USCB to host lecture, book signing and reception to commemorate publication of Dr. Brent Morris’s book

USCB to host lecture, book signing and reception to commemorate publication of Dr. Brent Morris's book


February 6, 2017

Dr. Brent MorrisBEAUFORT, S.C. – J. Brent Morris, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, will commemorate the publication of his latest book, Yes, Lord, I Know the Road, A Documentary History of African Americans in South Carolina, 1526-2008, with a lecture, book signing and reception Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. on the Hilton Head Gateway campus.

An award-winning author and academic scholar, Dr. Morris is Chair of the Humanities Department at USCB. His research and academic interests involve 19th century United States history; the history of South Carolina; slavery, abolition and antislavery; the Civil War and Reconstruction; and African-American history. The lecture will take place in Campus Center Room 105. A book signing and reception will follow. The public is invited to attend.

Yes, Lord, I Know the Road is the first comprehensive history of African-Americans in the State of South Carolina. It traces the history of African-Americans in the land that became a colony and then a state from the time of the first slave rebellion in North America in 1526 to the state Democratic Primary Election victory of Barack Obama in 2008.

Dr. Morris selected 75 primary-source documents—personal narratives, government reports, newspaper stories, speeches and more—some of which have never been published, to present an overview of the people, events, social and political movements and ideas that shaped black life in South Carolina over the centuries.

"African-Americans were the labor force for the colony of South Carolina and then the State of South Carolina up through the Civil War," Dr. Morris says. "Slave labor in South Carolina made this area one of the richest in the nation, and in the world. The beneficiaries were white, but their money was made on the backs of African-American laborers. Moreover, African-Americans helped make this region one of the culturally richest regions in America as well."

From the Civil War on, the history of South Carolina is inseparable from that of its African-American residents, Dr. Morris says. Reconstruction started in Beaufort County in 1861 and extended into the late 19th century. "The history that unfolds is not so much the history of South Carolina. That story is almost secondary to the history of the African-Americans living in the state who pushed that history forward. It's a vital history that for one reason or another has been overlooked for a very long time."

Dr. Morris began work on the book almost by accident. A proponent of incorporating primary sources of history in his lectures, he searched in vain for any publications that presented first-hand accounts or perspectives. "So, when I looked around and didn't find anything, I decided to go into the archives and do it myself," he says.

For the next six years, Dr. Morris hunted down "those really important pieces to the puzzle that made up South Carolina history." Over time, he amassed 150 documents and later culled the list to 75 primary sources, all woven together in a 40-page narrative that lends perspective to the period between the slave rebellion near the mouth of the Pee Dee River and the primary election victory of the first African-American to earn a major party nomination.

"It's the first time anybody has ever looked at that entire history altogether and tried to put the story together into one narrative," he says.

The book is intended to be a history of the African-American experience in South Carolina and a roadmap of sorts. "People can read my introduction alongside the documents in the back and understand what historians do," Dr. Morris says. "They can actually see the source material, see the evidence we use, and see the arguments we make side-by-side. They're able to get a first-hand view of what history was like rather than just have it told to them by somebody else."

Dr. Morris is the author of Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism: College, Community and the Fight for Freedom and Equality in Antebellum America. The book was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2014. With the aid of a RISE grant the same year, he embarked on a collaborative project entitled, Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study, "Nineteenth Century Tidewater Resistance Communities: The Forgotten Social History of the Great Dismal Swamp." The National Endowment for the Humanities funded the three-year project with a $200,000 grant. He also collaborated on the Dismal Swamp Maroon Exhibit, now a permanent display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In addition, Dr. Morris serves as the project director for a three-week institute for school teachers on the history of Reconstruction and its aftermath along America's Southeastern coast. Funded by grants of nearly $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2015 and 2017, the institute assembles a virtual who's who of nationally renowned American history scholars to teach a series of courses on USCB's Historic Beaufort campus. As part of their studies, the teachers visited the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, Mitchellville on Hilton Head Island, and Sapelo Island, Ga.

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Located in the heart of the Carolina Sea Islands, the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) is a baccalaureate member of the USC system, serving the southeast coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Since 2002, USCB has tripled its academic degree programs, doubled its FTE enrollment, opened its first on-campus housing (now serving more than 900), joined the NAIA Sun Conference, and fielded conference and national award-winning Sand Shark athletes in nine sports. The university's two campuses serve a diverse student body of 2,000 students. The Hilton Head Gateway campus in Bluffton, SC, offers cutting-edge Computational Science and Nursing laboratories, and a broad range of academic degree programs. The Historic Beaufort campus, located on Beaufort's downtown waterfront, houses an innovative baccalaureate Studio Art program in close proximity to Beaufort's many art galleries. The University of South Carolina Beaufort offers students an exceptional place to learn and live in an environment focused on growth, preservation and opportunity.

For more information about the University of South Carolina Beaufort, contact Kerry Jarvis, public information coordinator, at 843-208-8030 or jarviskc@uscb.edu