During March 2022 and beyond, Aiken Center for the Arts connects students at Schofield Middle School with local author Dr. Walter Curry through an author in residence program to enrich the study of South Carolina and African American history as it is depicted in his books.
Curry’s work brings Aiken County’s African American history to life through the narratives of his own family. Discussions of the narratives in his books initiate conversation about the past to help students shape the narratives of their future. Combining education, creativity, and passion into student engagements, Dr. Curry shares real life ancestral stories in his books, The Thompson Family: Untold Stories from The Past (1830-1960) and The Awakening: The Seawright-Ellison Family Saga, Vol. 1, A Narrative History, which connect to the 8th grade South Carolina Social Studies Standards.
Dr. Curry speaks to students from the floor of the school gymnasium as they look on from bleachers. Provided photo. Click to enlarge.
Schofield students are reading Curry’s second book The Awakening: The Seawright-Ellison Family Saga, Vol. 1, A Narrative History, and discussions focus on the sharecropping experiences of Dr. Curry’s ancestors who lived in Barnwell and Aiken counties.
Curry points out that “this book is pertinent to Schofield students as it also incorporates Schofield Normal and Industrial Institute history with the story of Schofield graduate Floster L. Ellison Jr. who was a World War II veteran and co-founded the Palmetto State Barbers Association during the Civil Rights Movement in 1960.” Dr. Curry talks about these narratives that are in the book and engages students by leading them through an exhibition of artifacts and images exploring sharecropping life of his ancestors in the book, showing that history is alive and an important source of connection to our communities.
Mrs. Whetstone, who teaches South Carolina history and African American History to 8th graders at Schofield, speaks to the project’s relevance.
“When you teach history, you teach a lot of dates and sometimes we don’t make the connections. Dr. Curry’s work is the connection. It shows that this happened to Dr. Curry’s family it happened to your family. It happened to all of us. We study the diaspora of African American culture starting from slavery. When you get to reconstruction you understand that we already had those civil rights but had to work through it. Society is not going to be able to move ahead unless we can have these kinds of discussions,” she said.
Aiken Center for the Arts believes in the importance of this Author in Residence program because it uniquely delivers our mission by sharing a local voice of untold stories from Aiken County’s African American history, by inspiring area youth through the personal story Curry shares of his journey to authorship alongside the educational enrichment Curry’s books provide as those narratives give real life examples of the concepts taught in the standards. Supporting local artists and authors through the Author in Residence program celebrates rich human resources that are among us while opening opportunities for deeper understanding of the human experience.
This project is funded in part by SC Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The South Carolina Cotton Museum and Jerry Morris, author of the book Barnwell County, are also contributors to this engagement.
For more information contact Caroline Gwinn, executive director of Aiken Center for the Arts: firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Arts Center at 803.641.9094.