About Call My Name
Imagine visiting the historic plantation of a prominent proslavery American politician and only hearing about antiques, architecture, and artwork. Dr. Rhondda Robinson Thomas, Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University, began to consider the University’s relationship with its history when she arrived on campus as a postdoctoral fellow in 2007 and learned on her first day that the higher education institution was built on land that was formerly John C. Calhoun and his wife Floride’s Fort Hill Plantation. When she and her students took a tour of the plantation house later that fall, they did not learn about the enslaved persons who worked at Fort Hill. The docent told her the subject was avoided because it was too “controversial.”
Call My Name is a research project dedicated to telling the stories of Black men, women, and children throughout Clemson University’s history whose lives and experiences have been largely overlooked in the University’s public history.
Image of advertisement for Ike & Tina Turner, Willie Tee and the Hot Rain, and Jerry Butler’s performances at Clemson Homecoming 70. Source: The Tiger newspaper, TigerPrints.
Dr. Thomas began her research into Clemson’s history, documenting the stories and lives of people who were enslaved on the plantation, sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and domestics under Duff Green Calhoun and Thomas Green Clemson after the Civil War, wage workers and extension agents who labored at the fledgling Clemson College, musicians who performed for social events, and all the way into the twentieth century, with the first generation of Black students who enrolled and Black faculty and administrators who were employed at Clemson.
Call My Name is significant as a project name itself, encompassing different contexts and layers of meaning. It evokes the call-and-response tradition in Black American culture, where a speaker, singer, musician, or a group of people give a “call” after which the audience or congregation gives a “response,” including speaking, singing, clapping, and shouting. Likewise, the project seeks to call the names of Black people throughout Clemson’s history to provoke responses from the public to help document this history. Call My Name also evokes the cadences of cadets and ROTC members during drills, an ever-present reminder of Clemson’s early days as a military school.
Additionally, the name also references some of the main sources of information used by the project and some of the most powerful testaments to the magnitude of the work: the lists of the names of Black people as they appear throughout history, including enslaved persons listed on a deed of sale, men and boys listed in registers of convicted laborers assigned to work at Clemson College, or Black Cooperative Extension Service agents listed in annual reports by the Board of Trustees. Behind each name is a story and a life—and those stories possess a remarkable power to impact everyone who encounters them. The Call My Name team hopes that by calling the names of those individuals, we can impact the lives of those who encounter their narratives and, in the process, hear from people who can add more details, stories, and experiences to our ever-growing body of research.
Image of Cooperative Extension Service Agents exchanging agricultural knowledge
Black sharecroppers’ X marks for signatures on the 1868 labor contract they signed to work for Thomas Green Clemson. Source: Clemson University Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives.
Call My Name Team
Dr. Thomas is the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature at Clemson University where she teaches and researches early African American Literature
Intern, PhD Student, Educational Leadership, Clemson University
Research assistant, CMN Project
PhD student, Rhetorics, Communication,
and Information Design
MA student, School of Architecture
MA student, School of Architecture
Creative Media Consultant
Cedar Wolf Media Group
Former Team Members
Graduate research assistant
Graduate Research Assistant
Postdoctoral fellow in Public Humanities and African American Life for the Call My Name Project and Clemson Humanities Hub