In 2007, Rhondda Robinson Thomas started her career as an English professor at Clemson University, which sits on what was once American statesman John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation. In 1889, Thomas Green Clemson—Calhoun’s son-in-law—bequeathed the land and his fortune to establish the college, and the plantation home still sits central to the now sprawling campus. Thomas was quickly inspired to join and grow efforts to uncover the identity and contributions of laborers who worked on the plantation and who built the campus. Their lives and their stories were absent from memorializations and narratives of Clemson’s history. With support from the NEH, this initial effort has grown into a multifaceted project to research, document and share the commonly excluded contributions of Black laborers across generations—all foundational to the founding and ongoing prosperity of the University and the surrounding area.
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