New CIC Initiative to Reckon with Legacies of American Slavery; Regional Collaboration Partner Deadline Is March 27

program brochureCIC launched in late-January a four-year initiative to deepen public understanding of the enduring implications of American slavery. “Legacies of American Slavery: Reckoning with the Past” will create a national network of member colleges and community partners to develop both academic and public programs on the legacies of slavery.

Six Regional Collaboration Partners, selected by a competitive process, will serve as coordinating hubs for the network, which will expand to scores of other colleges, universities, and community organizations across the nation. The regional partners will play an essential role, using funds provided by CIC, to shape this national initiative. The project will support faculty and student research, faculty development, undergraduate teaching and learning, and public programs developed in cooperation with community-based organizations. Each regional network will develop programming that is reflective of the area’s local history, resources, and current issues.

CIC and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition (GLC) at Yale University are partnering to develop and administer the Legacies of American Slavery initiative. The project is supported by a $2.67 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Blight, Sterling Professor of American History at Yale and director of the GLC.

Blight explains the rationale and timeliness of this project in an original essay prepared to announce the initiative. Slavery, he writes, is “central to the history of the United States—its origins, economic development, society, culture, politics, and law…. [W]e live amidst the legacies of a wide variety of historical experiences tied to race, slavery, the Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. And we live in a global historical moment in which the idea of the legacies of slavery seems to be everywhere….”

The application deadline for selection as a Regional Collaboration Partner is March 27, 2020. CIC will invite 20 applicants to participate in a national planning conference at Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut), August 6–8, 2020. The six Regional Collaboration Partners will be selected from among this planning group.

CIC will provide the six Regional Collaboration Partners with annual operational grants to support project administration and core program activities. While CIC and GLC staff will provide planning support, the Partners are expected to contribute significant institutional capacity and resources to building a regional network of collaborating institutions and partners.

CIC has identified nine significant legacies of American slavery to serve as organizing themes for the collective work of the national network:

  • Commemoration and memory;
  • Economic disparities;
  • Contested citizenship;
  • Cultural creativity;
  • Racial violence and resistance;
  • Mass incarceration;
  • Race, place, and migration;
  • Environmental justice; and
  • Race, health, and medicine.

Each Regional Collaboration Partner will focus on a single theme that addresses the legacy of slavery and that is especially relevant to its location or region of the country.

Indeed, one goal of the Legacies of American Slavery project is to highlight the fact that legacies of slavery are often tied in powerful ways to specific geographic locations, which can become the locus for both pedagogy and public engagement. CIC President Richard Ekman remarked, “Most small private colleges are anchors of their communities, providing educational opportunities for young people and adults alike. They are shaped by the same histories and legacies of slavery as the communities they serve and are uniquely positioned to engage community members in responsible discussion of the contentious issues that shape our lives today.”

Combining theme and location, for example, a college located in the Cotton Belt might propose to take the lead in exploring the economic legacies of slavery; or a university located near the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri (where the infamous Dred Scott decision was handed down) might focus on the constitutional legacy of slavery; or institutions located in Northern cities from Detroit to Chicago to Oakland, California, might focus on the migration of African Americans in the 20th century and the subsequent impact of racial segregation.

Ekman notes that CIC’s new initiative is an opportunity “to use the expertise and accessibility of independent colleges to understand the past. Together with our GLC partners we have high hopes that, in conversation with one another and with their communities, and in collaboration with David Blight and the Gilder Lehrman Center’s exceptional network of historians, scholars, and public intellectuals, Legacies will have a genuine impact.”

For more information, visit the project website. CIC will host an informational webinar for prospective applicants to be a Regional Collaboration Partner on February 19, 2020, at 3:00 p.m. EST. Please register in advance for the webinar.