Contributed by John Thomas III, PhD Department of Political Science, College of Charleston
On March 20, 2023 the College of Charleston hosted renowned Afro-Brazilian activist and scholar Vilma Reis. Ms. Reis was visiting the United States as part of a tour of Afro-Brazilian feminists organized by Dr. Gladys Mitchell-Walthour of North Carolina Central University. Her visit was arranged by CofC Political Science Assistant Professor John Thomas III as part of his “Politics of Latin America” course. In addition to CLAW, support for Ms. Reis visit was provided by African American Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Political Science Department, the Portuguese Program and Women’s and Gender Studies.
A reception was organized for Ms. Reis with CofC students, faculty, staff, and local community representatives before the lecture. Due to weather delays, Ms. Reis arrived shortly before her talk was due to start. After a brief introduction by Political Science Chair Hollis France, Ms. Reis addressed the packed Stern Ballroom. She spoke on the topic “Race, Gender, People’s Democracy and Political Participation: Political parties and racial and gender (under)representation.” In her lecture, she highlighted the unique political environment that Afro-Brazilian women face and the challenges they face in garnering political representation. Ms. Reis also noted how Black academics and activists from the United States and Brazil have had a series of interchanges that have proven mutually beneficial and reinforcing.
Even after fielding several questions from the attendees, multiple students and faculty members engaged with Ms. Reis up until she returned to the airport to continue her tour. A group of CofC students will return the visit with Ms. Reis this summer in her home of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
The lecture by Dr. Lorri Glover on her book, Eliza Lucas Pinckney is being rescheduled. The campus is adamant that no events affiliated with CofC be held this evening because of concerning weather and access to WiFi for students and faculty. CLAW is working with Lorri to reschedule, so stay tuned. Thank you for your understanding and please be safe today.
I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
-William Blake, “A Poison Tree”
“When the War is Over”: A series of public events dedicated to thinking about building Community After Periods of Slavery, Persecution, Genocide, or War.
In much the same way that trauma in an individual’s past causes psychological damage, communities that have experienced traumatic violence also bear psychological scars from that experience. Psychiatrists have for many years asserted the value of the “talking cure,” arguing that healing comes from addressing, not suppressing, the memory of the traumatic event. In the US military, for example, treatment of PTSD is generally informed by the work of psychiatrist Judith Herman, author of the now-classic 1992 study Trauma and Recovery. In the cases of traumatized communities, the tendency in recent years has also been to attempt “talking cures”; numerous countries have opted to establish truth commissions as a way to stabilize post-conflict situations. Hoping to avoid the potentially endless cycle of tit-for-tat vengeful “justice,” countries as diverse as Chile, Sierra Leone, and South Africa have used truth commissions to deal with their violent pasts not by repressing memories but by bringing them into the open.
Despite the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, the scars of slavery and of institutionalized racism in the United States are still present, manifesting themselves in a variety of ways, including continued systemic discrimination as well as individual acts of violence. In the latter case, the mass murder of nine of our fellow citizens while at prayer in the Mother Emanuel Church in June 2015 reminded us all that Charleston, our beautiful home city, is also a site of trauma, suffering from the suppressed memories of native genocide, two centuries of racialized slavery, and a century of legalized racial discrimination. Although contemporary historians have put the story of these traumas into print, the visible, material landscape still suppresses the trauma: public memorials and the demographics of urban space still render Native American and African American experience virtually invisible.
Elsewhere in the world, communities that have experienced similar trauma and racial, ethnic, or sectarian division have begun to address the effect of statues, monuments, and memorials honoring eminent historical figures whose ideologies and policies are out of step with contemporary assertions of universal human rights. In perpetuating a positive memory of leaders like Cecil Rhodes, for example, these memorials enshrine and set in stone attitudes we now consider to be anathema. Campaigns to remove statues honoring Rhodes from places of honor in South Africa and in his native England have led to wider campaigns for social justice, including equal access to education for all.
In the US, the last year has seen a wave of local initiatives to remove or modify statues and memorials honoring Civil War generals and politicians, as well as efforts to rename buildings named in honor of post-War politicians who advocated for and/or profited from racial segregation. These initiatives have in turn spawned renewed violence, notably in Charlottesville, Virginia last August. Here in Charleston, confusion still reigns over how to handle the memory of John C. Calhoun, whose statue towers above the city in Marion Square.
As an academic institution, dedicated to the notion that wisdom itself is liberty, we at the College of Charleston feel called upon to use our expertise in the humanities and social sciences to provide an intellectual framework to negotiate these contentious issues. “When the War Is Over: Memory, Division, and Healing” thus brings together in a loosely unified series, a collection of public lectures and forums that address historical trauma and the ways in which sites that have experienced such trauma have moved, or might move towards building sustainable, peaceful community. In broadening the discussion from Charleston and the US to include the Northern Irish “Troubles” and the Holocaust, the series aims to provide a discursive context within which a fundamental commitment to human rights governs policy decisions that lead toward peaceable coexistence, the eradication of racism and other forms of discrimination, and the prevention of genocide.
“Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World” will be hosted by the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program, and the Addlestone Library at the College of Charleston on June 14-17, 2017. Conference planners are seeking proposals for workshops, roundtable discussions, panels, and individual papers from public history professionals, scholars, educators, librarians, archivists, and artists that address issues surrounding the interpretation, preservation, memorialization, commemoration, and public application of major themes in local, regional, and Atlantic World history.
SPECIAL FOCUS Based on the United Nation’s declaration of 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, and the conference location in Charleston, South Carolina, on the second anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Mother Emanuel Church, the conference will particularly highlight speakers and topics relevant to transforming practices of interpreting the history of slavery and its race and class legacies in Charleston and historically interconnected local, regional, and international sites.
ABOUT THE CONFERENCE THEME Starting in the fifteenth century, the Atlantic Ocean became a corridor of trade and migration—both voluntary and coerced—between Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In the centuries that followed, the violent encounters, power struggles, cultural exchanges, labor systems, and economic ties surrounding these trans-Atlantic connections became ever more complex and globally intertwined, producing distinctive race, class, and gender experiences and hierarchies throughout the Atlantic World and beyond. How have cultural heritage institutions, public historians, scholars, artists, activists, filmmakers, and educators in various international regions engaged with and depicted the diverse histories of the Atlantic World? How have these representations changed over time, and how will they continue to change in the twenty-first century?
The Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon, a national historic landmark located at the intersection of East Bay and Broad Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, has served many purposes for the city during its three hundred years.
These functions include: a jailhouse for hapless pirates, a customs and exchange building for a myriad of Atlantic goods entering the port city, a British-controlled dungeon harboring Revolutionary prisoners, a civic government institution where the South Carolina delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence were elected, the location of the the South Carolina convention which ratified the U.S. Constitution, and where George Washington was lavishly entertained for a week during his national post-Revolutionary war tour. However, a new role of the Old Exchange Building, equal in national significance to the aforementioned functions as well as critical to comprehending the local history of Charleston, has been researched and verified by Rice University Ph.D. candidate and research affiliate of the Old Exchange Building, Edwin C. Breeden. Continue reading New Historic Marker and Exhibit at the Old Exchange Building: “Slave Auctions,” Edwin C. Breeden
The Charleston County Public Library’s historian, Dr. Nic Butler, recently presented a lecture entitled, “Keeping the Peace in Early Charleston” as a part of his Charleston Time Machine Program. TheCharleston Time Machine is an umbrella term for Dr. Butler’s programs hosted at the Charleston County Public Library and throughout the community. In this particular lecture, Dr. Butler discussed the similarities between English law and the “bloody code” enacted in colonial Charles Towne. Continue reading Nic Butler, “Keeping the Peace in Early Charleston”
The Bully Pulpit Series, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program, and the Friends of the Library present a commemorative lecture of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address as a part of the Wells Fargo Distinguished Public Lecture Series. On March 11 2015, at 2 PM in room 202 of the College of Charleston’s Tate Center, Dr. Richard Carwardine, the president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, will give a lecture on the politics and religion of the famous 1865 address. Carwardine specializes in American politics and religion in the nineteenth century, and one of his many works is an analytical biography of Abraham Lincoln that won the Lincoln Prize in 2004 and was republished in the U.S. as Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (2006). He will be introduced by CLAW Executive Director and Lincoln scholar Dr. O. Vernon Burton, Creativity Professor of Humanities, Professor of History and Computer Science at Clemson University, and the Director of the Clemson CyberInstitute. Burton is also a prolific writer, and his book The Age of Lincoln (2007) won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Literary Award for Nonfiction. All are invited to join us as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s historic address.
Dr. Tristan Stubbs, winner of the 2013 Hines Prize, will visit the College of Charleston at the end of October. While here he will lead a faculty seminar as well as a public presentation on plantation overseers. For more details on the October 30th presentation see the flyer below.