On September 15th, Mark Auslander, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Central Washington University and Director of CWU’s Museum of Culture and Environment, gave a presentation at the College of Charleston on an embroidered bag known as “Ashley’s Sack” that will be displayed at the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History. The embroidery on the sack tells the story of a mother and daughter who were separated by a slave sale in South Carolina. The sack, of unknown provenance, is presumed to have remained in the family as a treasured heirloom, before appearing for auction in 2007. Because of Ruth Middleton’s embroidered name on the sack, it was purchased by Middleton Place, where it has been on display in a variety of contexts since.
Auslander’s talk not only revealed the outcome of his genealogical detective work to determine the likely identities of Ruth, Middleton and her ancestors, but also demonstrated how the embroidered text and the sack itself can humanize the broader historical narrative of kinship among enslaved families that were split up during the period of slavery in South Carolina. Pointing out that the family structure was of vital importance, not only to slave identity but also to the memory of enslaved persons, even when the unit itself was dispersed over many miles, Auslander demonstrated great dexterity in tracing probable candidates not only for Ruth Middleton, and her great grandmother Rose and grandmother Ashley, but also for their likely master.
Auslander’s research is significant insofar as it attempts to broaden our understanding of how enslaved people attempted to preserve not only their family networks, but also how they sought to preserve notions of agency and autonomy.
The talk was well attended, with members of both the campus and wider Low Country community in attendance. The broad range of attendees rendered the discussion both lively and inquisitive.
The Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (http://ldhi.library.cofc.edu/) is an online exhibitions platform hosted by the Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL) in partnership with the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Program in the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW), College of Charleston-Citadel Graduate College Master of Arts in History Program, and the College of Charleston Race and Social Justice Initiative. We are pleased to offer the following announcements and updates:
New Online Exhibitions: As of May 2016, LDHI features nineteen online exhibitions that highlight underrepresented histories in the Lowcountry region and interconnected Atlantic World, with many more in progress. Our latest exhibitions include:
Project Partners: Co-curated by Lowcountry Africana, the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, and the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center in partnership with the Mother Emanuel Church.
This online tribute documents local, statewide, and national responses to the tragic mass shooting that took place at the Emanuel AME Church, also known as Mother Emanuel, 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. Published May 2016.
Project Partners: The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture
2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Avery Normal Institute and the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston. This online exhibition explores over one hundred and fifty years of Avery history—from its origins as a school for Black Charlestonians starting in 1865, to its current form as a center for promoting the history and culture of the African diaspora with an emphasis on Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry. Published May 2016.
Project Author: Susan Millar Williams, Trident Technical College
This exhibition traces the history of the cotton factory in Charleston, South Carolina, from 1880 to 1900, and examines how mill workers—black and white, male and female—struggled for better working conditions in the contentious political, social, and economic contexts of the late nineteenth century. Published December 2015.
Project Authors: Christopher Williams, Jim Powell, and Joseph Kelly, University of Liverpool
This exhibition explores connections between the U.S. South and Great Britain during the American Civil War, particularly through trading activities led by a group of influential businessmen who lived in Liverpool’s Abercromby Square. Despite widespread popular opinion against slavery by the mid-eighteenth century in Great Britain, the fortunes of this elite neighborhood were still intricately tied to the fate of the Confederacy. Published December 2015.
New Partnerships – Race and Social Justice Initiative: go.cofc.edu/rsji 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 (RSJI) 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.
Thank you to our 2015-2016 Graduate Students! Special thanks to our graduate assistants from the College of Charleston-Citadel Graduate College Joint Master of Arts in History Program: Monica Bowman, Ciera Gordon, Jamie Mansbridge, and Leah Worthington. They’ve done wonderful work with LDHI, and best of luck to our graduates!
Help us share: LDHI hopes to be a growing resource in the Charleston area and beyond. Please feel free to share LDHI in the classroom, on websites and social media, or through public talks or programming. Follow the Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL) on Twitter and Facebook for more LDHI and LCDL updates!
We’d love to hear from you: We are interested in your feedback! Please contact Project Coordinator Amanda Noll (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Co-Director Mary Battle (email@example.com) with any comments, suggestions, or questions you have about current and future LDHI projects, including new project partnerships.
Dr. Huw T. David, Director of Development at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University, was awarded the biennial Hines Prize by former Dean Sam Hines on Thursday, April 14th, for his manuscript, The Atlantic at Work: Britain and South Carolina’s Trading Networks, 1730 to 1790.
The prize, endowed by former College of Charleston Dean Samuel Hines, is awarded every other year for the best first manuscript on a topic relating to the Carolina Lowcountry and/or Atlantic World.
“David’s manuscript presents a compendious history of the trade relations between South Carolina and Great Britain in the eighteenth century, both in the decades leading up to the Revolutionary War and immediately following the Revolution,” CLAW director Simon Lewis said.
David’s manuscript derives from his thesis at Oxford University, for which he used a collective biography of some two dozen “Carolina traders.” His study offers new insights into the political economy of Carolina trade with Great Britain and its impact on Atlantic politics in the era of the American Revolution. David’s study reveals how these men’s trading activity at first acted as a stabilizing force but from the 1760s on aggravated intra-imperial discord. After the Revolution, according to David, Carolinians exercised greater commercial discretion than contemporaries and historians have appreciated. David’s work thus challenges contentions of South Carolina’s continuing commercial subservience to British trading interests.
In the context of remarkably strong competition, with manuscripts on topics ranging from the Civil War to African and African American watermen, the Hines Prize committee praised David’s manuscript especially for its placing of the Lowcountry squarely at the center of Atlantic World geo-politics in the critical decades before, during, and immediately after American independence.
David works as a Development Officer at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University. He has previously published a number of articles in academic journals and he has held visiting fellowships at institutions including the University of South Carolina and the Huntington Library, Los Angeles.
Following the presentation, Dr. David lead a faculty seminar which discussed the notion of “Transatlantic Absenteeism” in colonial South Carolina.
“Women’s History Month is celebrated each year during March. In honor of celebrating women’s achievements throughout history, we wanted to share this article about Harriet Tubman — arguably one of the most noteworthy women in history and whose efforts during the Civil War and Underground Railraod helped shape our nation. Harriet Tubman is best known for her efforts during the Underground Railroad; however, she also played an important role in working with Union soldiers and freeing Southern slaves during the Civil War. Read more about her incredible efforts in this article written by Becky Oakes.”
The Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon, a national historic landmark located at the intersection of East Bay and Broad Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, has served many purposes for the city during its three hundred years.
These functions include: a jailhouse for hapless pirates, a customs and exchange building for a myriad of Atlantic goods entering the port city, a British-controlled dungeon harboring Revolutionary prisoners, a civic government institution where the South Carolina delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence were elected, the location of the the South Carolina convention which ratified the U.S. Constitution, and where George Washington was lavishly entertained for a week during his national post-Revolutionary war tour. However, a new role of the Old Exchange Building, equal in national significance to the aforementioned functions as well as critical to comprehending the local history of Charleston, has been researched and verified by Rice University Ph.D. candidate and research affiliate of the Old Exchange Building, Edwin C. Breeden. Read More
Now in its ninth year,the South Carolina Historical Society’s Winter 2016 Lecture Series, entitled “This Abundant Land: The Natural and Agricultural History of South Carolina,” spans eight weeks and will feature prominent historians discussing topics that range from rice, tobacco, and phosphates to culinary delights and the plantation landscape. Read More
Article courtesy of the Avery Research Center
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was the largest forced migration in human history and is critical to understanding the complexity of the history of slavery and indeed the history of the Atlantic world. This enterprise, based on racism, violence, and greed was responsible for the dispersal of millions of enslaved Africans throughout the Americas.
The CLAW program, in collaboration with Wells Fargo, was pleased to host Dr. Richard Price, Professor Emeritus of American Studies at the College of William and Mary, as the first of this semester’s Wells Fargo Distinguished Public Lectures and the keynote speaker for the 2016 conference on maroonage. Dr. Price is a pioneering figure in the field of ethnographic history in general and of maroonage in particular. Read More
Dr. Steve Mentz, Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City and author of Shipwreck Modernity (2015), was one of the many distinguished attendants of the recent intimate CLAW Conference held at the College of Charleston. He recorded his experience of the conference in an engaging post to his personal website. To read Dr. Mentz’s reflections on the conference, his time in the Lowcountry, and of course marronage, maroonage, and maroons, please click here.