College of Charleston Fall Events Series–Our Own “Charleston Syllabus”

[what follows is an e-mail announcement to the faculty of the College of Charleston, with a link to an extraordinarily rich sequence of programming related to racial issues]

“It’s starting to seem possible that we could begin to accord our grief its proper weight. Grief could spur us to make things better, to undertake the much more confusing, much more uncertain work of justice and fairness, of a social infrastructure worthy of the name “community.” We’re succeeding, in this moment, at expressing our wish for that, and that is a start.” Julia Eichelberger (College of Charleston, Department of English)

 “The College is at a powerful moment to be a regional force on the peninsula for understanding what has happened just blocks away, and one positive thing already in place is the choice of Freedom Summer for the CollegeReads! next year.  Regardless of what happens with political movements, we can use the power within to transform understanding.” Kevin Keenan (College of Charleston, Department of Political Science)

“#Charlestonsyllabus is more than a list. It is a community of people committed to critical thinking, truth telling and social transformation.” Chad Williams (Brandeis University)

Almost immediately after the horrendous attack at Mother Emanuel, scholars around the country began crowd-sourcing a #charlestonsyllabus of material that would provide educators with a set of readings that would “provide valuable information about the history of racial violence in this country and contextualize the history of race relations in South Carolina and the United States in general. They also offer insights on race, racial identities, global white supremacy and black resistance” (http://aaihs.org/resources/charlestonsyllabus/).

The syllabus was conceived and coordinated by Dr Chad Williams at Brandeis University. It is a syllabus, however, that many of our students could already have followed at the College of Charleston. A very high percentage of the scholars listed have at one time or another been the guests of one or more departments or programs here—and not just the obvious ones such as the African American Studies Program, the Avery Research Center, the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program, or our Office of Institutional Diversity.  Programming and curricula elsewhere across the campus have also addressed these issues—The Honors College’s “Beyond George Street,” for instance, The College Reads!, programs in the Political Science department and Geography program, in History, Religious Studies, in Music, Theater, and the Fine Arts, and many more. A number of our own faculty or of affiliated faculty are included in the list of authors (Bernie Powers, Harlan Greene, Lee Drago, Vernon Burton, for example), and the first two websites listed in #Charlestonsyllabus are hosted by the College of Charleston (After Slavery, and the LDHI’s digital exhibition on the Charleston Hospital Workers’ Strike of 1969).

In short, many of us at the College of Charleston have been doing exactly the kind of work leading to the critical understanding that might build a truly just and equitable community that the epigraphs above all aspire to.  The list of Charleston Syllabus events at CofC that follows–a compilation of lists from across the campus of programming that in one way or another addresses African American culture, race relations, and or Civil Rights–shows just how extensively and how intentionally we will be continuing that work this semester. It is not exhaustive, and  includes only extra- and co-curricular programming, not regular or special topics courses where the content might be considered in keeping with the spirit of the #Charlestonsyllabus. I would welcome any corrections or additions.

In any case, please do support your fellow faculty who are organizing these events, and encourage your students (as well as friends, family, and members of the public) to attend as many as they can. As academics we frequently fall prey to the belief that what we do does not matter in the “real world.” The events of June 17th show to the contrary, however, in negative, just how vital our teaching can be. I believe we have a huge responsibility in overcoming narratives of division, separation, and hatred. Please help our own “Charleston Syllabus” shoulder that responsibility as effectively as humanly possible.

Simon