Remembering, Reckoning, Healing

A conversation about the Power of Memory and the Legacies of American Slavery featuring poet and writer Natasha Trethewey and historian David W. Blight.

Author Talks
Thursday, Apr 6 2023 @ 7:30pm

Please join us on Thursday, April 6, for a rare opportunity to hear two of today’s most important voices confronting, in their own ways, the vital subject of Southerners’ memories and the shadows American slavery still casts in the present.

This event is sponsored by the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, in partnership with Atlanta History Center. The Roberson Project, launched in 2017, is investigating the role of slavery and its legacies in Sewanee’s history from its founding in 1857 to the present. Atlanta History Center has been addressing the issue of Confederate monuments and the contested history surrounding public spaces since 2016, when it created the Confederate Monument Interpretation Guide

The “Remembering, Reckoning, Healing” program is a feature of the Locating Slavery’s Legacies Database Project, a new initiative in higher education led by the Roberson Project. 

For generations after the Civil War, many “whites only” colleges across the American South welcomed the fabricators and popularizers of the Lost Cause to their campuses. These institutions offered choice campus sites on which to memorialize the myth of a failed but glorious Confederacy and Civil War scrubbed clean of associations with slavery. Today many of those memorials — from academic buildings to team mascots to trees grown statuesque over time — are still harbored by our colleges and universities. Often hiding in plain view, they retain memories of the Lost Cause and the impact of its white supremacist agenda on the development of higher education in the region.

The Locating Slavery’s Legacies Database (LSLdb) is a digital humanities project and online repository that enables college and university faculty, archivists, and students to share information about monuments and memorials to the Confederacy and Lost Cause on their respective campuses. Teams at ten institutions already have joined this academic year’s pilot phase of the project and are supervising the collection of information about memorials to contribute to the database. 

The LSLdb will help us understand the impact of Confederate memorialization as a larger political, social, and cultural movement that shaped teaching and learning across the southern region and beyond. When the database debuts later this year, visitors to the website will be able to explore memorials on individual college campuses or in comparison with those at all participating institutions. 

The Roberson Project has partnered with Atlanta History Center to promote the LSLdb and enlarge its contributions to current debates about memorialization and slavery’s legacies. 

The conversation between Trethewey and Blight is made possible by a generous “Legacies of American Slavery” grant from the Council of Independent Colleges and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University’s Macmillan Center. The Legacies program is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support comes from the many generous friends and supporters of Sewanee’s Roberson Project and from the University of the South.

About the Speakers

Natasha Trethewey, Board of Trustees Professor of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States (2012-2014), while also serving as the Poet Laureate of the State of Mississippi (2012-2016). She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir (2020); a book of nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010); and five collections of poetry, including Monument: Poems New & Selected (2018), which was long-listed for the 2018 National Book Award, and Native Guard (2006), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. 

David Blight is Sterling Professor of History at Yale University and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. He is the author of many books on Southern history, memory and the Civil War, and resistance to slavery, including his biography of Frederick Douglass, entitled, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, which was honored with nine book awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Bancroft Prize, and the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. 

Watch now.

Related Events.