Race, Place and Civic Genealogies

Event description

  • Academic events
  • Open to the public


The Race, Place and Civic Genealogies Symposium is inspired by the illuminating Washington Post series on the histories of US elected officials who had and have ties to enslavement. That revelatory series has revealed extensive and still understudied connections between sites of enslavement and freedom and genealogical connections between individuals of all races and diverse regions.   

The day will include a keynote address by Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, panels and roundtables focused on the histories and contemporary issues that are expanding public history and civic engagement. Join us for enriching collaborative dialogues and necessary conversations about race, place, and history. 

Invited panelists and discussants include descendants of families featured in the Washington Post series on enslavement, educators, artists, authors, park rangers, historians, librarians, journalists, former and current city and government officials, social justice and civil rights leaders, genealogists and family historians.

The symposium will close with a book signing featuring works by Joseph McGill, Gayle Pemberton, Caitlin Hunter and Christi Jay Wells.

Keynote Speaker

Joseph McGill, Jr. is the founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, a history consultant for Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC and author of Sleeping with the Ancestors: How I Followed The Footprints of Slavery. By arranging for people to sleep in extant slave dwellings, the Slave Dwelling Project has brought much needed attention to these often-neglected structures that are vitally important to the American built environment.

Mr. McGill has conducted over 250 overnights in approximately 150 different sites in 25 states and the District of Columbia. He has interacted with the descendants of both the enslaved communities and of the enslavers associated with antebellum historic sites. He speaks with school children and college students, with historical societies, community groups, and members of the public.

Mr. McGill served as the Executive Director of the African American Museum located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and is the former Director of History and Culture at Penn Center, St. Helena Island, South Carolina. Penn School was the first school built during the Civil War for the education of recently freed slaves.

Featured Speakers

 Lois Brown is ASU Foundation Professor of English and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University. She is a public historian and a scholar of early American and African American literature and culture whose groundbreaking research reshapes our understanding of race, class, gender, faith, and place in America.  As director of the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, Brown oversees the only entity at ASU and in the state of Arizona that positions race and democracy in direct relation with each other.   She is the author of "Black Daughter of the Revolution: A Literary Biography of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins," "Memoir of James Jackson, The Attentive and Obedient Scholar" and Encyclopedia of the Harlem Literary Renaissance.  Her current projects include biographies of influential but understudied African American women of the nineteenth century, African Americans in 18th and 19th century Concord, Massachusetts and a collection of essays on race, place and history in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Arizona.  She was featured on the acclaimed PBS documentary The Abolitionists, has curated and collaborated on exhibitions for the Museum of African American History in Boston and the Boston Public Library, and was a primary consultant on the 2023 Emmy Award-winning Arizona PBS series “Black in Arizona.”
 L’Merchie Frazier is a Boston-based multimedia artist, educator, and consultant, known for her evocative fiber and metal sculptures, innovative installations, and stunning hand-crafted jewelry. A recipient of the Boston Foundation’s 2021 Brother Thomas Fellowship, she is also a Boston artist-in-residence with the Office of Recovery Services/Office of Women’s Advancement, and served for over twenty years as Director of Education and Interpretation for the Museum of African American History in Boston where she created programs that expanded the American historical narrative. She is represented in numerous private collections and the permanent collection of the University of Vermont, the American Museum of Art and Design, New York, and the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC. Exhibition sites include the Museum of Afro-American History Boston; the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston; New England Quilt Museum; and the permanent collection of the White House. She is also a member of Women of Color Quilters Network(WCQN) a national African American Quilters Guild. She was also an advisor to Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Her work consistently presents the thread of the power of individual and collective memory to know and to heal. As Forbes stated in a review of her work, “Whether L’Merchie Frazier is creating poetry, performance, holographs or quilts, she is doing it to save herself — and all of us — from our amnesia.”
 Dreisen Heath is a racial justice advocate who worked for several years as a researcher and advocate in Human Rights Watch’s United States Program examining and advocating on racial justice issues in the US context. She led the Human Rights Watch’s domestic research and advocacy on reparations and reparative justice. Her most recent research endeavor documented what many community members in Tulsa, Oklahoma call the “continuing massacre,” conditions of pervasive inequality and structural violence stemming from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in US history. Following her graduation from Wesleyan University and prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Dreisen worked as the Special Assistant to the Director and Counsel of the Brennan Center’s Washington DC Office and was a researcher at the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy (CRESP) at the University of Delaware examining emerging community health and education policy, with a particular focus on food insecurity and food access in low-income communities at the local, state and federal level.
 Caitlyn Hunter is an assistant professor at the College of Southern Maryland.  She is a PhD Candidate in English Literature at Duquesne University where she is focusing on African American literature, Black food studies, Black comics, and other forms of popular culture. She was the inaugural Emerging Black Writer in Residence at Chatham University (2021-2022) and is a Tin House Writing participant. Her debut book Power in the Tongue, a hybrid memoir, was published through Tolsun Books in June 2022. 

more info: visit csrd.asu.edu

Event contact

Debbie Richmond

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Program Title: Race, Place and Civic Genealogies

Event Info: Thursday, June 13, 2024

Time: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (EST)

6:00 am2:00 pm (MST)


ASU Barrett and O’Connor Washington Center


Free | open to the public