South Carolina HBCU Launches Think Tank to Focus on Southern Black History, Culture and Policy

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Claflin University is recruiting young scholars for a new institute focused on the study of African-American history and culture in the South. The institute aims to become a voice to shape public policy on issues affecting Black Americans.

The Jonathan Jasper Wright Institute for the Study of Southern African American History, Culture and Policy is the first of its kind, says Dr. Brian L. Johnson, the institute's director.

"We want to bring to bear all of the university's resources to create a cohesive group of young scholars," he says. "This isn't an exercise to see if it works, then we'd back out. We want it to be a permanent part of the fabric of Claflin University."

Johnson adds that the research conducted at the institute will shape the debate around contemporary issues affecting Blacks and Whites. "The experience of White Southerners is intimately tied to Black culture," he says.

During Reconstruction, Wright was chairman of Claflin's law school after he resigned from the South Carolina Supreme Court. As the court's first Black jurist and the first Black appellate court justice in the nation, Wright was hailed as a clear thinker who produced solid opinions.

Dr. George E. Miller III, Claflin's vice president for academic affairs, says the institute's mission is to follow Wright's example.

The institute must produce well-researched and wellreasoned conclusions to place public policy in a historical context of the Southern Black experience, he says. "I don't believe there is another institute that has that mandate.

"When you look at how policy-makers go to think tanks, we need a voice that speaks specifically to the issues that concern African-Americans," Miller says. "We need an institute that speaks to the spectrum of views in the Black community."

Approved this summer by Claflin's board of trustees, Miller says the institute is part of university president Henry N. …


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