The mission of the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) at the College of Charleston is to promote public awareness and dialogue about race and social justice issues in the Charleston area, the state of South Carolina, and beyond, through a collaborative effort led by the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Addlestone Library, the African American Studies Program, the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI), and multiple community partners.
Background and Objectives
In late June 2015, the Avery Research Center, Addlestone Library, African American Studies, and the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI) at the College of Charleston received a major grant from Google to launch the Race and Social Justice Initiative in response to recent tragic events in the Charleston area, including the shooting death of Walter Scott by a police officer in April 2015 and the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. With this support, RSJI is working with numerous partners to facilitate public events, exhibitions, and various projects that promote awareness of the history and ongoing struggles of racial injustice in Charleston, South Carolina, and throughout the United States. As new events and projects develop through RSJI, the project team will continue to update this page.
Google, Coastal Community Foundation, Charleston County Public Library, SunTrust, Starbucks, the SC Community Loan Fund, South Carolina Humanities, the International African American Museum (IAAM), the Women’s Resource Project, Inc., the Sophia Institute, the Avery Institute, the Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club, the College of Charleston Friends of the Library, and the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program (CLAW) at the College of Charleston.
Conference: “Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World,” June 15-17, 2017, Workshop Day: June 14, 2017
Hosted by: The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) Program, the Addlestone Library, and the Race and Social Justice Initiative at the College of Charleston
Call for Proposals Extended Deadline: December 15, 2016
Conference Website: http://claw.cofc.edu/conferences/2017-conference/
In partnership with various local, national, and international cultural heritage organizations, academic institutions, and historic sites, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World Program (CLAW), the Addlestone Library, and the Race and Social Justice Initiative are hosting a conference on transforming public history practices from Charleston to the Atlantic World to be held at the College of Charleston and other partner sites in Charleston, South Carolina, June 15-17, 2017, with a pre-conference day of workshops on June 14th. The conference will include workshops, roundtables, 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. 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.
Mr. Michael Allen, National Park Service
Dr. Ana Lucia Araujo, Howard University
Dr. Richard Benjamin, International Slavery Museum, Liverpool
Ms. Alissandra Cummins, Barbados Museum & Historical Society
Dr. Rex Ellis, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
Ms. Makiba Foster, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Dr. Bayo Holsey, Rutgers University
Dr. Ned Kaufman, Kaufman Heritage Conservation
Mr. Caryl Phillips, Author and Playwright
Ms. Fath Davis Ruffins, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
Keynote Lecture: Lonnie G. Bunch III, PhD, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum for African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), June 15, 2017, Time and Location TBA, Free and Open to the Public
Dr. Bunch is the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. In this position he is working to set the museum’s mission, coordinate its fundraising and membership campaigns, develop its collections, establish cultural partnerships and oversee the design and construction of the museum’s building. Rooted in his belief that the museum exists now although the building is not in place, he is designing a high-profile program of traveling exhibitions and public events ranging from panel discussions and seminars to oral history and collecting workshops. As a public historian, a scholar who brings history to the people, Bunch has spent nearly 30 years in the museum field where he is regarded as one of the nation’s leading figures in the historical and museum community.
CANCELLED: “A Deeper Black: Race in America,” Ta-Nehisi Coates, Journalist and Author, College of Charleston TD Arena, October 18th, 2016, 6:30 pm
Unfortunately, Ta-Nehisi Coates has canceled his lecture at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena on October 18th, 2016, due to an unexpected change in his schedule. The Race and Social Justice Initiative team is looking into rescheduling options for a later date and will release another Eventbrite site. This event is postponed until further notice. Please contact Daron Lee Calhoun, II with any questions or concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Charleston County Public Library’s John L. Dart Library will still host a discussion of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates on Thursday, October 20th at 6pm. This discussion will be led by radio personality and local educator Kevin Smith, as part of the Dart after Dark: Book Discussion Circle. For more information please see:http://www.ccpl.org/
The College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) is funded and founded by Google, and this event is co-sponsored by the Charleston County Public Library, South Carolina Humanities, the SC Community Loan Fund, Coastal Community Foundation, SunTrust, the Avery Institute, and the Sophia Institute.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most original and perceptive black voices today—“the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (New York Observer). Coates is the author, most recently, of Between the World and Me, the #1 New York Times bestseller that “will be hailed as a classic of our time” (Publishers Weekly) and which Toni Morrison calls “required reading.” Between the World and Me is written by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the form of a letter to his teenage son, Samori. In 160 pages, it moves from Baltimore to Howard University to New York City to Paris, France, addressing what it means to be black in America. Slate calls it, “a book destined to remain on store shelves, bedside tables, and high school and college syllabi long after its author or any of us have left this Earth.” An Atlantic National Correspondent, Coates has written many influential articles, including “The Case for Reparations,” which reignited the long-dormant conversation of how to repay African-Americans for a system of institutional racism that’s robbed them of wealth and success for generations. New York called the George Polk Award-winning cover story “probably the most discussed magazine piece of the Obama era.” Coates’s debut book, The Beautiful Struggle, is a tough and touching memoir of growing up in Baltimore during the age of crack. In 2012, Coates was awarded the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism. Judge Hendrik Hertzberg, of The New Yorker, wrote, “Coates is one of the most elegant and sharp observers of race in America. He is an upholder of universal values, a brave and compassionate writer who challenges his readers to transcend narrow self-definitions and focus on shared humanity.” A former Village Voice writer, Coates has previously served as the Journalist in Residence at the School of Journalism at CUNY and the Martin Luther King Visiting Associate Professor at MIT. He has been awarded the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism. He is the winner of a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship, and was named of one TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
31 Lecture and Book Signing: “American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity, and Making a Difference,” Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Sottile Theatre, 44 George Street, Charleston, 6:00 pm
Co-sponsored by the College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative funded by Google, Charleston County Public Library, South Carolina Humanities, the SC Community Loan Fund, SunTrust, the Avery Institute, and the Sophia Institute
Through funding support from Starbucks and the Coastal Community Foundation, the Charleston County Public Library distributed free copies of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson starting February 15th, 2016, at all sixteen branch locations. CCPL also hosted various events throughout the month of March, please see their Programs calendar for more details.
America has the largest prison population in the world – and the criminal justice system that puts the men, women, and children in these prisons is broken. Excessive punishment and abuse are widespread, and the collateral consequences are devastating lives and communities. An inspiring and unflinchingly honest speaker, in this presentation Bryan Stevenson talks about defending some of America’s most rejected and marginalized people. The stories he tells are heartbreaking, yet inspiring, and motivate audiences to make a change.
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and one of the most acclaimed and respected lawyers in the nation. His memoir, Just Mercy, is the story of a young lawyer fighting on the frontlines of a country in thrall to extreme punishments and careless justice. It is an inspiring story of unbreakable humanity in the most desperate circumstances, and a powerful indictment of our broken justice system and the twisted values that allow it to continue. Stevenson is the recipient of numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant and the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction, and was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People for 2015. Stevenson is a tenured law professor at New York University School of Law. For more information on this speaker please visit www.prhspeakers.com.
1 Lecture: “A Conversation with Marian Wright Edelman,” Marian Wright Edelman, Author and President of the Children’s Defense Fund, Introduction by Former Senator Malcolm Graham, Sottile Theatre, 44 George Street, Charleston, SC, 6:30PM
Co-sponsored by the College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative funded by Google, the Women’s Resource Project, Inc., the Charleston County Public Library, the SC Community Loan Fund, SunTrust, the Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club, the Avery Institute, and the Sophia Institute
Throughout the month of February, the Charleston County Library hosted additional outreach events in honor of Marian Wright Edelman through the “I Can Make A Difference Initiative.”
Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. She has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, I’m Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.
Edelman will be introduced by Former Senator Malcolm Graham, the brother of Cynthia Hurd, one of the victims of the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in June 2015. Hurd was a Charleston native who worked for the Charleston County Library for over three decades. The Measure of Our Success by Marian Wright Edelman was one of her favorite books.
25 Film Screening: America Street – Introduction and Q&A session with Director Travis Pearson, Thaddeus Street Jr. Education Center, 25 St. Philip Street, Room 118, Charleston, SC, January 25, 7:00 pm
Co-sponsored by the College of Charleston’s College Reads! Program and the Race and Social Justice Initiative funded by Google
America Street is a southern tale of two brothers, Bucks and Sota. Bucks, a thirty-seven year old ex-convict, is now faced with the tough reality of having the stigma of being criminal and having to reconnect the fractured pieces of his life. Sota, a hot-head twenty-something, finds himself at a crossroads. He debates on whether to devote all his energies into his rap career or find a 9 to 5. America Street introduces the talents of Jason West, Devon Macdonald, Shalanda Davis and Michael Nesbitt. The film explores social and judicial issues that are affecting African-American communities across the country. Written, co-produced and directed by Travis Pearson.
15 Community Forum: “Ties That Bind Two Holy Cities: Reflections in Charleston by Survivors of the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing,” Burke High School Auditorium, 244 President Street, Charleston SC, 6:30pm, doors open at 6:00pm
Sponsored by the College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative funded by Google and SunTrust
In response to the tragic shootings at the Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015, the College of Charleston and community partners will host a series of events to examine the history of racial violence targeting African American churches. This community forum will particularly reflect on the historic connections between the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, and the 2015 shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Speakers will include Sarah Collins Rudolph, Junie Collins Williams, and Janie Collins Simpkins. Their sister, Addie Mae Collins, was one of the four victims of the church bombing that took place in Birmingham on September 15, 1963. A representative of the Emanuel AME Church will also speak. The Mother Emanuel Clara K. Washington Choir will perform musical selections beginning at 6:00pm to honor the victims and survivors of these tragedies.
Dr. Tracy Snipe from Wright State University in Dayton, OH, is a coordinator of these events and is currently completing a biography of Sarah Collins Rudolph, entitled The Fifth Girl: Sole Survivor of the 16th Street Bombing, and a biography of Junie Collins Williams, entitled Saving the Best Wine for Last: Remembrances of the 16th St. Bombing. For more information about these events, contact Jon Hale (email@example.com), Tracy Snipe (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the College of Charleston Libraries (843-953-8002).
Announcement: CALL FOR PROPOSALS: Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World
June 15-17, 2017, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
DEADLINE for Proposals: November 1, 2016
Keynote Speaker: Lonnie Bunch, PhD, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
In partnership with various local, national, and international cultural heritage organizations, academic institutions, and historic sites, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World Program (CLAW), and the Addlestone Library invite proposals for a conference on transforming public history practices in Charleston and the Atlantic World to be held at the College of Charleston and other partner sites in Charleston, South Carolina, June 15-17, 2017. The conference organizers welcome proposals for workshops, roundtables, panels, and individual papers. For more information on the CFP and conference speakers visit: http://claw.cofc.edu/conferences/2017-conference/
Announcement: Lowcountry Digital History Initiative Publishes Online Tribute in Partnership with Mother Emanuel Church to Commemorate Upcoming Anniversary of Mass Shooting
May 2016: The Lowcountry Digital History Initiative is pleased to announce the launch of “A Tribute to the Mother Emanuel Church,” to commemorate the upcoming anniversary of the tragic mass shooting.
Project link: go.cofc.edu/ldhiemanuel
This online tribute documents local, statewide, and national responses to the tragic mass shooting that took place at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. Through photographs from a range of sources, this visual account reveals an overwhelming outpouring of emotion and grief for the victims, survivors, and their families, as well as powerful efforts in the weeks and months following the shooting to address racial injustice and violence. Co-curated by Lowcountry Africana, the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, and the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in partnership with the Mother Emanuel Church and the Church’s Memorabilia Sub-Committee. Funded in part by the College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative.
Announcement: Race and Social Justice Initiative receives grant from South Carolina Humanities!
The Avery Research Center is pleased to announce that the Race and Social Justice Initiative received a grant from the South Carolina Humanities to help support presentations by Bryan Stevenson and Ta-Nehisi Coates for the RSJI 2016 Lecture Series and additional outreach events. Please see the South Carolina Humanities website for more details.
Announcement: Race and Social Justice Disparities Report
The Race and Social Justice Initiative plans to hire a consultant to do a disparities report that will inform city-wide policies in Charleston, South Carolina, and addresses inequities within the Lowcountry region. This report will be an important tool for exposing unequal opportunities and access to resources.
Announcement: Family Literacy Program – A collaboration between Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) and the Housing Authority of the City of Charleston
Co-sponsored by CCPL, the College of Charleston’s Race and Social Justice Initiative funded by Google, the Cynthia Graham Hurd Memorial Fund, and the Women’s Resource Project, Inc.
RSJI is pleased to announce that the Women’s Resource Project, Inc. has agreed to fund the Cynthia Graham Hurd Family Literacy Program with the Charleston County Public Library (CCPL). In partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of Charleston, the goal of this program is to reach one hundred families who reside in the Housing Authority’s communities through a program series that takes place over two years. This series will provide family literacy support and training. The books utilized for this series will encourage the five strategies for improving literacy skills, according to the Every Child Ready to Read © model (Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, Playing). These books include: I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children by Marian Wright Edelman, Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Simple, art-infused literacy activities will be incorporated in each session, which will be led by CCPL Staff. In addition, CCPL staff will provide a Read-Aloud and Story Discussion Circle at every academic institution serving children ages 5 to 10 years in the Dart Library service area.