The talk presents the story of a community of African Americans in northern Pickens County, South Carolina. Descendants of freed slaves obtaining land in 1865, the community persists largely through the efforts of Mable Owens Clarke, the family matriarch. The story chronicles five generations of the Owens family and their neighbors, describing their struggles through slavery, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, and the desegregation of the state. By using ethnographic interviews and secondary sources, the story allows members of a largely ignored community to present their own history for the first time. The story sheds new light on the African American experience in Appalachia, the resilience of a black community in the face of white oppression, and a new way to understand the symbolic relationship between residents and the land they occupy, a sentiment common in the Appalachians.
John M. Coggeshall (Ph.D. Anthropology, SIU-Carbondale, 1984) is Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Clemson University. His research Interests include American regional and folk groups, mountain cultures and sense of place, and rural African-American communities. His publications include Liberia, South Carolina: an African American Appalachian Community (University of North Carolina Press, 2018); Carolina Piedmont Country (University Press of Mississippi, 1996); and Vernacular architecture in Southern Illinois: the ethnic heritage (with J. Nast, SIU Press, 1988). He is currently working on a manuscript titled “Mountains of Menace and Majesty.”
Appalachian Evenings are free of charge and all are welcome. The event will be held in the Ramsey Center, which is located inside Renfro Library on the campus of Mars Hill University