About the History Center
The mission of the University of South Carolina’s History Center is to
- nurture scholarship
- promote scholarly communication in the Department and other historically-inclined scholars
- engage with local communities
- further the development goals of the College and University
- raise the Department visibility and enhance its reputation in the historical profession
Theme for 2015 – 2017
America’s Reconstruction Era and Its Legacies:
Explorations in Race, Democracy, Citizenship and Rights
2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction, arguably the most transformative period in American history, with consequences that resonate today. The Reconstruction era amendments expanded constitutional protection of citizenship rights; recently the fourteenth amendment, passed in 1868, provided the legal foundation for marriage equality. Most significantly, Reconstruction initiated a period of biracial democracy that attempted to remove the badge of slavery and race from American life and advance the founding ideals of the American experiment. The fate of Reconstruction and its violent demise is one of the most poorly understood episodes in American history, yet it has affected black Americans, race relations, and the nation at large for more than a century – and had a global impact as well. (For example, South Africa and Australia modeled their treatment of native peoples based on the racial caste system that was erected in the aftermath of Reconstruction.) The questions and issues that Reconstruction brought to the fore – “access to citizenship and voting rights, the relative powers of national and state government, the relationship between political and economic democracy, the proper response to terrorism,” in the words of Eric Foner – are at the center of American politics today.
South Carolina was the site of Reconstruction’s most notable achievements, and is a place where the public commemoration of this past remains contested, as noted most recently in New York Times, “Taking Another Look at the Reconstruction Era,” (Aug 24, 2015). The sesquicentennial anniversary affords a rich opportunity to advance an exploration of the broad historical reach of Reconstruction – as reflected in ongoing struggles around race and democracy, historical and contemporary debates regarding citizenship and rights, ways in which the history is publicly commemorated and interpreted, and the international influences of America’s long struggle around race and democracy.
Over the next two academic years, the University of South Carolina’s History Center will explore varied aspects of Reconstruction and its legacies through a series of public lectures and forums, symposia, and works in progress seminars. We will feature leading scholars and younger historians plowing fresh ground as well as filmmakers and writers. Programs will aim to nurture scholarship and promote academic forums that include faculty, students, and staff from across the university, as well as the interested public. We will also feature programs dedicated to actively engaging the broader community and public at large, and seek opportunities to partner with community-based organizations and institutions.