Historians and librarians

Here’s a good thing to come out of the horror in Charleston: the #CharlestonSyllabus.

Last Friday, like the rest of us, historian Keisha Blain was scrolling through her social feeds, watching the renewed “national conversation” on race and hate crimes play out in real time, following the tragic shooting of nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

There was one post out of all of them that caught her eye. Chad Williams, associate professor and chair of the African and Afro-American Studies Department at Brandeis University, tweeted the following:

Chad Williams @Dr_ChadWilliams
Lots of ignorance running rampant. Folks need a #CharlestonSyllabus. #twitterstorians @KidadaEWilliams @DrMChatelain @historianspeaks

“I liked it, and I quickly responded and said, ‘Great idea, we really should do this,’” Blain told Fusion about Williams’ tweet in an interview. The two exchanged emails a few minutes after the tweet was posted, and they quickly decided that even though he was just venting, compiling a list of resources for people to read to properly contextualize the Charleston shooting would indeed be a great idea. By then, others had already started responding to the original tweet, using the hashtag to make reading suggestions.

So Blain started making a list, and she looked at Twitter again an hour later, and the hashtag had eaten Manhattan.

Over 10,000 tweets have been posted under the hashtag over the last week, according to Topsy, a social media analytics website.

Twitter is not just a playpen for abusers and harassers and assholes. It can be a lot more than that.

Thanks to the input of historians, librarians and activists from across the country, the effort has pulled together definitive reads on pressing topics, ranging from “Readings on Slavery in the U.S. South” to historically significant poems, explainers on the racist history of the Confederate flag and “Readings on White Racial Identity.”

One of the nine people murdered in Emanuel AME church was a librarian, you may remember. Cynthia Hurd.

…manager of St. Andrews Regional Library branch at Charleston County Public Library (CCPL).

Hurd graduated from Clark Atlanta University and received her MLS from the University of South Carolina. She lived with her husband, Steve Hurd, on Charleston’s east side. She would have turned 55 on June 21.

Hurd worked with CCPL for 31 years. At the time of her death she served as manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library branch. From 1990–2011 she was manager of the John L. Dart branch, named after the founder of the Charleston Normal and Industrial School for local black children in 1894. Charleston’s first free public library for African Americans was established in 1927 by Dart’s daughter, Susan Dart Butler, and when the 75th anniversary of its founding was commemorated in 2012, Hurd worked on the planning committee. She was active in the community as well, serving on the Charleston City Housing Authority board of commissioners.

In addition to working full-time at CCPL, Hurd worked at the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library as a part-time librarian since the 1990s—its longest-serving part-time librarian. A statement from the College said, “She was a protector and lover of books and a fountain of knowledge whose loss will be felt by our entire College community.”



  1. moarscienceplz says

    It has been said that when a person dies, it is like a library burning down. Doubly so in the case of Ms. Hurd.

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