The unveiling of a new solar shading pavilion at the College of Charleston on Friday, October 15, 2021, served as a platform to honor the indigenous and slave peoples who worked and lived on and near the site through history. The event, titled ‘Uncovering History / Making History’, recognized both the history of the site where 18th and 19th century artifacts, including an 1853 slave tag, were found, as well as the forward momentum of solar power and sustainability at college.
âIn many ways, the solar pavilion embodies the spirit of our strategic plan, entitled Tradition and transformationÂ», Declared the president of the CofC Andrew T. Hsu. “It is linked to our past, our present and our future. We stand on the ground once trodden by indigenous tribes, enslaved and enslaved, and now we are here to come to terms with our past in order to transform our present and our future.
Hsu added: “From a dark chapter in Charleston history, I am proud to say that we now bring lasting light, light and energy – a light and a power that sustains our students, our teachers, our staff and visitors.
RELATED: CofC Faculty, Students Discover Campus Slave Etiquette
The ceremony opened with a recognition of the land and work featuring a CofC student and a member of the Edisto / Natchez-Kusso tribe Sarah creel and Winne Mraz and Cathy Nelson, Elders of the Edisto / Natchez-Kusso tribe, who recognized the indigenous peoples who first occupied the lands near the site. Former CofC Rev. Leondra Stoney ’02, pastor of AME Church of Grand Howard Chapel, also delivered remarks in honor of the slaves who worked at the site.
Ronald McKelvey, supervisor and poet of the CofC maintenance workshop, read his poem âThrough the Eyes of a Needleâ, which he wrote to commemorate the history and importance of the site. The poem read in part:
May our unspeakable past be looked at and told through the eyes of a needle …
Open the doors and the hearts of others around us to a new horizon …
Our families, past, present and future impact …
Will change the vision of our future on our history …
Soâ¦ You have to hold on tight to thread the eye of this needleâ¦
Also as part of the event, members of the CofC Concert Choir and Gospel Choir sang the second line of âLift up every voice. “
John morris, vice president of the college’s facilities management division, said the pavilion’s 16 solar panels will produce around 250 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, enough to fully power the pavilion’s fans, charging stations and electrical outlets. as well as to provide approximately 15% of the energy needs of the Spanish-speaking house of the College House Hispana, located nearby on Bull Street.
âThis project is important to us because it is directly linked to our sustainability action plan, contributing to a carbon neutral campus,â Morris said.
The pavilion, located behind 65 Coming from the street near the Pi Kappa Phi bell tower, was funded in part by a $ 10,000 grant from the US Department of Energy through the SC Energy Office as well as $ 5,000 from the College’s Center for Sustainable Development.
Since the pavilion was partially funded by a federal grant, the College was required to conduct an archaeological excavation of the site prior to construction. CofC Archeology students and faculty conducted the excavation last spring, where they discovered slave etiquette as well as a hearth, animal bones and pottery, among other historical objects. More information on the history of the site and the people who occupied it are available at Site of the discovery of our past, which is devoted to the history of the College of Charleston.
RELATED: New CofC History Website Uncovers Hidden Stories
In conjunction with the event, the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and Charleston College Library Special Collections created a slave label exhibition titled, Artifacts of oppression. The exhibit, which will be on display on the third floor of the Addlestone Library outside of the Special Collections from Oct. 15 through Nov. 22, 2021, includes slave tags for a servant, porter and mechanic. Other exhibits include a free label worn by a free person of color, as well as a sculpture by artist Shirley McWhorter-Moss titled âA Way Outâ. All the objects in the exhibition come from the collections of the Avery Research Center.
In use from the 18th century to 1865, a slave tag is a small metal object which served as a permit showing that slave owners had registered a slave with the city to work for someone else.
Grant Gilmore, Associate Professor and Addlestone Chair in Historic Preservation, as well as Scott harris, associate professor of geology and director of the College Archeology program; Jim newhard, Professor of Classics and director of the College Historic Landscapes Center; and Jim ward, main instructor of historic preservation and community planning, led 36 students to search the site.
Gilmore, at the event on October 15, reflected on the important history of the site and how its history can help shape a better future.
“It’s a kitchen, it’s a home, it’s a gathering space,” he said. “Blacks lived here, whites lived here, slaves lived here, free people of color lived here, workers lived here, and the owners of multinational corporations had their offices in this building.”
Grant noted that the artifacts found at the site not only enlighten the people who worked and lived there, but they opened up a dialogue for a new path forward.
âThese objects tell us about this past, but they point us to a different future,â he said. âThe stories these things tell us, how we interpret them in the present, what we can do to change our behavior today so that we have a different future, is very important – and that’s what the College done. “