CALENDAR Fall 2015
3 Brown Bag Series: “Spiritual Wayfarers and Enslaved Africans: Readings and New Insights into Muslim Slaves Manuscripts in the American South and Gullah/Geechee Traditions,” Muhammad Fraser-Rahim, PhD Candidate, Howard University, Avery Research Center, 12-1:15 pm
In this presentation, Muhammad Fraser-Rahim examines historic encounters between Africa, Islam, and American history—specifically in the antebellum U.S. South—and their role in an emerging American cultural and pluralistic society. Scholars estimate that between twenty to forty percent of slaves in the antebellum United States were Muslims. Forty-six percent of slaves in the American South were kidnapped from the west coast of Africa, and the majority came from Muslim countries on the continent. Fraser-Rahim’s research attempts to critically examine the role of the transmission of Islamic knowledge for enslaved people leaving West Africa, and the journey, legacy, and challenges of this transmission as it adapted and shaped roots in the Americas. Using original Arabic documents, this discussion will also examine the role of spiritual and religious traditions mastered by these enslaved Africans, and the intersection of Gullah Geechee traditions that allowed them to create agency in their experiences and adapt to the U.S. South.
9 Lecture: “William and Ellen Craft: The Georgia Fugitives after Slavery,” Barbara McCaskill, PhD, University of Georgia, Avery Research Center, McKinley-Washington Auditorium, 6 pm
In 1848, William and Ellen Craft escaped from central Georgia and bondage in a sensational fashion. After twenty years, the couple returned to the U.S. South, eventually to establish a school for the freed people in coastal Georgia. Barbara McCaskill’s presentation focuses on the triumphs and heartbreaks of their post-Emancipation years, from reuniting with family members separated by enslavement, to mounting a legal challenge against accusations of fraud. This couple and their family pursued goals of education, institution-building, and respectability that would dominate the agenda of African American leaders in the decades following the Civil War.
Barbara McCaskill is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Georgia. Her recent book publication is entitled, Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William & Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory (University of Georgia Press, 2015).
16 Brown Bag Series: “‘It Only Takes a Spark to Get a Fire Going’: The Life and Legacy of a Legendary Educator, Lois A. Simms, 1920-2015,” Jon Hale, PhD, College of Charleston, Avery Research Center, 12-1:15 pm
In this presentation, Jon Hale examines the career and legacy of Lois Averetta Simms, a consummate educator who taught during the years of segregation and the tumultuous period of desegregation. Ms. Simms, born in Charleston in 1920, graduated as the valedictorian of the Avery Normal Institute in 1937. After completing her degree in education from Johnson C. Smith University in 1941, Ms. Simms taught at Archer Elementary School, the Avery Normal Institute, Burke High School, and Laing High School. She earned her Masters Degree from Howard University in 1954, the year the Supreme Court passed the monumental Brown v. Board of Education decision. She later taught as one of the first African American teachers in the formerly all-white Charleston High School. The life and illustrious career of Lois Simms provides crucial insights into the nuanced and integral role of secondary education in Charleston and the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
7 Brown Bag Series: “Unsung Heroes: Now It’s Our Turn,” Cleo Scott Brown, Speaker, Author, Race Relations Strategist, Avery Research Center, 12-1:15 pm
Before the infamous march in Selma, Alabama, a group of African Americans in northeast Louisiana convinced Robert Kennedy to file suit on their behalf to obtain the right to vote. In 1962, they successfully won this right in Federal Court after almost eighty years of disenfranchisement. These plaintiffs helped shape the attitudes of Robert Kennedy and the newly assigned attorneys in the Justice Department about what and how much should be invested in helping southern African Americans gain their right to vote. To commemorate fifty years since the passing of the Voting Rights Act, in this presentation Cleo Scott Brown will discuss her book Witness to the Truth (University of South Carolina Press) and her own frightening experiences as the child of John H. Scott, a voting rights leader in northeast Louisiana. From being the place where black Union soldiers first engaged in battle with their former “masters” at Millikin’s Bend, to being the place where farmers caused a nation-wide protest that led to black farmers being able to buy land under Roosevelt’s New Deal program, the predominately black northeast corner of Louisiana, though unsung, has made its mark on history.
31 Reception: Avery 150th Commemoration Event, McKinley Washington Auditorium, 3-5 pm
2015 is an important year at the Avery Research Center. The Center is located in a historic building that once housed the Avery Normal Institute, which served as a hub for Charleston’s African American communities from 1865 to 1954. 2015 marks the 150th Anniversary of the opening of this influential school, and the 30th Anniversary of the Avery Research Center, which was established at the College of Charleston in 1985 through the support of Avery alumni. To commemorate this significant anniversary, the Avery Research Center will host a reception that is free and open to the public. This event will include an exhibition opening (details to be announced) and remarks from:
Dr. Patricia Lessane, Executive Director of the Avery Research Center
Dr. Bernard Powers, Professor in the Department of History at the College of Charleston
The Honorable Lucille Whipper, Avery Institute Alumna, former South Carolina State Representative, and former President of the Avery Institute Board
4-7 Conference: Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) 8th Biennial Conference, “African Diaspora Circularities: Forging Communities, Cultures, and Politics,”
hosted by the College of Charleston, North Charleston Campus
The African Diaspora is defined in great measure by the movement and circulation of African peoples, their cultures, and their ideas. African peoples in diaspora have created their own meanings and social-ideological geographies, forming new communities, dialogues and autonomous spaces within the global Black world and larger transnational communities. Whether it is the birth of Gullah culture in the Carolina Sea Islands from far-flung Atlantic colonial spaces or communities navigating the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class, African peoples have been generating circuits that constitute intertwined histories with increasing dialogue among each other. ASWAD’s 8th Biennial Conference, hosted by the College of Charleston, will focus on related themes of circulation/migration and the importance of locality/place in shaping the human experience of Africans and African descendants around the world. For more information please see: http://convention2.allacademic.com/one/aswad/aswad15/
12 Brown Bag Series: “Education: The Fabric of My Life,” Marlene Linton O’Bryant-Seabrook, PhD, Educator, Lecturer, Fiber Artist, iPad Artist, Avery Research Center, 12-1:15 pm
In this presentation, Marlene O’Bryant-Seabrook will share her journey of love for Education—as a life-long receiver and giver. A third generation educator, O’Bryant-Seabrook will share both her rich experiences, and various documents and artifacts from her family of educators. These materials range from the 1868 school record of her maternal great-grandmother, to memorabilia from her time as a student at the Avery Normal Institute, which she attended from Pre-Primer through twelfth Grade. O’Bryant Seabrook will also discuss her years as the only African American, and one of only two women, on the faculty at The Citadel: Military College of South Carolina. Finally, she will present examples of her use of the iPad in conjunction with the designing and execution of her nationally and internationally exhibited art quilts. As an educator and artist, O’Bryant-Seabrook approaches quilting from a dual focus: all of her quilts, which she views as she did the bulletin boards of her elementary school teaching days, have overt or subtle lessons tucked in them.
3 Brown Bag Series: “Somebody Had To Do It: First Children in School Desegregation,” Millicent Brown, PhD, Somebody Had To Do It Project Director and Independent Scholar, Avery Research Center, 12-1:15 pm
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that de jure racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional on the federal level through Brown v. Board of Education. Despite this ruling, it took years for public schools on the state and local level to effectively begin to integrate. In South Carolina, school desegregation did not begin until 1963, when Judge Robert Martin ruled in Millicent Brown et al v. Charleston County School Board, District 20 to approve requests from Black students to be admitted to White schools. In this presentation, Millicent Brown, who is now a retired professor of U.S. History, will discuss her experiences as a “first child” in school desegregation, which led her to launch the Somebody Had To Do It project in 2006. Through oral histories with Black Americans who were the “first children” to integrate public schools in the mid-twentieth century, the Somebody Had To Do It oral history collection provides insights into the history of school desegregation in South Carolina and the U.S. South. In 2013, Brown donated this collection to the Avery Research Center, and in 2015 she co-authored an online exhibition through the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative with Jon Hale and Clerc Cooper that features excerpts from this collection, as well as an essay and timeline detailing the history of desegregation in South Carolina.
OCTOBER 16 – AUGUST 31
Sweetgrass: A Living Legacy of Family and Community, Cox Gallery, Avery Research Center
Originally curated by the Avery Research Center staff in 2009, this exhibition will reopen in 2014 to feature recent acquisitions of baskets made by various African and African American artists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The art of African American basket making in the South Carolina Lowcountry first began with enslaved Africans who arrived through the trans-Atlantic slave trade from the present-day Mano River, Senegambia, and Angola-Congolese regions of West Africa. Today basket makers in both the Lowcountry and various parts of Africa draw from their shared craft traditions to weave works of art from various materials. Items featured in the 2014 exhibition include a new collection of baskets donated by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Alliance that were featured in the Exhibits USA and NEH on the Road traveling exhibition, Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art; baskets made by children from the Lowcountry for the Avery Research Center’s The Next Generation sweetgrass basket making project in 2008; and various sweetgrass baskets from the Avery Research Center archival collections.
FEBRUARY 21 – JULY 30
MALCOLM X: 50 Years and Counting-The Legacy Continues, Changing Gallery, Avery Research Center
Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. This exhibition features materials from the James E. Campbell Collection (Avery Research Center, College of Charleston) and from the private collection of Imam Hakim Abdul-Ali, to commemorate the life and legacy of Malcolm X.
2013 Conference: Unleashing the Black Erotic: Gender and Sexuality—Passion, Power, and Praxis
Avery Research Center 25th Anniversary Celebration