February 2019 continues the exciting news about colleges and universities deciding to embark on processes of coming to terms with difficult institutional histories. This work has not been confined to the U.S. South. The Universities Studying Slavery (USS) consortium has grown to include nearly fifty schools internationally, including two institutions in Canada and five in Europe. This collective of schools has also expanded its focus, now including any school confronting histories of human bondage or racism in the institutional past. Today, we welcome Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, to the movement.
In the Spring of 2019, students and faculty at Trinity College embarked on an investigation of the college’s historical connection to the multi-faceted institutions of slavery and their ongoing reverberations on campus, across the nation, and around the world. The core of this research is taking place in an advanced American Studies seminar taught by Professor Manevitz titled “The History and Memory of Slavery at Trinity.”
While debates on the memory and legacy of slavery take the national stage, colleges and universities are reckoning with how their own histories of slavery and exploitation may have shaped their pasts and their presents. Trinity College believes It is time for its own honest accounting.
Recent scholarship has emphasized slavery’s many facets and their far-reaching tendrils. In this course, students will discover Trinity and Hartford’s place in slavery’s vast social, cultural, economic, and political networks. The class asks difficult questions about the college, learning about how slavery and racial inequality worked in history and how they shape the present. Combining archival research and public humanities, the class will create projects and archives commemorating Trinity’s past, which the community will be able to use as we plot a course for a more equitable future.
Trinity College’s faculty team includes:
Scott Gac teaches a variety of courses in American cultural history at Trinity College. He has written on the antislavery movement, protest music, the Civil War, and violence. His first book, Singing for Freedom: The Hutchinson Family Singers and the Culture of Antebellum Reform (Yale Press, 2007), details the life and work of the Hutchinson Family Singers, the antislavery singing troupe and first commercially successful musicians of social protest in American history.
Cheryl Greenberg teaches courses in African American history and the history of race in the U.S., as well as courses on many social and cultural history topics including crime, protest movements, Star Trek, and American society during and after the Cold War. Professor Greenberg’s research interests are equally varied, ranging from African American communities during the Great Depression to grass-roots organizing in the Civil Rights movement, and from postwar liberalism to Black-Jewish relations.
Christopher Hager teaches courses in American literature and culture from the nineteenth century to the present. From 2012-2015, he co-directed Trinity’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Hager has written articles and delivered lectures on many topics in American history and literature. He is the author of Word by Word: Emancipation and the Act of Writing, which was awarded the 2014 Frederick Douglass Prize and was a finalist for the 2014 Lincoln Prize, and of I Remain Yours: Common Lives in Civil War Letters.
Karen Buenavista Hanna is a feminist scholar and oral historian of transnational social movements. Her research uses interdisciplinary methodologies to understand the gender and sexual politics of anti-imperialist Filipina/o organizations across time and space. Her teaching encourages students to be more than mere spectators to history and theory, challenging them to consider how the classroom might be a site to enact dreams for liberation and healing.
Alexander Manevitz is a historian of race, urban space, and capitalism in nineteenth-century America. His research reframes the history of urban capitalism and the history of race in nineteenth-century America, placing newly uncovered facets of African American freedom in conversation with patterns of urban growth established by American developers (and still deployed today). His current book manuscript, The Rise and Fall of Seneca Village: Remaking Race and Space in Nineteenth-Century New York City, pieces together forgotten traces of the neighborhood and highlights the voices of marginalized New Yorkers, analyzing the creation and destruction of a free black community that grappled with racial discrimination and internal class tensions to establish an experimental model of black freedom.
Again, please welcome Trinity College to the Universities Studying Slavery (USS) movement!