Race and Social Justice Initiative – College of Charleston

Avery Research Center and College of Charleston Receive $125K Grant to Spark Dialogue about Race and Inequality

In response to the recent tragic events in Charleston, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture has received a $125,000 grant from Google to implement an eighteen-month educational initiative focused on increasing conversations about race, social justice and community relations. The College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library, Avery Research Center, African American Studies Program, joined by multiple campus and community partners, have organized a series of public lectures, faculty and student development, and exhibitions that engage the entire Lowcountry community.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Google,” remarked Patricia Williams Lessane, Executive Director of the Avery Research Center. “The funds will afford Avery the opportunity to convene important discussions and foster dialogue about race relations, both historical and contemporary. Such a generous gift will allow us to extend our reach to wider audiences through partnerships and collaborative efforts. I’m excited about bringing notable writers and political commentators to campus to broaden our thinking and initiate honest discussions about issues affecting our community.”

The Race and Social Justice Initiative includes:

  • Campus and Community Outreach with public lectures, faculty seminars, film screenings and public performances to engage the campus and Charleston community at-large.
  • Physical and Online Exhibitions and Publications that introduce new historical and contemporary narratives of race and equality, aimed at reaching audiences both locally and nationally.
  • Faculty Development to support and inspire College faculty to integrate discussions of race, social justice, commemoration and reconciliation into existing curriculum or develop new courses on these topics across disciplines.
  • Student Experiential Learning to allow CofC students to participate through internships in areas such as archiving and community engagement.

On September 15th the College hosted the first event of the Race and Social Justice Initiative, “Ties That Bind Two Holy Cities: Reflections in Charleston by Survivors of the 63’ Birmingham Church Bombing.” Speakers included three sisters, Sarah Collins Rudolph, Junie Collins Williams, and Janie Collins Simpkins, who survived the 1963 Ku Klux Klan church bombing that killed four girls in Birmingham, AL. They spoke about their experiences during this act of racial violence and loosing their sister, Addie Mae Collins, in the attack. The program reflected on the historic connections between the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and the 2015 shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, creating awareness about past racial violence and engaging community dialogue in the aftermath of ongoing racial violence today. To see news coverage of the event, click here.

Google, which has a data center in Berkeley County, S.C., donated a total of $375,000 in the Lowcountry region, hoping to spark meaningful community conversations about race relations and providing opportunities for education and community healing.

“The Race and Social Justice Initiative grant is a significant gift to the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston,” said John White, Dean of the Libraries. “Libraries and archives serve an important role in communities as a neutral ground for conversation and debate. They are places for serious study and evaluation. This is especially true of Avery, which has been a force for progress, education, and social justice for more than 150 years.”

For information about upcoming events with the College’s Race and Social Justice Initiative, continue to visit the Avery Research Center and the Friends of the Library event calendars.