In Memory of Hannibal Kershaw

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In this block the artists decided to honor Hannibal Kershaw and recognize the legacy he left on Grinnell during his time here as a student. Hannibal Kershaw was the first black student to graduate from Grinnell College in the early 19th century. The Iowa College Newsletter called Kershaw “an earnest, conscientious student, a fluent society speaker, and a man whom all respected for his high moral and religious character.” After graduating from Grinnell, he became a member of the South Carolina legislature and was also a teacher and a minister. Although Kershaw passed away only 4 years after leaving Grinnell, his memory is honored in the East Campus hall named for him, and now also in this piece of art. In this block, the artists have included a photograph of Kershaw along with the commemorative sign on Kershaw Hall, as well as keys and screws to symbolize not only the dorm, but also Kershaw’s commitment to building respectful race relations at the college and the symbolic doors he opened as the first black graduate of Grinnell. The artists also included a bird in flight, meant to remind viewers that while loved ones may be gone, their legacy will be remembered forever. Lastly, a piece of twine placed between these images reminds us of how connected the struggles of people of color are all over the world. Although Kershaw never set foot in Haiti, he certainly knew the pain and legacy of slavery and colonization, and felt the burn of racism even in Grinnell.