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Cougar Tales: Director's Cut (July 2015) 

The College of Charleston Community

Let’s talk about your College of Charleston community.

If you are like most of us you are painfully aware of Charleston and South Carolina being thrust into the world’s consciousness these last few weeks. Amongst the sadness of losing nine prayerful lives at the hands of a thug possessed by hatred, we found grace in our community, your community.  We found motivation.  We found common cause.  We found commitment to properly honor those who were murdered.

On June 24, the College of Charleston Board of Trustees, your Trustees, publicly resolved to call for removing the Civil War battle flag from the Statehouse grounds.  Your Trustees likewise publicly resolved to name one of our most prestigious Colonial Scholarships for Cynthia Hurd.  Cynthia was the College’s longest-serving part-time librarian and one of the nine slain at Emanuel AME Church.

On June 25, College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell ’69, your President and your fellow alumnus, personally, publicly and artfully joined Governor Nikki Haley to call for the removal of the Civil War battle flag from the statehouse grounds.

On June 26, the College of Charleston, your alma mater, made its campus and resources available for our community, your community, to come together – to honor; to grieve; to reflect; to face uncomfortable truths; to dig deep; to recommit to a better outcome for our children and grandchildren.  Together, on a world-wide stage in our campus arena, your campus arena, we joined the families of the fallen along with the President of the United States and millions via satellite both to mourn and to seek inspiration.  We did mourn and we were inspired.

Now we begin to repair the torn fabric in our community, including your College community.  I believe the time may be at hand to change the way we view certain aspects of American history. In this case, by “we” I mean white Americans and black Americans.  I mean liberals and conservatives.  I mean Civil War enthusiasts and those who would eradicate all mention of it.

Shelby Foote (1916-2005), was born in Greenville, MS and was an author and Civil War historian.  Many believe Foote was the foremost authority on the subject even if his deductions were, at times, uncomfortable for those that tend to struggle with the conversation. 

In 1990, in a segment for Ken Burns’ 11-hour PBS documentary The Civil War Foote opined, “Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The [American] Revolution did what it did…our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did…but the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads”.

I am encouraged that your College of Charleston community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and corporate partners – plans to model the way for race relations conversations throughout Charleston and South Carolina.  I am further encouraged by the intention for these conversations to be out in the open, intelligent, civilized and professionally facilitated.  I, for one, am proud of our College community’s leadership which further validates the College of Charleston’s Boundless impact.

Jack Huguley '72 
Director of Alumni Relations
College of Charleston