Roundtable Discussion on Southern Universities Studying Slavery

Solicited by the Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA)

Saturday, April 17, 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion


For nearly twenty years, students and faculty at American universities have been uncovering their institutions’ complicity in slave ownership, the slave trade, and the legacies of slavery, and have joined the public debate on redress and reparations. Brown University and the College of William & Mary began the efforts to recognize this history in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Today, more than sixty universities in five countries are members of the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium. Nearly forty of the member institutions are located in former states of the Confederacy, and some of those universities joined reluctantly or after stiff resistance. The members of this roundtable—all faculty members deeply involved in this research—will discuss the obstacles faculty members faced at southern universities, their successful efforts to overcome those obstacles, and what they are learning about the history of slavery and its legacies on their campuses. 

Session Participants

Chair: Cindy Hahamovitch, University of Georgia, Athens
Cindy Hahamovitch is the B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Georgia. A historian of international and US labor migration, she is the author of The Fruits of Their Labor: Atlantic Coast Farmworkers and the Making of Migrant Poverty, 1870-1945 (UNC Press, 1997) and the triple prize-winning, No Man's Land: Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor (Princeton University Press). A former Fulbright Fellow, and the John E. Sawyer Fellow at the National Humanities Center, she is working on the history of human trafficking in labor over the past two centuries and on Chambers v. Florida, a 1933 death penalty case. She is the past president of the Southern Labor Studies Association and the former Reviews Editor for Labor: Studies in the Working Class History. Her students are creating a digital walking tour of industrial Athens. 

Panelist: Jody Lynn Allen, William & Mary, William & Mary, The Lemon Project
Jody Lynn Allen, a native of Hampton, VA, is an Assistant Professor of History and Director of The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation at William & Mary.  She is co-producing "The Green Light," a documentary film on Green v. the School Board of New Kent County, VA the 1968 Supreme Court decision which forced school desegregation. Her most recent articles are, “Thomas Dew and the Rise of Proslavery Ideology at William & Mary” Slavery & Abolition May 2018 and “How Do Academic Institutions Evaluate Their History?: Case Study William & Mary, Theology Today, Winter 2020. Her current manuscript is Roses in December: Black Life in Hanover County Virginia During the Era of Disfranchisement. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Allen was a visiting assistant professor of History at the University of the South, Sewanee, TN where she taught and consulted with Sewanee’s Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation.

Panelist: Hilary Nicole Green, University of Alabama
Hilary N. Green is an Associate Professor of History in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at The University of Alabama and for the 2020-2021 academic year the Vann Professor of Ethics in Society at Davidson College.. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, class, and gender in 19th Century African American history, the American Civil War Era, Reconstruction Studies, Civil War Memory, and the Black Atlantic. She is the author of Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890 (Fordham University Press, 2016) as well as articles, book chapters and other scholarly publications. She is the co-series editor of Reconstruction Reconsidered, a University of South Carolina Press series, and the book review editor for the Journal of North Carolina Association of Historians. In January 2015, she developed the Hallowed Grounds Project, which explores slavery, memory and its legacy at the University of Alabama. She is currently at work on a second book manuscript examining how everyday African Americans remembered and commemorated the Civil War.

Panelist: Kelly Kennington, Auburn University
Kelly Kennington is an Associate Professor of History at Auburn University.  Her research and teaching interests include the history of slavery in the United States, American legal history, and the history of the antebellum South.  Her first book, In the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in Antebellum America, appeared in the Mellon-funded Early American Places series with the University of Georgia Press in 2017.  Her research has also appeared in The Journal of Southern History, Slavery & Abolition, and The Alabama Review.  She is currently working on two book projects. The first project, tentatively titled The Mind of Susan Wray, uses several lawsuits involving the same woman to examine how law, medicine, and women’s rights shifted in the decades before and after the American Civil War.  The second project is a legal history of the domestic slave trade, and it uses the trade in Montgomery and Mobile, Alabama, to investigate the role of local legal cultures on the buying and selling of human beings. For the past year and a half, she has worked with colleagues in the history department as well as students in her classes to research slavery and its legacies at Auburn University. She is also involved in the Lee County Remembrance Project, which seeks to commemorate and honor the four victims of lynching in Lee County, Alabama.

Panelist: Woody Register, Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation, University of the South
Woody Register is Francis S. Houghteling Professor of American History at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and director of its Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation. The Roberson Project is a six-year initiative to examine the history of slavery and its legacies at this liberal arts college, to explore how its community should respond to the responsibilities entailed by its history, and to address how its campus landscape broadly preserves icons and memorials to the antebellum slaveholding order and the Confederacy. His current research concerns the history of friendship, social reform, and masculinity, which he examines through a history of boys “rescued” by juvenile reformers from the slums of New York City. This research has appeared in Rethinking History, the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, and The Muckers: A Narrative of the Crapshooters Club (Syracuse University Press, 2017), a long-lost autobiographical account of the gritty world of street boys in 1890s New York City. At Sewanee he teaches courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century America and slavery’s role in the development of American institution

Panelist: Anne Twitty, University of Mississippi
Anne Twitty is an associate professor of history at the University of Mississippi, where she specializes in the history of the nineteenth-century United States, especially as it pertains to slavery and the law. Her first book, Before Dred Scott: Slavery and Legal Culture in the American Confluence, 1787-1857 (Cambridge University Press, 2016), draws upon a remarkable collection of nearly 300 freedom suits filed in the St. Louis circuit court to examine the legal history of slavery and freedom in the American Confluence, a site where portions of present day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri meet. Professor Twitty has also been active in efforts to study and contextualize the practice of slavery at the University of Mississippi as a dedicated member of the University of Mississippi Slavery Research Group and the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on History and Context. Her work with these groups has resulted in a great deal of additional research into slavery and its legacies at the University, a report on the history of the Confederate monument at the University, the erection of contextualization plaques at seven different sites on campus, and, most recently, the creation of a campus slavery tour program.