W&J senior Jillian Curtis stands and smiles in front of trees.

­­­Magellan Project takes political science major on historic journey

Created: October 14, 2022  |  Last Updated: September 27, 2023  |  Category: ,   |  Tagged: , , , ,

WASHINGTON, PA (October 21, 2022)—Having recently returned from a summer of historic study of slavery, W&J senior Jillian Curtis knows how to make a Magellan Project work.

A double major in political science and English, she spent May and June traveling through Richmond, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and St. Augustine, Florida examining how historic institutions in cities built on slave labor educate the public about slavery and its impact on present day America.

“It was always something that I wanted to do,” said Curtis of her Magellan. “Given the current state of politics in America, especially regarding race, I felt that it was important to educate myself about the true history of our country…[and] bring more awareness to how we educate people on uncomfortable subjects.”

Visiting museums and historic sites in each of the cities she visited, including the American Civil War Museum, Old Slave Mart Museum, Confederate War Memorial Chapel, Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, Wormsloe State Historic Site, Kingsley Plantation National Park, and Lincolnville Museum & Cultural Center, as well as Lumpkin’s Slave Jail and the Tuckahoe, Boon Hall and Magnolia plantations, gave her the perfect opportunity to do so.

“Each city I went to was deeply tied to the institution of slavery and the slave trade,” Curtis said, noting that their economies were built on slave labor memorialized by the historic sites she visited. “Richmond was the capital of the confederacy…[while] St. Augustine…under Spanish rule, was the only place in the colonies where runaway slaves were offered their freedom, in return for service to the Spanish crown.”

Despite harboring heavy histories, she uncovered a complicated curriculum.

“Every single place I visited was different,” Curtis said. “Each site had their own method of teaching and their own lens through which to view history. Some places did a wonderful job detailing the atrocities of slavery, some did the best they could with limited resources, and some redirected to other aspects of their history.”

Still, Curtis is hopeful. Funded by her College to uncover these gaps, she believes in the power and promise of educational institutions.

“I think [the Magellan Project] is a wonderful opportunity,” said the Sigma Tau Delta and Pi Gamma Mu honor society member. “I put my heart and soul into my proposal, tweaking every minute detail to make it perfect, and to know that the Magellan Committee believed in me to attain my goals, meant validating, not only my efforts, but my personal and intellectual goals as well.”

With the project behind her, she’s looking forward to the next chapter in her life.

“After graduation, I intend to move back home to Los Angeles[, California] and pursue a career in politics,” Curtis said. “This opportunity made me accountable in a way that I had never been before, and I think the skills I’ve gained will be invaluable as I enter the workforce.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit fotchu.s-027.com or call 888-W-AND-JAY.