Monday, March 19, 2012

Web Wanderings

I subscribe to a number of email listserves to keep up on conference notices, book reviews and historical questions that scholars are asking and attempting to answer. Sometimes the posts are valuable and interesting and sometimes...well, not so much. Today one came across the H-South listserve that really caught my attention and that I wanted to share here.

A number of graduate Public History students at the University of South Carolina have created an excellent website about the history of slavery at South Carolina College (the precursor of the University of South Carolina).

Here is the information from their homepage:

"This website is intended to tell the largely unknown and unfamiliar story of slavery at South Carolina College, the institutional predecessor of the University of South Carolina.

Slaves played a fundamental role at the college between its founding in December 1801 and February 1865, when slaves saw themselves liberated by the arrival of federal troops in Columbia in the final months of the Civil War. The primary buildings of South Carolina College survive as the historic heart of the modern campus—known today as the Horseshoe—and were constructed by slave labor and built of slave-made brick.

If one stands today on the steps of the university’s McKissick Museum and gazes toward Sumter Street, almost all of the buildings that constituted South Carolina College on the eve of the Civil War are visible. (The original president’s house has been replaced by McKissick Museum and several extant antebellum buildings are obscured by structures and vegetation.) It is a surprisingly intact and well-preserved “landscape of slavery.”

Slaves were essential to the daily operations of the antebellum institution, in addition to their role in shaping its built environment. Whether they were owned outright by the faculty or the college itself, or hired from private parties, slaves maintained campus buildings, cleaned student tenements and faculty duplexes, and prepared meals at the student dining commons, faculty residences, and the president’s house. Slaves lived and worked in now-forgotten outbuildings located behind the buildings of the present-day Horseshoe.

Slavery also shaped the contours of the intellectual and political world at South Carolina College. Presidents and faculty members became some of the nation’s most ardent defenders of slavery, even as a handful emerged to oppose the institution. The college prepared its students to assume positions of political leadership within the state and in Washington, D.C., and many alumni came to play pivotal roles as proponents of South Carolina’s economic and racial interests in the sectional crisis that culminated in civil war. These political and intellectual leaders are relatively easy to trace in libraries and archives through their writings and their records of public service. More challenging to research are the names, much less the lives, of individual college slaves or the full details of slavery at the college."

Take a look for yourself and leave them some feedback on what you think!

1 comment:

  1. Tim - A belated thanks for posting this. This was a fun project. Also, I we met at KHS in early June. Is that true? I was there doing research on CW prisons.