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Global Georgia: Robert Adams – “Telling Stories Across the Water: The Challenge of Reconstructing Race and History at the Penn Center”

Dr. Robert Adams, Executive Director of the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District
Cine, 234 W. Hancock Ave., Athens, GA

“Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.”
W.E.B. DuBois

“Any historical narrative is a bundle of silences.”
Michel-Rolph Trouillot

The idea of African Americans as a “people without history” undergirded the legitimacy of slavery. Even after the demise of this peculiar institution, false narratives produced in the service of slavery sustain racism. Since their arrival on American shores, Black people asserted their humanity by challenging the historical silences that rendered them invisible as historical actors.

Black History Month, a celebration of African American historicity initiated by Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week in 1926, offers a distinct opportunity to consider the roles and responsibilities of historical institutions like the Penn Center in creating anti-racist histories. Embracing Black history is central to realizing the principles of democracy in the United States. The radical act of illuminating what Trouillot deemed “unthinkable history” is an essential component for liberating American democracy from its traumatic past.

Bio: Robert Adams Jr. is the executive director of the Penn Center in St. Helena, South Carolina. Previously, he worked in philanthropy, academia, public policy, and corporate consulting. Robert earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Florida. A 2008 Fulbright Scholar at PUC-São Paulo in Brazil, he has published extensively on African American and Afro-Latin American culture and history.

This event is presented by the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts and the Institute for African American Studies as part of the Willson Center's Global Georgia public event series. It is also presented in connection with Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District, a partnership program of the Willson Center and Penn Center funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

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