Call My Name, Clemson: Documenting the Black Experience in an American University Community

Call My Name, Clemson: Documenting the Black Experience in an American University Community

by Rhondda Robinson Thomas


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Between 1890 and 1915, a predominately African American state convict crew built Clemson University on John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation in upstate South Carolina. Calhoun’s plantation house still sits in the middle of campus. From the establishment of the plantation in 1825 through the integration of Clemson in 1963, African Americans have played a pivotal role in sustaining the land and the university. Yet their stories and contributions are largely omitted from Clemson’s public history.

This book traces “Call My Name: African Americans in Early Clemson University History,” a Clemson English professor’s public history project that helped convince the university to reexamine and reconceptualize the institution’s complete and complex story from the origins of its land as Cherokee territory to its transformation into an increasingly diverse higher-education institution in the twenty-first century. Threading together scenes of communal history and conversation, student protests, white supremacist terrorism, and personal and institutional reckoning with Clemson’s past, this story helps us better understand the inextricable link between the history and legacies of slavery and the development of higher education institutions in America.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609387402
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Publication date: 11/02/2020
Series: Humanities and Public Life
Edition description: 1
Pages: 284
Sales rank: 463,132
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 8.75(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Rhondda Robinson Thomas is Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University. She is author of Claiming Exodus: A Cultural History of Afro-Atlantic Identity, 1770–1903. She is faculty director for “Call My Name: African Americans in Early Clemson University History,” and lives in Anderson, South Carolina.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Anne Valk and Teresa Mangum, series editors ix

Preface 1

Call: The Black Fruster Family's Clemson Connection Eric Young 7

And Response: Hush, Oh, Hush, Somebody's Calling My Name Rhondda Robinson Thomas 14

Section 1

Call: Of String and Mammy Rhondda Robinson Thomas 33

And Response: Black Lives Have Always Mattered Michael LeMahieu 40

Chapter 1 The Calling: I Will Testify 47

Section 2

CALL: Love, Duke Ellington by Rhondda Robinson Thomas 71

And Response: "World-Famous" Duke Ellington, the Central Dance Association, and the Tiger Brendan McNeely 78

Chapter 2 The Project: Call My Name 83

Section 3

CALL: The Twelve-Year-Old Felon by Rhondda Robinson Thomas 129

And Response: A Seat at the Table by Thomas Marshall 134

Chapter 3 The Challenge: Creating Collaborations 139

Section 4

CALL: Loyal Slave or Dangerous Trickster? Rhondda Robinson Thomas 177

And Response: The Fire This Time Emily Boyter Edith Dunlap 183

Chapter 4 The impact: Clemson History as Public History 187

Section 5

CALL: Post-desegregation Clemson Rhondda Robinson Thomas 221

And Response: A Tale of Parallels by Shaquille Fontenot 227

Coda: The Power of Calling a Name

Postlude 239

CALL: Reconciling My Lineage to Strom Thurmond Monica Williams-Hudgens 241

And Response: Where There's a Will… Rhondda Robinson Thomas 247

Contributors 257

Acknowledgments 259

Notes 261

Bibliography 281

Index 285

What People are Saying About This

Leslie M. Harris

“Through a compelling blend of history, contemporary experiences, observation, and personal honesty, Thomas reveals how the nation’s institutions continue to rely
on a small group of people to make change in the area of race and racism, not to mention other forms of diversity. Call My Name, Clemson is a fascinating, thought-provoking read for anyone interested in how political change happens.”—Leslie M. Harris, coeditor, Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies

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