Call My Name 
Publications

“The Unfinished Work of Clemson University: Full Recognition for Black Citizens in Its History.” Lincoln’s Unfinished Work: The New Birth of Freedom from Generation to Generation, edited by Vernon Burton and Peter Eisenstadt, Louisiana State University Press, 2022

In this essay, Dr. Rhondda Thomas argues that public commemoration of the lives and contributions of Black laborers is Clemson University’s unfinished work, for it acknowledges their “right to recognition” as the foundation of the institution’s existence, development, and success and encourages an honest reckoning with the institution’s complete and complex history.

 

Call My Name, Clemson: Documenting the Black Experience in an American University Community, Humanities and Public Life Series, University of Iowa Press, 2020

This book traces a Clemson University English professor’s public history project that helped convince the university to reexamine and reconceptualize the institution’s complete and complex story from the origins of its land as Cherokee territory to its transformation into an increasingly diverse higher-education institution in the twenty-first century. Threading together scenes of communal history and conversation, student protests, white supremacist terrorism, and personal and institutional reckoning with Clemson’s past, this story helps us better understand the inextricable link between the history and legacies of slavery and the development of higher education institutions in America.

Call-and-Respond to My Name, Clemson, History@Work Blog, National Council on Public History, September 21, 2021

In this blog post, Dr. Thomas explores how Call My Name evokes the collaborative and improvisatory call-and-response tradition in African American culture that nurtures collective meaning making as the names of Black people in Clemson history are called in various mediums, particularly through social media. Followers respond and in effect become part of the research team, helping us to recover and share the stories of those whose stories are at the center of Clemson University’s public history.  

“Reconstruction, Public Memory, and the Making of Clemson University on John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation,” American Literary History 30, no. 3 (2018), pp. 584-607.

In this article, Dr. Thomas explains the historical ties between Clemson and the Confederacy, including Thomas Green Clemson’s own participation in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. These ties are usually ignored in official University statements, and the language used on plaques and monuments obscures the Confederate and white supremacist ties of the major figures in Clemson’s founding mythos. Dr. Thomas argues that reckoning with this troubled past will help Clemson to present itself more completely as an institution dedicated to the exploration of truth and the pursuit of knowledge. Instead of venerating the whitewashed narrative that itself is a product of the Lost Cause and groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, coming to a more complete understanding of what Clemson is means understanding and reckoning with the institution’s ties to slavery, the Confederacy, and segregation.

“Call My Name: Using Biographical Storytelling to Reconceptualize the History of African Americans at Clemson University,” Biography 42, no. 3 (2019), pp. 624-52.

Published in 2019, this article offers a solution to Clemson’s previously problematic approach to depicting its own history: biographical storytelling that highlights the experiences of people who are often marginalized by the very historical medium they are depicted within. By examining records such as the trial records of convict laborers, lists of the names of those leased from the state penitentiary, and others, Dr. Thomas illustrates how these records by their very nature assist in demanding reparations and redress for the ways that Clemson has historically been less than honest in its depictions of Black participation in the history of the institution. Dr. Thomas outlines the ways that Clemson has only recently begun to reckon with the legacy of convict leasing and slavery in its past, highlighting the power and role of biography in outlining the history of Clemson outside of the typical circuitous approach that the administration and Board of Trustees has taken in the past. Additionally, the article points out the powerful role that biography plays in the development of further research and the progression of Call My Name itself. Note: The article is available through Clemson University Libraries’ digital catalog for Clemson faculty, staff, and students.