As a student attending rural North Carolina grade schools and a Raleigh high school that is majority white, Candace Silver saw just a few other Black faces in her classes, if any. Lessons and books paid little attention to telling Black people’s stories, she recalls.
Now, as the inaugural recipient of the new Gregory Mixon-Sonya Ramsey Black Lives Matter Scholarship, Silver continues to grow her understanding and appreciation for a broader view that includes the contributions and struggles of Black people throughout history. As a history and political science major and pre-law student, she is considering a career in criminal and civil rights law.
“From a young age, my parents taught me about my Black history and about the racism they experienced living during the Civil Rights era in rural North Carolina and other racist experiences in other places they lived,” Silver wrote in her scholarship application. “In school, they taught only the surface level of the Civil Rights movement, slavery, and Jim Crow laws. They avoided Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, and other topics that are important regarding African American history.”
Once Silver arrived at UNC Charlotte in the summer of 2018, she found classes focused on the African Diaspora, the New South era, mass incarceration, American legal history, and African American women’s history. As she added deeper research skills and academic knowledge, she broadened the insights she had gained from her own life and her family’s stories and experiences. She has centered her own research in part on the violence Black women have faced.
“Being a Black history major, I believe it is my obligation to learn about my culture and the history of Black women in the United States.”
— Candace Silver
“Throughout history, non-Black people and the Black community overlooked, excluded, disrespected, and under-researched Black women,” she said.
She has now read Ida B. Wells’ and other researchers’ accounts of Black women and young girls being beaten, raped, and killed, particularly after the end of slavery. “They killed Black women for existing, for defending Black men, for refusing their sexual advances, after they raped them, and as part of lynch mobs,” she noted.
For Silver, the readings, the research, the class discussions, and what she learned as an intern in U.S. Rep. Alma Adams’ Charlotte office have all added to her understanding of lives past, and how lives will be shaped in the future. “It is important that the horrors of history are not forgotten and are taught so that history will not repeat itself,” she said.