Monuments, memorials, and historical memory have repeatedly been in the news over the last year, including Charlottesville, Virginia, where in August 2017, white supremacists rallied to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
The tiki-torch-brandishing crowd paraded through the city chanting, “You will not replace us; Jews will not replace us.” The scene added a chilling urgency to efforts to bring together Jewish and African-American groups in Charleston for a historical look at how these two groups have been memorialized in the Holy City and beyond.
That’s why the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina (JHSSC) has partnered with the College of Charleston’s Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) program, CofC’s African American Studies program, and the Charleston branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life & History for the conference “Memory, Monuments, and Memorials” Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29, 2018.
During the two-day event, experts will come together to discuss the history of minority exclusion and white supremacy in South Carolina, the monuments that enshrine public memory and the ethics of cultural tourism.
“The question of tourism at Holocaust sites is going to be raised in relation to tourism at slavery-related sites in Charleston and elsewhere,” says African Studies professor and Director of the CLAW program Simon Lewis, “and that should be very interesting. The line-up of speakers is tremendously impressive, featuring leaders from the African American and Jewish communities, including a number who have been working together for the last few years as part of the multi-congregation Charleston Area Justice Ministry.”
The keynote address “Facing Memory: The Past, the Present, and the Public” will be delivered on Saturday afternoon by acclaimed architect Michael Arad, whose design for the National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site was chosen from among more than 5,000 submissions. In 2017, Arad was selected to design a memorial for the victims of the 2015 mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston.
On Saturday evening, the JHSSC will honor its Executive Director Martin Perlmutter with the Order of the Jewish Palmetto, the Society’s highest honor. Perlmutter, who will retire this July, has directed the JHSSC since its inception, as well as the College of Charleston’s Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program since 1991. The Society’s incoming Executive Director is Mark Swick, who has served both organizations as Community Liaison since 2012.
Tickets are $50 for the conference and are available online.