From the Director
As usual, we’ve had a calendar chocked full of provocative and informative programs, beginning with African American Studies Department’s kick-off week. Noted scholar, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, was one of the week’s featured speakers and he discussed his book, The Black Campus Movement—Black Students and the Racial Reconstitution of Higher Education, 1965–1972. That week, we mounted, Cleveland Sellers: The SNCC Years—Coming Through the Fire. Developed by Avery Research Center curator Curtis Franks and using material from his personal collection and the Papers of Cleveland Sellers (which are housed here at the Avery Research Center), the exhibit highlights the early activism of Dr. Sellers and situates his experiences within the larger Black Student Movement of the 1960s. The exhibit itself and Franks’s framing of Sellers’s story was indeed timely, coming on the heels of the outrage and protests mounted after the senseless killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
In September 2014, we also welcomed Dr. Antonio Tillis, the new dean of the School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs to The College of Charleston. In just a few short months, Dr. Tillis has demonstrated his global thinking about out the newly minted African American Studies major and the Avery Research Center. As a result of his vision, The College of Charleston will host the 2015 Association for the Worldwide Study of the African Diaspora (ASWAD) conference. Together with AAST and CLAW, Avery Research Center will play a central role in the execution of such a momentous conference.
Last year our outreach initiatives have expanded to include partnerships with The Cannon Street YMCA, WoSe African Drum & Dance of Charleston, St. James Presbyterian Church, and The Colour of Music Festival. By sharing our resources with the community, we were able to provide West African dance and sweetgrass artistry classes to youth on the peninsula and James Island. The continued generous support of SunTrust Bank enabled us to bring the Fisk Jubilee Singers for a command performance as part of the Second Annual Colour of Music Festival, as well as a choral exchange with Cane Bay High School.
Other highlights from the fall semester include lectures and book signings by conservationist Virginia Beach, playwright and author Pearl Cleage, biographer Linda Holmes, and public health scholar, Dr. Ndidi Amutah, our Third Annual recipient of the Ernest Just Prize.
Indeed, 2014 was a great year, and 2015 will be even greater! In the upcoming weeks, you will receive information about our 2015 celebration of the Avery Norman Institute’s 150th anniversary. Next year’s programmatic theme builds on the legacy of the Avery Institute and highlights the importance of education and scholastic excellence within the African-American community. Throughout the year, we will examine and commemorate significant milestones in Black education and honor the contributions of noted and local African-American educators.
September 12, 2015 marks the sesquicentennial of the Avery Institute. Established by the American Missionary Association in 1865, the school would become a bastion of scholastic excellence and a trailblazer in Black education. We will bring together some of the nation’s greatest educators and scholars to discuss the history of Black education and contemporary barriers to quality education many African Americans face today.
During 2015, please consider sowing a financial seed in the Avery Research Center. Whether through the Avery Institute Board or the College of Charleston Foundation, please donate so we may continue and expand on the work that we are doing.