Honors Religious Studies Students Uncover CofC’s Complex Religious History

As a university in a town referred to as the Holy City, it’s not surprising that six of the first seven presidents of the College of Charleston were ordained clergy. Although the College claimed to be a secular institution from the time of the second charter in 1791, giving the impression that religion was not an integral part of its fabric in the early days, a student research project tied to the university’s 250th anniversary contradicts that assumption.

To dig deeper into the presence of religion at the College, Matthew J. Cressler, assistant professor of religious studies, taught Religion in America in the spring 2020 semester. The final project was slated to be an archival examination of the religious history of the College of Charleston, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed the plan from a class-wide project to a two-person investigation led by religious studies research fellows, Honors students Allen Duggar and A.J. Williamson, with funding tied to the School of the Humanities and Social Science’s work to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the College.

“It was a project designed to be our departmental contribution to the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the College’s founding,” says Cressler. “My hope was that it would awaken for students the inseparability of religion and race in the making of the College.”

To read more about this story, check out the full article by Amy S. Mercer at The College Today. Photos provided.

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