Lewis Partners in ‘Legacies of American Slavery’ Project

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Lewis University Serves as Regional Hub in National ‘Legacies of American Slavery’ Project

Published: February 18, 2021.

Lewis University has been selected as a partner in a national initiative focused on the legacies of American slavery. The Romeoville, Illinois campus will focus on race, place and migration with mass incarceration as a secondary theme as it serves as a Regional Collaboration Partner for the Council of Independent Colleges’ multiyear project, “Legacies of American Slavery: Reckoning with the Past.”

The initiative is designed to explore the continuing impact of slavery on American life and culture. The project will support campus-based research, teaching, and learning as well as community-based programs about the multiple legacies of slavery.

“The knowledge gained from studies centered in the communities surrounding Lewis University can begin to tell lesser-heard stories and can inform and enliven the national conversation about the legacies of slavery,” commented Dr. Tennille Allen, professor and chair of the Lewis University Department of Sociology, program director of Lewis University African American Studies, and program director of Lewis University Ethnic and Cultural Studies.

The Partners are focusing on a specific theme with local and national significance, organizing regional activities while contributing to a national conversation about race, equity, freedom, political power, and cultural resilience.

• Austin College (TX): “Racial Violence and Resistance”;

• Centenary College of Louisiana (LA) and Huston-Tillotson University (TX), in partnership: “Race, Health, and Medicine”;

• Dillard University (LA): “Cultural Creativity”;

• Lewis University (IL): "Race, Place, and Migration," with "Mass Incarceration" as a secondary theme; 

• Meredith College (NC): “Contested Citizenship,” with “Economic Disparities” as a secondary theme; and

• Sewanee: The University of the South (TN): “Commemoration and Memory.”

“In looking at our two legacy themes as they intertwine, we look at both migration and restricted mobility. Black migrants and their descendants have been locked into place by discrimination, segregation, and incarceration. These realities are foundational to the persistence of structural racism in the United States,” added Allen, who is co-directing the Lewis University multidisciplinary effort with Dr. Christopher Sindt, provost.

Allen continued, “Race and place—and ideas about who belongs where—are central here as is mass incarceration which is facilitated by the interrelated processes of hypersegregation, hypersurveillance, and criminalization of places and the people who inhabit them.”

Programmatic activities will begin this spring and build toward a series of regional conferences hosted by the Regional Collaboration Partners during the 2021–2022 academic year. Lewis University plans a myriad of public and community programming focused on the Legacies of Slavery that include public lectures as well as art, performance, presentations, and interactive workshops in addition to student engagement through courses and co-curricular activities.

The Lewis University committee also plans to create a multimedia app that illuminates the impact of race and place on the experiences of local communities in Fairmont, Lockport, and Joliet. The app would be used for self-guided tours that rely on research projects that consist of community mapping, oral histories, and community history.

The entire project is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with supplemental funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This overall work of Lewis University funded by this grant will revolve around Fairmont, Lockport, and Joliet as well as the Old Joliet prison and Statesville. It will feature faculty research, practice and performance in addition to expanding upon partnerships with local organizations.

Lewis University is an innovative and forward-thinking Catholic university offering market-relevant undergraduate and graduate programs to 6,300 students. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis University is nationally recognized for preparing intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally connected and socially responsible graduates. Visit www.lewisu.edu for further information.

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