Lecture Description

“Tenderness” tells a story of reproductive labor and care work during the Port Royal Experiment, a test-case for Reconstruction located in the South Carolina Sea Islands during the Civil War. Charlotte Forten Grimké, an educated, elite Black activist worked as a teacher and, for a short time, as volunteer nurse in the Sea Islands during the Civil War. Drawing on a reading of Charlotte Forten Grimké’s journal, alongside letters and documents that detail the conditions in which the Black families lived, Simmons reconstructs the intergenerational networks of care with the families on the island. These care networks informed how Forten thought about the possibilities of freedom that lay before her and the local freed community, and how they all navigated the trauma of disease and death. Not just about trauma, “Tenderness” also centers love. By centering Black women’s care work, Simmons considers what it means for Black women and children to deliver or receive a tender, caring touch in a world where blackness is stigmatized and crisis seems all around.


African American Civil War and Reconstruction

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LaKisha Michelle Simmons

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