Scholar Develops a Traveling Exhibit on the History of African Americans at Clemson University

Rhonnda Robinson Thomas, an associate professor of English at Clemson University in South Carolina, is creating a museum exhibit entitled “Black Clemson: From Enslavement to Integration” that will travel to 10 sites across South Carolina over the next two years.

“African-Americans not only played a central role in the development and maintenance of Clemson University, they created vibrant communities in local towns during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era,” Dr. Thomas said. The exhibit “draws attention to this neglected history of African-Americans in the South Carolina Upstate that is essential for better understanding the stories of black families.”

Dr. Thomas is the principal investigator for Call My Name, a project supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to record oral histories and digitize and present thousands of primary documents related to African-American history in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Clemson. To date, the project has digitized more than 2,000 documents relating to Clemson history including slave inventories, prison records, labor contracts, photographs and correspondence.

Dr. Thomas is the author of Claiming Exodus: A Cultural History of Afro-Atlantic Identity, 1774-1903 (Baylor University Press, 2013). A graduate of what is now Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland,  Dr. Thomas earned a master’s degree in literature at the University of New Hampshire and a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Georgia. Dr. Thomas holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland.

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