In her efforts to share a more complete Clemson history, Thomas has not been alone.
Research assistants, English majors and alumni, and interns from the Pearce Center for Professional Communication assist her with developing media and planning events for the project.
Undergraduate students in Creative Inquiry classes have participated in aspects of the “Call My Name” research. Beginning composition students will be given opportunities to contribute to online and multimedia aspects of her project.
In 2015, she received a grant from former trustee and Clemson alumnus James E. Bostic Jr. ’69, Ph.D. ’72 of Atlanta and his wife, Edith, which was matched by Clemson University.
As Thomas’s history and storytelling initiative has developed, it has expanded into the City of Clemson, where generations of African American employees have lived — at least in the neighborhoods where they were not specifically banned by deed.
Thomas has spent the past year participating in monthly meetings with African American leaders and community officials in Seneca, Clemson and Pendleton. She is collaborating with Clemson’s Humanities Hub and local institutions, including the Clemson Area African American Museum, the Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum and the Pendleton Foundation for Black History and Culture, to develop and share programming and resources. This work is being supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its Creating Humanities Communities program.
Through a prestigious Whiting Fellowship and other support, Thomas has been developing an interactive traveling museum exhibition about the history of Clemson called “Black Clemson: From Enslavement to Integration,” which builds upon “Call My Name.” Once it is complete, the exhibition will travel to sites around South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.
She also has a two-day “Documenting Your Roots” event in the works for February 2020, where community members will be able to digitally preserve photographs and records, and if desired, share that information with the “Call My Name” project. The upcoming event is being funded through an NEH Common Heritage grant.
Clemson is bringing its history out to the community, and also inviting the community in.
In February, Thomas hosted a “Call My Name” campus tour, which was fully booked.
This spring, she launched the latest phase of her “Call My Name” initiative during a public event held at Memorial Stadium, an area of campus that once was the site of primitive housing for the University’s African American workers.
On display were heavy books from the archives that were filled with convicts’ names.
In attendance were several descendants of people enslaved at Fort Hill.