College of Charleston Reflects on the Dream of Martin Luther King Jr.

On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. In honor of this pivotal speech, we asked College of Charleston students, faculty, and staff to reflect on the speech and finish the sentence, “I have a dream: that one day…” We collected responses around campus and then compiled the answers into word clouds. The three different word clouds below represent the College of Charleston’s dreams today; the bigger the word, the more frequently it appeared in student faculty, and staff responses. We hope that these word clouds illustrate the dreams of the community while also revealing the work that still needs to be done to truly make King’s dream a reality.

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Above:education and equality are still concerns fifty years later, however, gender and sexuality have emerged as other major issues of importance.

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Above: Current events are reflected in some responses with many people including “healthcare” and similar terms in their responses.

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Above: The future is one of CofC’s biggest concerns. Many responses involved considerations of education and children, but CofC is thinking about the future for those in our local and global communities: the terms “education,” “accessibility,” and “equality” appear frequently along with “world,” “class,” and “borders.”

What work do you think still needs to be done to achieve Dr. King’s dream? How have our communities changed over the last fifty years and in what ways do they still need to continue to change? And what would you most like to see changed before the 100th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech?

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Fill Your September Calendar with Jubilee

The back-to-school chaos is starting to die down as September slowly transitions to autumn. As we fall back into our new routines, we’d like to add a few Jubilee events to our September schedules.

On September 20th at 8:30 a.m, the University of South Carolina will open the 2013 GALA exhibit, “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus.” Taking its name from the Pete Seeger 1963 protest song, the exhibit  pieces represent, illustrate, and symbolize the changes brought to South Carolina and the South by the Civil Rights movement. The invitational juried art exhibition features South Carolina artists including Susan Lenz (known for her quilt series and stained glass projects), Laura Spong (a “non-objective expressionist” painter), and Jean Grosser (a mixed media artist). The McKissick Museum states, “We expect the show will suggest how the African American struggle for civil rights evolved and later paved the way for other historically disenfranchised groups of people to work toward social change. We anticipate artworks that reflect new ‘ways of seeing’ the movement within the art world and beyond.” Later that day, the McKissick will host its annual fundraiser gala from 7 to 10 p.m. All of the artwork will be available for purchase at that time.

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Previous works by the featured artists (clockwise from left: Jean Grosser, Laura Spong, and Susan Lenz)

On September 26th at 7:00 p.m, award-winning South Carolinian poet, Nikky Finney will speak in the University of South Carolina Law Auditorium. Nikky Finney grew up in South Carolina in a household committed to social justice and civil rights during the period of integration. Nikky Finney’s poems explore race, family traditions, politics, and much more.

Du Bois’ Life and Legacy Honored

On August 27th, 1963, W.E.B Du Bois died in Ghana at the age of 95. The legacy he left behind to the Civil Rights movement cannot be understated. During the last week of August, the College of Charleston and the Jubilee Project honored his efforts as one of America’s greatest emancipationists with a poster display in the Addlestone Library at the College. Below are some of the posters displayed as part of the commemoration.

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50th Anniversary of USC Desegregation

James Solomon, Henrie Monteith, and Robert Anderson arrived at the University of South Carolina on September 11th, 1963 to register for classes and to help usher in a new era of desegregated higher education in South Carolina. On September 11th, 2013, James Solomon and Henrie Monteith Treadwell returned to the USC campus to remember the major steps they took fifty years ago.

Looking back on how far American education has come, there was also reflection on how far we still need to go. The event received a large amount of attention with several news sources covering the event:

USC Commemorates 1963 Desegregation

The focus of the Jubilee Project shifts to Columbia today, September 11th, as the University of South Carolina begins its year-long commemoration of its desegregation in September, 1963. For an article on the commemoration, check out the State newspaper here.

The University’s official web-site listing all the commemorative events is here.

Fall Back into Autumn with the Jubilee Project

With the return of autumn, the school year, and cooler days (hopefully), so returns this blog! After a quiet summer on the blog, we are planning on resuming actively posting about our upcoming events over the remaining few months of the Project.

And while the blog posts might have slowed a bit over the summer, the Jubilee Project certainly did not, and we have had quite a few exciting events recently! A couple historical markers have been unveiled around the Charleston area: one on King Street commemorating the Kress sit-in and another on John’s Island in honor of the Progressive Club. The College of Charleston hosted a panel on August 30th focused on Charleston’s history as a city dedicated to religious freedom while simultaneously acting as a haven for slavery. Joe McGill, who participated in the panel, continued his awareness-raising work, The Slave Dwelling Project, by sleeping in one of Charleston’s former slave dwellings at 16 1/2 Glebe Street in the heart of the College of Charleston.

The Charleston art community is also hosting a variety of exhibitions in association with The Jubilee Project. The City Gallery at Waterfront Park is currently showing their exhibition, “Spirit of Place; Traditions of the Agrarian Home in Barbados and the Carolina Lowcountry.” This exhibition explores the connections between Charleston and Barbados. The Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston is also hosting an exhibition in the spirit of Jubilee. Their exhibition,  “Unenslaved: Rice Culture Paintings by Jonathan Green,” is inspired by the Lowcountry’s rice culture. It is free and open to the public.

And finally, let us tell you about some of our upcoming events! On September 11th, the University of South Carolina will begin its commemoration of (re-)desegregation with its opening ceremony, “1963-2013, Desegregation-Integration” featuring President Harris Pastides and Desegregation Committee co-chairs Valinda Littlefield and Lacy Ford.

From September 12-14, the Culinary Institute of Charleston, the College of Charleston and Middleton Place will present the Lowcountry Rice Culture Forum featuring a variety of speakers ranging from historians to restaurateurs. The forum will highlight the influence the rice culture has had on Lowcountry culture and life.

Stay tuned for more events, more information, and more updates. And, as always, we’d love to see you out there!

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, August 2013

Dr. Kerry Taylor, Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina
Assistant Professor of History and Director of the Citadel Oral History Program

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Washington DC, image by Herb Frazier, August 2013.

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Washington DC, image by Herb Frazier, August 2013.

Will Jones’s new book, The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights, has been on my mind these past few weeks as friends in Charleston worked to commemorate the March’s 50th Anniversary. Jones argues that the more radical dimensions of the historic March — its economic agenda and the leadership provided by black socialists and trade unionists — have been mostly forgotten over time. A. Philip Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, initially pitched the idea for the 1963 demonstration as a “March for Jobs” to call attention to “the economic subordination of the Negro,” as his associate Bayard Rustin put it. Modeled on their campaign to desegregate war industries in the 1940s, Randolph and Rustin called for an end to employment discrimination, a federal jobs program, and a minimum wage hike. Jones asserts that it was among “the most successful mobilizations ever created by the American left.” He also suggests that the March may have represented the largest gathering of union members in US history and observes that the demonstrators were mostly low wage African American workers. Malcolm X, nevertheless, dubbed it the “farce on Washington.” Later, New Leftists and advocates of Black Power were similarly dismissive. They alleged that the March was compromised by concessions to the Kennedy administration and white liberals. Jones rejects those allegations, but notes that our memories of the March have reduced it to a civil rights event and the backdrop for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Last Friday evening (August 23), more than 150 area residents boarded three chartered buses, rode ten hours to Washington, and took part in the anniversary March. Black workers — most notably members of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 and African American employees of the Medical University of South Carolina –organized the trip. They viewed the commemorative events in Washington as an opportunity for movement building — a chance to energize local struggles and to network with activists from around the country. The Greater Charleston Central Labor Council provided additional funds, as did a handful of businesses and churches, the North Charleston branch of the NAACP, and a few generous individuals. The Charleston contingent mirrored Will Jones’s description of the crowd in 1963. They were nearly all African American, and included public employees, childcare specialists, longshore workers, the unemployed, and retirees. They were joined by a few professionals. The cost of the trip was $20, but no one was denied a seat on the bus for lack of funds.

Some observers of the 50th Anniversary March have echoed the earlier criticisms of the 1963 March. Dave Zirin, writing in The Nation, asserted that “far too many speakers pay homage to the narrowest possible liberal agenda in broad abstractions with none of the searing material truths that make Dr. King’s speeches so bracing even today.” On his way to the Metro following the March, Bob Zellner, a former field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, complained to me that March organizers relegated the Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP to a one minute, early morning prayer. Barber has been the public face of the Moral Monday protests against the General Assembly’s health and education cuts and attacks on voting and labor rights. The weekly demonstrations, which began in April, have been sustained by a robust coalition of church, labor, and community groups and have resulted in nearly one thousand arrests for acts of non-violent civil disobedience. Zellner recently relocated to Eastern North Carolina from New York to be a part of the movement and had been lobbying the March planners to give Barber a prominent speaking slot.

I’m sympathetic to these critiques. A commemorative event built around the Moral Monday protests and the Dream Defenders, who recently ended their month-long occupation of the Florida governor’s office in protest of the state’s stand your ground law, would have made for a worthy tribute to the 1963 March. I would have preferred to hear more about the struggle to save public education in Chicago than a pep talk from Nancy Pelosi or Eric Holder. The nation needs more Asean Johnson, the nine-year old Chicago student who spoke movingly, but very briefly about the need for school funding equity, and less Al Sharpton, who we can dial in any night of the week. An event more focused on North Carolina, Florida, and Chicago could have put the national spotlight on these local movements. It would also have projected to the public a clear sense of what a 21st-century mass movement for human rights looks like.

If the March planners attempted to dull the message or to constrain grassroots energy, however, they were limited in their effectiveness. The historical power of the black freedom movement as well as the experience of marching on Saturday with fellow travelers from Cleveland, Syracuse, and Atlanta bested all efforts to control the March on Washington. That became clear to me during the two-hour late-night discussion that took place on the bus ride back to Charleston Saturday night. Longshoreman Leonard Riley facilitated a program evaluation and organizing seminar during which bus passengers declared that participating in the March had been among the most moving experiences of their lives. They explained that they had brought children along in order to expose them to the tradition of struggle that they inherit. And in sometimes brutally honest language, participants engaged in deep self-criticism of the Charleston movement, reflecting on weaknesses of the past and identifying the challenges ahead.

Recommended Resources:
William Jones in Dissent
http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/the-forgotten-radical-history-of-the-march-on-washington

William P. Jones, The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights (W.W. Norton & Co, 2013)

Dave Zirin in The Nation
http://www.thenation.com/blog/175890/seeing-new-jim-crow-placards-seized-police-more-march-washington#axzz2dGBCIBW1

Asean Johnson, Chicago student, March on Washington

Phillip Agnew, Dream Defenders, March on Washington

Kerry Taylor teaches US history at The Citadel and coedited volumes four and five of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Additional images by Herb Frazier of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, August 2013:

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