American Studies in action: Torrey Sanders 



Gravesites in Ansonborough

left (Torrey Sanders), bottom and upper right (historic gravesite in Charleston)

Currently I'm in downtown Charleston, in the carriage house of a home built in 1808. American history is all around me as Charleston's tourist economy is built around these gorgeous historic homes. But the full history of these homes is often overlooked, to put it mildly. 

Since moving here, I've reflected on how to best utilize the skills and theories taught in AMST, namely Critical Race Theory to better understand Charleston's sordid history. These concepts helped me spearhead a few initiatives to encourage my neighbors to think more holistically about this city. I led was to push city officials to install a fence around a two hundred year old gravesite that was discovered in 2016. Thirty-eight Black people were buried in a long forgotten grave in the late 18th century and when discovered five years ago, the city and community leaders opted to reinter the bodies on the same site and install a plaque to mark the area. But they didn't section the gravesite off, passively allowing dog owners to use the area as a place to let their dogs relieve themselves. Essentially, people were letting their dogs pee on graves. It was shocking. My AMST degree helped me think clearly about this problem and encourage city officials to rectify it.

I'm happy to report there is a fence around the area now. That alone is a necessary, but ultimately small step. But I'm bringing it up during my neighborhood association meeting. As our neighborhood association is called the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, history is clearly of great importance to the community. I'm hoping my neighbors will see the value of protecting, preserving and promoting the histories of Black Charlestonians when thinking about the past, instead of just the legacy of White Charlestonians.