College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities; Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access

Rhondda Thomas to receive South Carolina Humanities award


Rhondda Robinson Thomas, Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature, will receive the 2022 Fresh Voices in the Humanities Award from South Carolina Humanities for her significant research on the history of African Americans at Clemson University.

The mission of South Carolina Humanities, which is celebrating its 50th year, is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. The 501(c)3 organization is governed by a volunteer board of directors comprised of community leaders throughout the state. This new award honors innovative individuals who use culture and history to bring people together whose efforts may have gone relatively unnoticed beyond their communities

Thomas said she was deeply honored to learn she is one of two recipients of the award.

“I’m grateful for opportunities to create innovative projects like Call My Name at Clemson that offer opportunities for engagement with topics essential for understanding the past and developing a more inclusive and diverse present and future,” said Thomas. “The award also affirms Clemson University’s support of humanities scholars, a necessary component of its commitment to be a top-tier research institution.”

Thomas’ research and teaching interests include African American literature and culture; politics of black identity; autobiographical scholarship; African American literature and the Bible; race and culture studies; African American historiography; migration narratives; and African American women writers.

Her work documenting the history and experience of Black people in the region through her celebrated Call My Name project has received universal acclaim and led to an increased understanding of Clemson’s cultural heritage while highlighting previously unheard voices in its institutional history.

Thomas has earned multiple accolades for her work on the University level:

  • She was named the 2021 Senior Researcher of the Year.
  • She won the 2021 Class of ’39 Award for Excellence, which is presented annually to one distinguished faculty member for five years of outstanding contributions. Recipients are selected by their peers for service to the student body, University and community, state or nation.
  • She received the 2020 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award from the Division of Student Affairs in recognition of her work and placing service before self.

Thomas will be honored at the Governor’s Awards in the Humanities ceremony and luncheon at the Pastides Alumni Center in Columbia on October 20. Learn more about this year’s winners on the Governor’s Awards page.

Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature Rhondda Robinson Thomas speaks to an enthusiastic crowd gathered in Woodland Cemetery to honor Carrel Cowan-Ricks, March 17, 2022. Cowan-Ricks was a visiting anthropology professor and African American Interpreting Associate in the early 90’s when she discovered the cemetery held many unmarked graves that turned out to be the resting sites of hundreds of enslaved people, sharecroppers, domestic laborers and convicted laborers. In recent years Thomas has picked up where Cowan-Ricks left off and organized meticulous archeological examination of the grounds to identify every unmarked grave on the site.