DATE: March 26, 2008
Andrea Feeser, (864) 656-3921
Andrea Feeser, (864) 656-3921
History of South Carolina indigo to be presented at events
CLEMSON – Clemson University will host two evening events Thursday and Friday about indigo, a South Carolina crop used to make a dye that was used globally.
Participants will learn about African and African-American history, costume history, dyeing techniques, organic chemistry, plant biology, South Carolina history and see an award-winning film. The events are free and begin at 6 p.m. both days.
A screening of Julie Dash’s 1991 film, “Daughters of the Dust,” will be held at Lee Hall Auditorium Thursday. This film explores the trials and triumphs of an African-American Sea Island family with a history of indigo dye production.
Presentations on the biology and chemistry of indigo, enslaved man John Williams’ contributions to South Carolina indigo culture and enslaved persons’ use of indigo dye in the production of their clothing on Friday at Strom Thurmond Institute Auditorium.
Just as Clemson University’s history is largely tied to agriculture — Thomas Clemson’s property was a working plantation and the early university focused in part on crop cultivation — South Carolina’s own foundation rests on the successful growth of and trade in plants.
Many people think the state’s early economic backbone was supported by rice, but South Carolina’s 18th-century fortunes were equally determined by indigo. From the 1740s up until the Revolutionary War, many planters in the Lowcountry and Upstate profited from cultivating indigo, making dye cakes from the plant and selling the dye to England where it was used in the textile industry.
In both scholarly and popular histories, the tales of this success are recounted through the efforts of the young Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who produced fine indigo dye from her father’s Charleston area plantations and encouraged other planters to further her experiments.
While this history is important — it is one of the few narratives concerning women’s contributions to colonial business — it also acknowledges the contributions thousands of Africans and African-Americans made to South Carolina’s indigo boom. Slaves did the backbreaking work of tending indigo plants and extracting dye from them, and both labors involved skill and sophisticated knowledge of cultivation and dye making.
The event is funded by the Clemson University Art Department and Vending Machine Grant Program and presented by Andrea Feeser, of the art department; Karen Hall, of forestry and natural resources; and Kendra Johnson, performing arts.
Feeser teaches art history and researches the history of place by analyzing visual and material culture artifacts. She is writing a book about indigo in 18th century South Carolina.
Hall is an ethno-botanist and coordinates the S.C .Master Naturalist Program. She researches the many uses people make of plants and is a skilled dyer. She helped establish the Cherokee Garden at the South Carolina Botanical Garden.
Johnson teaches African-American theater as well as costume history and production. She studies slave dress of the 18th and 19th centuries and creates historical reproductions of clothing based on her research.
For more information, contact Feeser at email@example.com.