Thursday, December 7, 2017

“The Continuing Struggle for a Substantive Democracy: From the Atlantic Revolutions to Today”
A panel presentation at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, June 16, 2017
The panel was part of a 3-day conference on “Transforming Public History from Charleston to the Atlantic World,” June 14-16, 2017 that brought together some 300 historians and interpreters who work at museums, educational institutions, and historic sites, mainly in the South of the U.S. and Barbados. Conference participants are on the front lines of interpreting to the public the history of slavery and the voices of enslaved people. Astonishingly, the true history of slavery – departing from the “happy slave” narrative long told by institutions, if told at all – is only now beginning to be told in the public square. One of the many conference workshops was a day-long discussion on “Giving Voice to Long Silenced Millions: Interpreting Slavery at Historic Sites.”
The panel on the “Continuing Struggle for a Substantive Democracy” contributed to the conference theme by discussing two of the most significant events that occurred during the 15th and 19th centuries, i.e., the development of industrial capitalism as a world-wide system and the forced migration of millions of Africans to the Western Hemisphere.
“These two phenomena were also interrelated,” reads the panel description. “The slave trade provided the primitive accumulation of capital, while slave-produced raw materials (cotton, tobacco, sugar) provided the initial consumer commodities that fueled capitalism. The central role that African-descended people occupied in the course of capitalist development also placed them in a strategic role in the development of democracy, the political system that developed out of capitalism.”
The panel interrogated the ways in which African Americans helped to define the meaning of American democracy through their struggles to end chattel slavery, realize quality health care, and define the terms of citizenship and how institutions of public history can provide forms for a public discussion of these issues.
From l to r: Conference Moderator Donald West, Jim Campbell, Tim Johnson

James E. Campbell, longtime resident of Charleston, SC, is a retired public school administrator and National Co-Chair Emeritus of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.


 Timothy V. Johnson is the director of the Tamiment Library & the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University's Bobst Library.

Mildred Williamson is the Director of Research & Regulatory Affairs for the Cook County Health & Hospitals System (CCHHS) and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health (UIC-SPH).

 Mark Solomon is Prof. Emeritus of History at Simmons College and Associate of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

To order “The Struggle for a Substantive Democracy: An Organizing Framework and Study Guide for Activists” ($10) and
“Climbin’ Jacobs Ladder: The Black Freedom Movement Writings of Jack O’Dell” edited and introduced by Nikhil Pal Singh ($20)
Contact the Committees of Correspondence Education Fund, Inc.
2472 Broadway #204, NY, NY 10025    646.578.3609

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