20th Annual Sherman Lecture to Explore Racial, Class Politics of Antebellum South 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Anne Kerth, an assistant professor in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will deliver the 2021 Sherman Emerging Scholar Lecture, “The Afterlife of Secrets: A Slave Conspiracy in Antebellum Charleston,” at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 27. This free virtual event, part of the Sherman Emerging Scholar Lecture Series, is presented by the UNCW Department of History and is open to the public. 

“This year and every year, the goal of the Emerging Scholar Lecture is to highlight the work of a fascinating young scholar before they become established in the field,” said Lynn Mollenauer, UNCW history department chair. “We get to showcase cutting-edge scholarship from scholars like Dr. Kerth because we are looking at people just finishing dissertations and engaged in the most recent and up-to-date work.” 

Kerth’s research pursuits include the history of slavery and emancipation, labor history, the history of gender and sexuality and carceral history. Her current book project examines the lives and labors of enslaved and free African American artisans in 19th century South Carolina. She teaches courses on early African American and African diasporic history; slavery and emancipation; and race, labor and gender. 

Among other themes, Kerth’s lecture will examine the fears of elite white southerners in antebellum Charleston, South Carolina, of slave rebellion. She plans to highlight the 1822 case of Denmark Vesey, a free Black carpenter who city officials accused of planning an insurrection among enslaved and free Black Charlestonians. Vesey was arrested, tried in secret and hanged, along with 30 other alleged co-conspirators. 

“Kerth will explore the impact of this conspiracy, whether it was real or imagined, and how it was used to justify actions and form alliances based on racial rather than class lines,” explains Mollenauer. “It’s interesting to contemplate whose stories rise to prominence and how those stories are subsequently used to justify political views and mobilize action.” 

In its 20th year, the Sherman Emerging Scholar Lecture Series was endowed by Phillip Sherman and Ann Sherman-Skiba and their spouses in honor of their parents, Virginia and Derrick Sherman. The series provides an opportunity for promising scholars to share their research with a connected community of lifelong learners. 

In addition to the lecture, the Sherman Emerging Scholar Roundtable will follow on October 28 at 5 p.m. featuring renowned scholars who will provide commentary on Kerth's work and make additional connections from their own unique perspectives. Panelists include Karen Cook-Bell, Bowie State University; Hilary Green, University of Alabama; and Seth Rockman, Brown University. The virtual panel discussion is open to the public, and all UNCW students and faculty are welcome to attend.  

-- Krissy Vick