Revered Lowcountry Historian Charles Joyner Dies: CLAW Executive Director Vernon Burton Pays Tribute.

Posted on September 28, 2016

Renowned historian Charles Joyner died September 13, 2016, at the age of 81.  Joyner’s career is not easy to summarize because, to employ one of his own phrases, it “stubbornly resists synthesis.” Charles Joyner has lived in the South most of his life—writing, teaching, and lecturing on southern history from slavery and the Civil War to segregation and the Civil Rights movement, from politicians and generals to rebels and reporters; Southern literature from William Faulkner to William Styron, Julia Peterkin to Natasha Trethewey; Southern folk culture from tales and legends to music and material culture; and Southern music from ballads to blues, spirituals to classical, country and bluegrass to rock and jazz.  Much of his work has explored what he has described as “pursuing large questions in small places.” He has pursued some of the most important questions close to his home, such as the influence of folk culture on the civil rights movement on Johns Island, the influence of assimilation on identity in the Jewish community of Georgetown, and the emergence of Gullah culture in the slave communities along the Waccamaw River.

Born in 1935, Joyner grew up mainly in the Pee Dee region of northeast South Carolina.  Joyner studied at Presbyterian College and earned two Ph.D.’s at the University of South Carolina and the University of Pennsylvania.  He taught at multiple universities before serving for 27 years as a history professor at Coastal Carolina in Conway, where he was the Burroughs Distinguished Professor of Southern History and Culture.

Joyner came of age in the segregationist South.  Yet, his belief in justice and his empathy for others led him to join the Civil Rights crusade in early adulthood.  Those experiences of a white southern liberal who was active in the Civil Rights Movement motivated and inspired Joyner in his exploration of the intersections of African American and white cultures.  Because he appreciated the value of all people and their stories, he weaved their stories together as they flowed through Southern history and heritage.

Joyner is widely respected for his award-winning book Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community, which chronicles slave life in the community of All Saints Parish in Georgetown County, South Carolina.  Published in 1984, it is one of the finest and most intimate books ever written on slavery.  Joyner’s influence extended far beyond Down by the Riverside.  He authored numerous books, articles, and essays; he made documentary films, taught university classes, and lectured nationally and internationally on Southern history and culture.

Joyner was also a musician.  With a historical fascination with the roots of various musical genres, he used his musical talent to inspire others in their activism, their studies, and their joy.  He told folktales and sang traditional songs at local elementary schools as well as with groups of distinguished historians.

His numerous honors and awards include the Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities from the South Carolina Humanities Council.  He served as a president of the Southern Historical Association and of the North Carolina Folklore Society.  He was an honorary life member of the British American Nineteenth-Century Historians.  In 2011 Coastal Carolina University hosted a conference: “Writing the South in Fact, Fiction, and Poetry.”  This group of scholars, novelists, and poets of the American South gathered together to honor Charles Joyner.

Joyner is survived by his wife Jean Dusenbury Joyner, his son Wesley, his daughter Hannah, her husband David, and Joyner’s grandson Abraham.

We have lost a truly great historian and a great humanitarian, and for me an even better friend.  He made the world a better place, and the world is less because of our loss. We shall not see the likes of a Chaz Joyner again.


Orville Vernon Burton


Dr Nicole Maskiell Review

Posted on September 27, 2016

On September 27th 2016, Nicole Maskiell, an assistant professor of History at the University of South Carolina- Columbia delivered a lecture entitled “The Runaway Who Passed as Slave Catcher: Native Slavery and the Strange Histories of the Color Line” as the CLAW program’s first Wells Fargo Distinguished Public Lecture of this academic year.

Dr Maskiell’s lecture represents her research into the histories of race and slavery in the colonial northeast, especially New York and New Jersey. Using a range of slave runaway advertisements between about 1680 and 1770, Dr Maskiell demonstrated how both slaveholders and  enslaved people  used “Indian” and “mulatto” identities, identities that over time hardened into the racial binary of “white” and “Negro.” The existence of multiple ethnicities  in colonial New York and New Jersey was ultimately responsible for shaping the  development of race and identity in the colonial period and beyond.

Dr. Maskiell’s work refines the contours of our understanding surrounding concepts of race and identity in the colonial period insofar as she successfully demonstrates that they existed outside of a binary. More importantly, failure to consider identities outside of the dichotomy risks losing the rich and important voices of enslaved peoples.

Dr. Maskiell’s talk also placed considerable emphasis on how slave masters established a network throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland to assist in the recapture of enslaved people.

The talk was extremely well attended by the College students of all standing.  The high number of attendees demonstrates that there is still significant interest in recovering the lost voices from this nation’s past.

Lisa Covert, a member of the History faculty at the College, stated that:

“Dr. Maskiell presented fascinating research on the complex, multiethnic context for the evolution of ideas about race in the early Americas. Her research reveals how various actors subtly deployed racial categories to meet their own needs, whether that meant tracking down a runaway or carefully evading capture. She demonstrated the challenges of piecing together the stories of those so often marginalized in the historical record by inviting the audience to interact with her sources. In so doing, however, Dr. Maskiell also revealed how fragments can come together to speak volumes. ”


Mark Auslander review

Posted on September 21, 2016

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. 

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May Announcements from the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative

Posted on May 23, 2016

Emanuel AME Church after the Young Preservationists' event, photograph by Brittany Lavelle Tulla, July 8, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.
Emanuel AME Church after the Young Preservationists’ event, photograph by Brittany Lavelle Tulla, July 8, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina.

The Lowcountry Digital History Initiative ( 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:

A Tribute to the Mother Emanuel Church

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.

Avery: The Spirit That Would Not Die, 1865-2015

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.

Charleston’s Cotton Factory, 1880-1900

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.

Liverpool’s Abercromby Square and the Confederacy During the U.S. Civil War

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:
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 ( or Co-Director Mary Battle ( with any comments, suggestions, or questions you have about current and future LDHI projects, including new project partnerships.


2015 Hines Prize Presentation and Faculty Seminar

Posted on April 21, 2016

Left, former Dean Samuel Hines and right, Dr. Huw T. David


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.

Congratulations, Dr. David!

Call for Proposals: 2017 Conference, “Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World”

Posted on April 13, 2016


Conference: “Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World,” June 15-17, 2017, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Hosted by: The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Addlestone Library, and the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program at the College of Charleston

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In Honor of Women’s History Month: Harriet Tubman

Posted on March 21, 2016

Article obtained from

“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.”

New Historic Marker and Exhibit at the Old Exchange Building: “Slave Auctions,” Edwin C. Breeden

Posted on March 11, 2016

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

Richard Porcher, “Carolina Rice and Sea Island Cotton: The English Connection”

Posted on March 2, 2016

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

Nafees Khan, “The Presentation of the Atlantic Slave Trade in U.S. and Brazilian School Textbooks”

Posted on February 19, 2016

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.

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