Charleston Syllabus

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#CharlestonSyllabus (Charleston Syllabus), is a Twitter movement and crowdsourced syllabus using the hashtag #CharlestonSyllabus to compile a list of reading recommendations relating to the history of racial violence in the United States. It was created in response to the race-motivated violence in Charleston, South Carolina on the evening of June 17, 2015, when Dylann Roof opened fire during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing 9 people.[1]

These texts provide information about racial violence in the United States and provide background on the history of race relations in South Carolina in particular and the United States in general.[2] They also offer education on race, racial identities, global white supremacy and black resistance.[2] Several of the suggested readings shed light on race and racism on a global scale.[3] On June 23, 2015, NPR's Renee Montagne reported on Morning Edition that "academics, librarians and history students have been rallying around the hashtag Charleston Syllabus, suggesting readings that might help inform the public of some of the city's history."[4]

"#Charlestonsyllabus is more than a list. It is a community of people committed to critical thinking, truth telling and social transformation.”– Chad Williams[5]

"In so many ways, the #Charlestonsyllabus is a testament to the power of Twitter as a central medium for educators to engage and strategize with members of the general public. What the #Charlestonsyllabus has done is bring together people from all walks of life who are deeply committed to social justice and determined to make a difference."- Keisha N. Blain[6]


Twitter campaigns utilizing hashtags to generate crowdsourced lists of information sources widely excluded from academic canons emerged throughout 2014 and 2015. The most notable example of this trend is the #FergusonSyllabus, created by Georgetown University Professor Marcia Chatelain in the aftermath of the Ferguson uprising.[7]

The #CharlestonSyllabus campaign was the brainchild of Chad Williams, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University.[2] The concept came from a tweet of his: "Lots of ignorance running rampant. Folks need a #CharlestonSyllabus."[8] Williams later stated that Roof's killing spree brought national attention to the country's history of racial injustice.[9]

Historians Keisha N. Blain, Kidada Williams, and others helped to circulate the hashtag and #CharlestonSyllabus started trending on Twitter by the evening of June 19, 2015.[2][10] With the assistance of librarians Melissa Morrone, Ryan P. Randall, and Cecily Walker, Blain compiled and organized the reading list on the website of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS).[2][11][12]

Within the first day of use, the hashtag generated approximately 10,000 tweets. Librarians across the nation assisted in culling and categorizing suggestions made via Twitter, also tagging the entries in WorldCat, a web resource for locating materials at nearby libraries, on the AAIHS website.[13] More than 115, 000 visitors have accessed the list and several libraries across the country have featured #Charlestonsyllabus displays. Since its debut, the #Charlestonsyllabus has been featured on major news outlets including BBC, PBS, NPR, LA Times, New York Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.[6]

Chad Williams, Kidada Williams, and Keisha N. Blain recently edited a book based on the syllabus entitled Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence (University of Georgia Press, 2016).[14]

Twitter Historians[edit]

The emergence of academic crowdsourcing on Twitter can, in large part, be contributed to the #Twitterstorians and #BLKTwitterstorians hashtag trends.[15]

In February 2014, the Pew Research Center defined six different kinds of network crowds, which they called "conversational archetypes",[16] on Twitter, using NodeXL.[17] The Twitterstorians channel is what the research defines as a "tight crowd network".[17]


  1. ^ Yglesias, Matthew. "Charleston Shooter Dylann Roof's apparent manifesto surfaces". Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Blain, Keisha. "#CharlestonSyllabus". African American Intellectual History Society. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  3. ^ "#Charlestonsyllabus". Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  4. ^ Renee, Montagne. "Church Tragedy Inspires Many To Learn More About Charleston's History". NPR's Morning Edition. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  5. ^ Williams, Chad. "#CharlestonSyllabus is more than a list. It is a community of people committed to critical thinking, truth telling and social transformation". Twitter. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Not Just Another Hashtag: Reflections on the #Charlestonsyllabus". Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  7. ^ Chatelain, Marcia. "The #Ferguson Syllabus". Georgetown University. Archived from the original on 7 September 2015. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  8. ^ Rivero, Daneil. "#CharlestonSyllabus is your new reading list for race relations in America". Fusion. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  9. ^ Williams, Chad. "#CharlestonSyllabus and the work of African American History". African American Intellectual History Society. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  10. ^ "How one tweet about the Charleston shootings created a new conversation about race". Fusion. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  11. ^ carlsonm. "Charleston Syllabus". Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  12. ^ "Historians work to put Charleston shooting in context". Iowa City Press Citizen. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  13. ^ Collette, Matt. "Teaching With the #CharlestonSyllabus". School Library Journal. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  14. ^ Williams, Chad; Williams, Kidada; Blain, Keisha, eds. (2016-05-15). Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820349572.
  15. ^ Greene II, Robert. "#BLKTwitterstorians And the Pursuit of Intellectual Communities". Society for U.S. Intellectual History. Archived from the original on 8 January 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  16. ^ Smith, Marc. "Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  17. ^ a b Varin, Vanessa. "Mapping the History Twittersphere". American Historical Association. Retrieved 14 August 2015.

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