Black Southern Activism: A Transatlantic Legacy

Project Directors: Barbara McCaskill (English), Sidonia Serafini (PhD candidate, English), Kelly Dugan (PhD candidate, Language and Literacy Education)

This Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant-funded project is part of the Global Studies of the American South research category in the Willson Center’s expanded Global Georgia Initiative.

Our project consists of two linked symposia which will bring together scholars, students, and community leaders from the US, UK, and Canada to address this question: How can multi-ethnic communities identify solutions to contemporary challenges caused by racial, economic, and educational inequities by learning about the experiences of historical and contemporary activists engaged in transatlantic social justice campaigns?  The first will take place in Birmingham, England, in June 2020; and the second is scheduled here in Athens in November 2020.  Each event, free and open to the public, will feature scholars and students conducting research on southern and African Diasporic activists, as well as leaders of community groups involved in social justice issues, who will share their insights about global intersections and local initiatives. In addition, as a pedagogical component, Professor McCaskill will work with graduate students in her Spring Semester 2018 ENGL 8770 seminar to conduct research and create a digital storymap about the black educator and abolitionist Ellen Garrison Jackson (1823-c. 1890). The digital site will focus on Jackson’s instruction of freedpeople in Port Deposit, Maryland, and her activism against Jim Crow cars in collaboration with colleagues in the Union Army and Freedmen’s Bureau.  This research will serve the Robbins House African American Museum in Concord, Massachusetts, and also involves undergraduate researchers led by Professor Katie Simon of Georgia College and Professor Sandra Petrulionis of Penn State Altoona.

These symposia and digital mapping projects square with the Global Studies of the American South theme because they examine the imprint of black activism in the US and the UK, past and present. They have been inspired by McCaskill and Serafini’s research with the Rev. Paul Walker on the former slave, educator, and activist Rev. Peter Thomas Stanford (c. 1860-May 20, 1909), for a forthcoming biographical edition of Stanford’s writings from the University of Georgia Press. In honor of Stanford, the Birmingham symposium with take place at Highgate Baptist Church in England, formerly Hope Chapel, where Rev. Stanford, Birmingham’s first black minister, once spearheaded an international anti-lynching campiagn during the nineteenth century. Rev. Paul Walker is the current pastor.