on the history of its campus and publicize the full history of the structures and the people who built them. Students and faculty who do this research should receive institutional support and an appropriate forum for publishing their findings. Students, staff, and faculty should be free to publicly express their affiliation with organizations that uphold anti-racist values. The history and people we celebrate on campus should represent the anti-racist and anti-hate values we aspire to teach and live by.
  7. Require all College of Charleston employees to participate in substantive anti-racism training. These activities should shift the burden of unpacking and dismantling white privilege in the workplace away from our students, staff, and faculty of color (see Whiteness at Work webinar). Hourly and adjunct employees should be paid for their time spent undergoing such training.
  8. Prioritize hiring Black faculty and staff, so that these demographics reflect those of the state. It is important for all students to learn from faculty and staff from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds. A university in the modern world requires bringing unique ideas and experiences into contact and exchange.
  9. Elevate the status of the College’s primarily Black contracted staff in housekeeping, groundskeeping, maintenance, food services, security, and other essential campus services. College leadership can set the tone for the entire campus to recognize and empower these individuals. They perform labor that is fundamental to the College, and many have multi-generational ties to the campus. The College can include these employees in decision-making processes, publicly honor the work they do, and increase their participation in communal College life. The College should commit to improved wages and benefits, representation on staff committees, appropriate break spaces, and the free access to campus programming and events that other employees receive.
  10. Implement more socially-just policing practices. Identifying suspects based solely on race must end. Campus security and the local Charleston police force should release non-racialized reports and warnings to the College community.  The College’s Department of Public Safety should undergo an independent racial bias audit, similar to the one performed by CNA for the City of Charleston, and then commit to implementing its recommendations. Redirecting police funding to community outreach and community programming is essential to building trust between the university and its neighbors.

CSSC Social Justice Working Group: Jen Wright (chair), Lisa Covert, Matthew Cressler, Julia Eichelberger, Courtney Hicks, Blake Scott, Marjory Wentworth, Lisa Young.

CSSC Executive Board: Bernard Powers (director), Shannon Eaves, Julia Eichelberger, Grant Gilmore, Celeste Greene, Aaisha Haykal, Simon Lewis, Kameelah Martin.

Learn about two powerful African American women’s role in the SC suffrage movement in this Zoom lecture by Valinda Littlefield, Associate Professor of History, U of SC.  It’s happening on Aug 10 at 2 pm. Download the Sins of Omission Flyer for a link to register, or go to go.sc.edu/CASwebinars.

 

 

Before the pandemic, CSSC Social Justice Working Group had planned an all-day forum and community conversation on the topic of reparations to be held in late March. We will be rescheduling that event as soon as possible; meanwhile, the city council of Asheville, NC has formally “apologized for the North Carolina city’s historic role in slavery, discrimination and denial of basic liberties to Black residents and voted to provide reparations to them and their descendants.” Read the full story here.

Earlier this month, on July 6, CSSC Director Bernard Powers was interviewed on NPR. Go here to read or listen.

CSSC Director Bernard Powers co-authored this op-ed with local historian and attorney Robert Rosen suggesting a response to the city’s Confederate Defenders monument. “We propose a major world-class monument at White Point Garden to the African American heroes of the Civil War and the era of emancipation. We have many illustrious men and women to choose from.”

Dr. Powers and another C of C History professor, Adam Domby, are interviewed in this week’s Post and Courier podcast on John C. Calhoun and the monument that was removed on June 24, 2020 from Marion Square. Go here for a link to the podcast.  Charleston’s City Council has asked Dr. Powers and Robert Rosen to advise them on relocating the Calhoun statue, which is now being stored at an undisclosed location.

 

 

 

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