August 15, 2017

To Students, Faculty, Alumni, and Friends of the Carter G. Woodson Institute:


Still reeling from and wrestling with the aftermath of the “Unite the Right” rally of this past weekend, I write as Director of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, to join others in condemning the unspeakable terror and brutality unleashed on our community.  Along with my colleagues, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those who will be long remembered for sacrificing their lives in defense against this latest iteration of bigotry and white supremacy.  In the name of free speech and the right to assemble and protest, the rally’s organizers—both graduates of the University of Virginia—drew on time-worn tactics of terrorism and intimidation.


While we do not seek to inflame the tensions of this moment, it helps to be reminded of the words and work of the African American, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), who devoted her life to campaigning against the racist violence and terrorism of lynching.  Writing in Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases (1892), she makes two instructive points, which may serve to guide us in the days ahead: 1) “the people must know before they can act” and 2) “the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”  As an investigative journalist, Wells-Barnett was advocating in these passages for the role and power of the press as “educator,” but also for the importance of an informed citizenry. Armed with knowledge of Charlottesville and its history, we need not resort to the simplistic question posed by journalists, politicians, and pundits alike over the last 48 hours--“How did we get here?” Rather, we must ask, “What next?”  Answering the latter question often requires that we “know” before “we act.”  On behalf of my colleagues, I wish to assert the fact that we are a unit of African American and African Studies within an academic institution, believing in the transformative power and value of knowledge.  As we have done time and time again in the face of national and local crises, we reaffirm the moral and intellectual value of our commitment to diversity, tolerance, civility, and justice, both at the University of Virginia and beyond.


In the spirit of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, we append to this statement a series of links to suggested resources for further study and future action, beginning with “The Illusion of Progress:  Charlottesville’s Roots in White Supremacy.”  In preparation throughout the summer of 2017, we share this document, still in progress, which was produced by the “Citizen Justice Initiative” of the Carter G. Woodson Institute.  Sponsored by the Strategic Investment Fund of the University of Virginia,  it represents the research conducted by a team of student interns from Charlottesville-area high schools and undergraduates from the University of Virginia, along with the director and managing editor of the project.  Their work establishes that the legacies of slavery, segregation, and white supremacy in our community are yet to be conquered, despite signs of incremental progress.  In the days and weeks ahead, we must do our part, individually and collectively, to battle those forces that bid to set us further back, working in solidarity with groups and coalitions on initiatives already underway.  Following this document are links to other resources pertinent to the work that lies ahead.


Yours in struggle,

Deborah E. McDowell

for the Carter G. Woodson Institute,

College and Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences 

University of Virginia

The Illusion of Progress: Charlottesville’s Roots in White Supremacy

A Dark & Constant Struggle: 25 Years of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States

Alt-Right Campus Guide

The Charlottesville Syllabus

July 28, 2017

Historian Plumbs Tax Records for Patterns of Racial Discrimination

April 18, 2017

Tony C. Perry (Carter G. Woodson Institute pre-doctoral fellow) published an article in Slavery & Abolition – A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies this month on how slaves and slaveholders mobilized cold weather against each other in contests over power: In Bondage When Cold was King: The Frigid Terrain of Slavery in Antebellum Maryland.

April 18, 2017

Lyndsey Beautin (Carter G. Woodson pre-doctoral fellow) is the author of an essay on how sensational, sexualized imagery is often held up as the greatest sin of anti-trafficking awareness campaigns, but that bad data masquerading as authoritative fact is far more insidious. The essay was published on the open Democracy media platform: How ‘evidence-based’ anti-trafficking campaigns make facts and mismeasure freedom.

April 14, 2017

Lecture by award-winning historian Talitha L. LeFlouria (University of Virginia) on the plight of post-Civil War black women prisoners and their day-to-day struggles to overcome work-related abuses and violence, based on LeFlouria's award winning book. This event was the 2016 UMass/Five College Graduate Program in History Distinguished Annual Lecture and a part of the 2016-2017 Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series. October, 2016.

January 31, 2017

   All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors.      

                                                  --Martin Luther King, Jr. “The World House”


At this moment of distress and consternation, in the wake of President Trump’s executive order on immigration of last Friday, it is useful to turn to “The World House,” the final chapter of King’s last book, Where do we Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967). There King began by referencing the papers of a famous novelist, containing a list of possible plots for future stories. The most prominent on the list, King noted , was this: “A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.” He goes on to say, “This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a large house, a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interests, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”  


The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies affirms King’s statement, along with his famous axiom that “Together we must learn to live as brothers [and sisters] or together we will be forced to perish as fools.” We further affirm the moral and intellectual value of our commitment to diversity, tolerance, civility, and justice, both at the University of Virginia and around the world. As scholars, researchers, and teachers of race, ethnicity and culture across the African Diaspora, we have a special understanding of the wide variety of cultural, historical and religious experiences that make up and bind together the human family globally—and inextricably. For this reason, we denounce any policy or plan, whether at local, state or federal level, that bids to sever this connection, whether through word or deed. Therefore, as citizens of the Commonwealth and scholars of the university, we assert our commitment to the creation and cultivation of a just society where intolerance, injustice, prejudice, and hate will not prevail. We believe we are all the richer by that racial, ethnic, religious, and linguistic pluralism that has distinguished and sustained the American experiment since its founding. 


April 14, 2016

We are pleased to announce that Talitha Leflouria has received awards for Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South   

2016 PHILIP TAFT LABOR HISTORY AWARD for the most outstanding book  on American labor history, awarded by Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the Labor and Working-Class History Association



BLOOMINGTON, IN—During its annual meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) presented Talitha L. LeFlouria, University of Virginia, with their prestigious 2016 Darlene Clark Hine Award, which is given annually for the best book in African American women’s and gender history.


Darlene Clark Hine Award

Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (University of North Carolina Press). With the use of numerous multilayered methodologies, Chained in Silence deconstructs and re-creates prison life and the convict-camp experience among black Georgia women in the era of the first New South, from Emancipation to the end of World War I. Like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Talitha L. LeFlouria’s study employs a reformist approach to help readers understand the history of mass incarceration among African American women in the U.S. South. The real strength of the extraordinary community study, however, is its ability to provide southern African American women with multifaceted voices. These women, whose responsibilities included coal mining, steelmaking, blacksmithing, unskilled industrial work, railroading, laundering, milling, domestic service, and cotton farming, helped rebuild postwar Georgia. Often seen as invisible, even in the terrain of black convict leasing and prison life, women of African descent found themselves routinely victimized by a system predicated on social control and profit. By placing black women at the center of the early modern prison movement and New South industrial revolution, LeFlouria makes them even more impressive and salient as survivors and activists. This work is also relevant as an interdisciplinary study that borrows from and builds upon the scholarship of sociologists, criminologists, and historians in an attempt to resurrect the lives of Georgia African American women convicts. With the use of astonishing sources, including slave narratives, jail and prison records, manuscripts, sermons, women’s club records, and census data, Chained in Silence formulates a new historiographical paradigm that challenges prevailing schools of thought on the subject matter, particularly the held belief that black men alone in the convict lease and chain-gang systems principally helped shape the New South economy.


The award was presented on April 9 by OAH’s 2015–16 President Jon Butler and 2016–17 President Nancy F. Cott.

For more information, visit or call 812.855.7311.


Founded in 1907, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) is the world's largest professional association dedicated to American history scholarship. With more than 7,500 members from the U.S. and abroad, OAH promotes excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, encouraging wide discussion of historical questions and equitable treatment of history practitioners. It publishes the quarterly Journal of American History, the leading scholarly publication and journal of record in the field of American history for more than nine decades. It also publishes The American Historian magazine. Formerly known as the Mississippi Valley Historical Association (MVHA), the association became the OAH in 1965 to reflect a broader scope focusing on national studies of American history. The OAH national headquarters are located in the historic Raintree House on Indiana University's Bloomington campus. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


October 20, 2015

Our own post-doctoral fellow, Talitha LeFlouria was awarded the Leticia Brown Woods book prize last month at the 100th anniversary of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the organization founded by our namesake, Carter G. Woodson (it was then the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History).  Today’s edition features substantial coverage of Talitha and her prize-winning book, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South (University of North Carolina Press). I paste the link for those who may have not have seen the story.  CONGRATULATIONS again to Talitha!


March 23, 2015

21 March 2015


We—the faculty, faculty affiliates, students, fellows, and staff—of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies express our outrage at the brutal arrest of third-year student Martese Johnson by agents of the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Department.  We want you to know that we share the frustrations and pain expressed by the broader black student community.  We want you to know that we stand steadfast with you, our students, in your desire to create a just, inclusive and socially conscious university. 


We are well aware that many of our students are also calling on the Woodson Institute for greater support. As faculty members, we want to assure you that we remain resolute in our mission and that we remain faithful to longstanding principles anchoring the Black Studies tradition.  Our commitment to these principles often operates outside the public eye.  But while our advocacy may not always be visible, rest assured that it expresses itself on various fronts.  Moreover, that advocacy is always motivated by our fundamental desire to support you while advancing the broader imperatives and legacies of Black Studies.


In these times when anti-black violence, whether physical, psychological or intellectual, wracks and divides our nation and finds a home at our very University and its back door, it is critical that we work together to unify our fractured community.  Such unity begins with mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation.  We invite our students to partner with us in our quest for healing and justice.  We will be working diligently in the upcoming weeks on action items to repair our community.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us, to let us know how we can best support you at this terrible time.  Our doors are open.

November 10, 2014

We are so proud of our recent graduate, Jennifer Bowles. She has just been elected to the Martinsville City Council, the youngest individual ever to have been chosen by that city's voters. Congratulations, Jennifer!

Last week, one of our majors, Jennifer Bowles, became the youngest person to win a city council seat in Martinsville, Virginia.  Bowles graduated this past May with a BA in African American and African Studies. 

Voters in Martinsville made history on Tuesday by electing the youngest person in recent memory to city council. Jennifer Bowles is 25 and her term doesn't start until next year but she's already making plans for improvements to her hometown.

A video link of her victory and her vision for her hometown is below.

Courses begin Monday, January 12
University Holiday Monday, January 19, Martin Luther King Day (No Classes)
Add/Drop/Withdrawal Vary by school
Spring recess Saturday, March 7 - Sunday, March 15
Courses end Tuesday, April 28
Reading Day Wednesday, April 29
Examinations Thursday, April 30- Friday, May 8
(No exams on Sunday, May 3, or Wednesday, May 6)
Reading Days Sunday, May 3; Wednesday, May 6
Final Exercises Saturday, May 16 and Sunday, May 17


Join University of Virginia's Professor Emeritus Julian Bond to gain a comprehensive appreciation of the American Civil Rights Movement, from  its earliest and often  unreported days in the mid-1950s, through the more high-profile years that followed. This seminar will visit many key sites of the  movement, with  a focus on voting rights  as we commemorate the 50th anniversary  of the Voting  Rights Act.  Along  the way, we will  meet participants in the movement and others who  continue its unfinished mission  of equality  and remembrance, allowing us to gain a new comprehension of the difficulties and dangers  of the freedom  struggle. Freedom wasn't  free, and the struggle  wasn't  easy, but  brave men and women  - and even children - risked life and limb  to change America. They did more than march - most of all they organized others  to join together in common cause to win justice for everyone. They left us a legacy we can be proud  of and challenges we must confront today!

  • Stand in places where the Montgomery Bus Boycott was planned and sustained.

  • Hear personal stories directly from civil rights organizers who risked life and limb for freedom, including Ambassador  Andrew  Young, who  was  an  aide  to  Martin Luther King, Jr., and Congressman John Lewis, the only surviving main speaker of the 1963 March on   Washington.

  • March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and follow the footsteps of thousands who marched from  Selma to Montgomery for equal voting rights.

  • Stand in the pulpits where Martin Luther King, Jr. motivated thousands.

  • Visit the Civil Rights Memorial, a circular black granite table that records the names of the martyrs  and chronicles the history of the movement.

  • Attend  a performance of freedom  songs by a group  including an original member  of the Freedom Singers, who sang to raise spirits and awareness during the height of the movement.

Click here for more information on Civil Rights South Seminar with Julian Bond