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For Researchers

Bibliographies — Websites — Videos


Our bibliographies contain information about two kinds of sources: 1) works of scholarship or creative writing that LSLdb pilot partners have found especially influential on their thinking about their campus memorial environments; and 2) works that have influenced the larger movement of universities studying the influence of slavery and its legacies on their campuses.

Locators’ Favorites

We asked our pilot partners to name a book or article that has shaped their explorations of how their respective campuses have memorialized enslavers and proponents of the Lost Cause.

Clint Smith, How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America (2022) “‘This book is Clint Smith’s contemporary portrait of the United States of America as a slave-owning nation. Beginning in his own hometown of New Orleans, Smith leads the reader through an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks, those that are honest about the past and those that are not, that offer an inter-generational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.” Suggested by Dr. Daniel Fountain, historian, Meredith College.

Tracy Thompson, The New Mind of the South (2013) “Thompson spent years traveling through the region and discovered a South both amazingly similar and radically different from the land she knew as a child. African Americans who left en masse for much of the twentieth century are returning in huge numbers, drawn back by a mix of ambition, family ties, and cultural memory. Though Southerners remain more churchgoing than other Americans, the evangelical Protestantism that defined Southern culture up through the 1960s has been torn by bitter ideological schisms. The new South is ahead of others in absorbing waves of Latino immigrants, in rediscovering its agrarian traditions, in seeking racial reconciliation, and in reinventing what it means to have roots in an increasingly rootless global culture. Drawing on mountains of data, interviews, and a whole new set of historic archives, Thompson upends stereotypes and fallacies to reveal the true heart of the South today—a region still misunderstood by outsiders and even by its own people.” Suggested by Dr. Phillip Stone, archivist, Wofford College.

Edited by Greg Dickinson, Carole Blair, and Brian L. Ott. Places of Public Memory: The Rhetoric of Museums and Memorials (2010) “This book investigates the intersections of memory and place through nine original essays written by leading memory studies scholars from the fields of rhetoric, media studies, organizational communication, history, performance studies, and English. The essays address, among other subjects, the rhetorical strategies of those vying for competing visions of a 9/11 memorial at New York City’s Ground Zero; rhetorics of resistance embedded in the plans for an expansion of the National Civil Rights Museum; representations of nuclear energy—both as power source and weapon—in Cold War and post–Cold War museums; and tours and tourism as acts of performance. By focusing on “official” places of memory, the collection causes readers to reflect on how nations and local communities remember history and on how some voices and views are legitimated and others are minimized or erased.'” Suggested by Professor Daniel Fountain, Meredith College. Suggested by Dr. Nashieli Marcano, archivist, Furman University.

Brian Palmer and Seth Freed Wessler, “The Costs of the Confederacy” (December 2018 in Smithsonian Magazine) A special report by Smithsonian and the Investigative Fun at the Nation Institute about how “in the last decade alone, American taxpayers have spent at least $40 million on Confederate monuments and groups that perpetuate racist ideology. Suggested by Dr. Jody Allen, historian, Director of the Lemon Project at the College of William & Mary.

Catherine W. Bishir, Southern Built: American Architecture, Regional Practice (2006) “Recognizing that design is seldom an isolated act, the essays collected here explore the conditions of construction itself in shaping communities in the Upper South. Bishir examines the roles played by local economies and class structures as keys to understanding building practices and results. The builders themselves take a leading role in the story, and one of the great accomplishments of the book is revealing not only the importance but the often overlooked expertise of slave artisans in antebellum construction. Bishir also traces, with striking specificity, the pathways by which national ideas entered regional usage. The book provides illuminating case studies—from an antebellum builder’s adaptation of popular architectural books to an early twentieth century city’s cultivation of an architecture representing the Old South mythology. All of these illuminate the complex transformation of national ideas into forms that express and define a region.” Suggested by Dr. Sarah Thomas, Associate Director of the Lemon Project at the College of William & Mary.

Universities Studying Slavery

This annotated bibliography contains works that have influenced the movement of universities examining their histories for slavery’s legacies during the period of the global trade and after emancipation. This list is designed to be concise, not complete.

David W. Blight, “What is a Legacy of American Slavery?” (2021, available online.) Yale historian David W. Blight, who is directing the Legacies of American Slavery initiative of the Council of Independent Colleges, wrote this essay for the launch of the program. “Because slavery is so central to the history of the United States—its origins, economic development, society, culture, politics, and law—it has left in its wake a wide array of legacies that seem ever-present yet ever-changing in our world.”

David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001). Blight’s landmark history of memory examines how Americans – North and South, white and black – remembered the Civil War in the half-century after its conclusion. Rather than concerning himself with the accuracy of these memories, he examines the competition between people’s memories to define the cause, meaning, and purpose of the war. He discovers three main and often conflicting memory “visions” of the war, the most powerful and durable of which was “reconciliationist,” encouraging a collective forgetting of the role of slavery and racial conflict in the war and remembering the war for vindicating white men’s common valor. An essential source on “the emerging reminiscence industry” – to which universities and colleges were important contributors.

Alfred L. Brophy, University, Court, and Slave: Pro-Slavery Thought in Southern Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War (2016). Brophy’s study is an invaluable close-up study of universities’ contributions to the defense of slavery in the antebellum period and how, in doing so, their leaders and faculty enhanced their institutions’ and their own cultural and political power.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?” Atlantic Monthly (2012; available online). Among other important insights, Coates’s thoughtful essay reflects on the profound alienation that African Americans experience in settings of Civil War and Lost Cause commemoration that deny not only slavery’s brutality to the enslaved, but even its centrality to the nation’s descent into and recovery from civil war. “In our present time, to express the view of the enslaved—to say that the Civil War was a significant battle in the long war against bondage and for government by the people—is to compromise the comfortable narrative. It is to remind us that some of our own forefathers once explicitly rejected the republic to which they’d pledged themselves, and dreamed up another country, with slavery not merely as a bug, but as its very premise. It is to point out that at this late hour, the totems of the empire of slavery—chief among them, its flag—still enjoy an honored place in the homes, and public spaces, of self-professed patriots and vulgar lovers of ‘freedom.’ It is to understand what it means to live in a country that will never apologize for slavery, but will not stop apologizing for the Civil War.”

Educated in Tyranny: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s University (2019), edited by Maurie D. McInnis and Louis P. Nelson. An excellent interdisciplinary collection of essays examining and confronting the centrality of slavery at and to the only university “envisioned, founded, designed, and overseen by one of the nation’s first presidents” and by one who understood the University of Virginia as an “institution with slavery at its core, both in how it operated and in its purpose” (1, 5).

Facing Georgetown’s History: A Reader on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation (2021), edited by Adam Rothman and Elsa Barraza Mendoza. A collection of essays by scholars, journalists, and others and historical documents exploring the historical entanglements of the Catholic Church and one of its most celebrated universities. The second section on “Memory and Reconciliation,” examining the recent reactions and actions by students and alumni in response to revelations about Jesuits’ 1838 sale of enslaved people to save the college from financial ruin, is especially useful to institutional teams investigating slavery’s legacies on their campuses.

Scarlet and Black: Volume 1 Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History (2016); Volume 2 Constructing Race and Gender at Rutgers, 1865-1945 (2020); and Volume 3 Making Black Lives Matter at Rutgers, 1945-2020 (2021), edited by Marisa J. Fuentes, Deborah Gray White, Kendra Boyd, and Miya Carey. Three volumes of essays that constitute perhaps the most comprehensive study of a single institution’s history from the era of the global slave trade to near the present day, produced by the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History.

Slavery and Justice: Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice (2006; available online). Brown University’s investigation, the first undertaken by an American institution of higher education, is a model for researchers of slavery’s legacies today both for its historical and ethical methodologies of investigation and for its thoughtful reflections on the university’s moral obligations to act in response to its history with slavery.

Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory, edited by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton (2006). Smith. How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America (2022) Invaluable essays exploring why Americans in general resist addressing slavery’s role in the nation’s history. In the editors’ words, the essays “focus on public history and the difficulty that public historians encounter in dealing with the nation’s most enduring contradiction: the history of American slavery in a country dedicated to freedom.” Important reading for consideration of college and university communities’ resistance to confronting their institutions’ entanglements with slavery and post-emancipation white supremacy.

Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (2019), edited by Leslie M. Harris, James T. Campbell, and Alfred L. Brophy. Essays from the groundbreaking 2011 “Slavery and the University” conference at Emory University, featuring the work of scholars who, in most cases, were just beginning to explore their institutions’ debts to the global slave trade.

Rhondda Robinson Thomas, Call My Name, Clemson: Documenting the Black Experience in an American University Community (2020). Thomas’s Call My Name, Clemson, an institution built on the site of antebellum plantation of John C. Calhoun and the people he enslaved there, brings together a variety of voices—descendants of the enslaved, students, alumni, faculty, and staff—to tell that institution’s denial and confrontation with slavery’s legacies. The book is especially noteworthy for Thomas’s own voice, her autobiographical narrative account of the journey leading to her and her students’ successful campaign to press the university to acknowledge and tell the history of the land on which it is built.

Natasha Trethewey, Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir (2020). This beautifully written memoir by the poet Natasha Trethewey is a different kind of history, a powerful meditation on the ways to write about the past and how memory shapes the American South and the lives of the people who live there.

Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities (2013). Wilder broke new ground and stimulated new questions and investigations with his examination of the long neglected or denied subject of slavery’s decisive role in the formation of higher education in the Americas. “American colleges,” he writes, “were not innocent or passive beneficiaries of conquest and colonial slavery… The academy never stood apart from American slavery—in fact, it stood beside church and state as the third pillar of a civilization built on bondage.” (11) Following Ebony and Ivy, these lines of inquiry have gone global with focused research at institutions in the Caribbean and United Kingdom. A starting point for any investigation into slavery’s legacies in Atlantic World higher education.

Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 (1980- 2009). Wilson’s argument that the Lost Cause became a civil religion of white southerners in the aftermath of the Confederacy’s defeat and focus on the role of universities and churches in its development makes it especially useful to investigators of slavery’s legacies in higher education. In Wilson’s words, the book “offers an interpretation of how whites used religion” in the period before 1920 to turn the Lost Cause into a powerful cultural force that continues to shape public discourse and social relations today.

Legacies Websites

The following is a growing list of websites pertinent to the work of investigating slavery’s legacies in American higher education.

Legacies of American Slavery, an initiative of the Council of Independent Colleges. The Locating Slavery’s Legacies database was developed by the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation at the University of the South through its participation as a regional collaboration partner in the Legacies of American Slavery network of seven independent colleges. Learn more about the network partners here.

The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation. The website of the College of William and Mary’s Lemon Project, which, when launched in 2009, was one of the first university-funded investigations into its history with slavery. From its website: “The Lemon Project is a multifaceted and dynamic attempt to rectify wrongs perpetrated against African Americans by William & Mary through action or inaction. An ongoing endeavor, this program will focus on contributing to and encouraging scholarship on the 300-year relationship between African Americans and W&M, and building bridges between the university and Williamsburg and Greater Tidewater area.” The Lemon Project was an LSLdb pilot partner and continues its collaboration in 2023-2024.

Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation at the University of the South (more familiarly known as Sewanee). The official website of the Roberson Project, which developed the LSLdb with the support of a grant from the Legacies of American Slavery initiative. Launched in July 2017, the Roberson Project is engaged in widely ranging research into Sewanee’s history with slavery and in building community-driven public history programming that preserves and tells the histories of local Black communities. Its mission: “We seek to gather and give a more complete historical account of this university, the town of Sewanee, and all its people — one that sheds light on how slavery and its legacies have marked our history and that acknowledges the contributions and sacrifices of all who have shaped Sewanee’s past and present.”

Seeking Abraham Project, Furman University. The website of Furman University’s investigation of its historical connections with slavery. Furman’s team was an LSLdb pilot partner and continues its collaboration in 2023-2024.

Universities Studying Slavery. The University of the South through its Roberson Project and many of the institutional teams contributing to the LSLdb during the pilot and launch years are members of this consortium founded in 2016 by the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University at the University of Virginia. According to its website, “Universities Studying Slavery (USS) is a consortium of over one hundred institutions of higher learning in the United States, Canada, Colombia, Scotland, Ireland, and England. These schools are focused on sharing best practices and guiding principles as they engage in truth-telling educational projects focused on human bondage and the legacies of racism in their histories.”

Legacies Videos

The following videos are from events hosted by LSLdb and the Roberson Project and feature demonstrations of the database by the development team and presentations by guest lecturers.

Confederates on the Quad – A Roundtable Conversation (March 17, 2023).

This preview of the database by Woody Register, Director of the Roberson Project, and October Kamara, LSLdb Digital Project Lead, is a good introduction and overview to the project. They presented at the Spring 2023 meeting of the Universities Studying Slavery consortium at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.