CIC Announces Regional Collaboration Partners for Legacies of American Slavery Network

program brochureCIC is pleased to announce the selection of seven colleges and universities to serve as Regional Collaboration Partners for the multiyear project “Legacies of American Slavery: Reckoning with the Past.” This initiative is designed to help CIC member institutions and their communities explore the continuing impact of slavery on American life and culture. The aim is to support research, teaching, learning, and community-based projects addressing slavery’s multiple and enduring legacies.

The Partners will serve as the primary hubs of a network that will expand to embrace many more CIC member colleges and universities and community-based organizations across the United States. Each Partner will focus on a specific legacy theme that has both local and national significance, organizing regional activities while contributing to a national conversation about race, equality, political power, and cultural resilience. The new Partners and their organizing themes include the following:

  • Austin College (TX): “Racial Violence and Resistance”;
  • Centenary College of Louisiana (LA) and Huston-Tillotson University (TX), in partnership: “Race, Health, and Medicine”;
  • Dillard University (LA): “Cultural Creativity”;
  • Lewis University (IL): “Race, Place, and Migration,” with “Mass Incarceration” as a secondary theme;
  • Meredith College (NC): “Contested Citizenship,” with “Economic Disparities” as a secondary theme; and
  • Sewanee: The University of the South (TN): “Commemoration and Memory.”

A detailed description of each legacy theme and a special essay by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David W. Blight on “What Is a Legacy of Slavery?” was included as part of the original call for applicants. Blight, who is Sterling Professor of American History at Yale University and executive director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition (GLC) at Yale’s MacMillan Center, serves as director of the Legacies project. The project is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with supplemental funding in 2020 from the National Endowment of the Humanities.

The Partners were selected from an impressive pool of institutional applicants. Due to the pandemic, instead of holding the originally scheduled face-to-face gathering at Yale University, CIC and GLC staff conducted an extended virtual selection process that took place from August to December 2020. This included two plenary sessions for faculty members and administrators from 19 institutions; group meetings with smaller sets of institutions, which provided an opportunity to explore the institutional strengths and proposed activities of each applicant; and follow-up calls with selected applicants.

Richard Ekman, president of CIC, said it was very difficult to choose just seven Regional Collaboration Partners, but noted that “the selection process highlighted the depth and breadth of scholarship, teaching, and public engagement that many CIC members have already devoted to exploring the pervasive legacies of slavery. This augurs well for the success of the national initiative.”

Although the applicant pool included a heavy concentration of institutions located in the former Confederate States, the selection committee was impressed by the diversity of institutions (including a women’s college and two HBCUs) and the range of legacy themes they proposed to pursue. For instance, the unique partnership between Centenary College of Louisiana and Huston-Tillotson University on “Race, Health, and Medicine” reflects the complementary nature of the activities proposed by the two institutions and the heightened significance of the theme in light of COVID-19. As Blight notes, “the pandemic exacerbated longstanding racial disparities in health—and these two colleges are ready to explore the history of these disparities and provide some curricular and community-based approaches to ameliorate them.”

In addition to the seven Partners, CIC has designated twelve colleges and universities as Institutional Affiliates, which will continue to play a foundational role in developing regional and national networks: Bloomfield College (NJ), Columbia College Chicago (IL), Drury University (MO), Fisk University (TN), Fontbonne University (MO), Johnson C. Smith University (NC), Messiah University (PA), Roanoke College (VA), Shenandoah University (VA), Tougaloo College (MS), Ursuline College (OH), and Wofford College (SC).

Programmatic activities will begin this spring and build toward a series of regional conferences hosted by the Regional Collaboration Partners during the 2021–2022 academic year. CIC will announce additional opportunities for member institutions, their faculty members, and community-based organizations to participate in the Legacies initiative soon.

headshots of panelists: Carol Anderson, Christy Coleman, and William Sturkey
As part of the selection process of Regional Collaboration Partners, CIC convened a panel discussion featuring three prominent scholars whose recent work explores different legacies of slavery: voting rights and voter suppression, the public memory of slavery, and persistent racial disparities from the Jim Crow era to the present. From left to right panelists included Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University; Christy Coleman, executive director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and former CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia; and William Sturkey, associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.