Dr. Sheffield currently serves as the Chair of the Manasota Remembers Lynching Memorial Marker Dedication Committee. She shares the story of her paternal grandfather who was lynched in the early 1900’s. Caesar Sheffield’s name is part of a national database compiled by the Equal Justice Initiative that chronicles more than 4,000 lynchings in the United States from 1877 to 1950.
When Dr. Caryl J. Sheffield was in junior high school, she learned that her paternal grandfather, Caesar Sheffield, had been lynched in Lake Park, Georgia, in 1915, when her father was just 11 years old. Today, Caesar Sheffield’s name is part of a national database compiled by the Equal Justice Initiative that chronicles more than 4,000 lynchings in the United States from 1877 to 1950. The Sheffield family does not know where Caesar is buried.
“This is the ugly history of our country,” says Sheffield, a retired professor and former Fulbright scholar. “Imagine the impact [the lynching] had on our family—even to this day. Talk about generational trauma.”
The daughter of a preacher in the Black church, Sheffield grew up in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Education was in her DNA; she recalls creating worksheets for her younger siblings that they used to occupy themselves during church services. She went on to earn a doctorate in education from the University of Pittsburgh, then worked in technology at the Department of Defense and taught at seven higher education institutions, including Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University and California University of Pennsylvania (now Pennsylvania Western University), where she became the first Black female tenured professor.
At Pennsylvania Western University, Sheffield dedicated herself to bringing minority students and faculty members to campus as chair of the school’s Frederick Douglass Institute Visiting Scholars Search Committee. She retired in 2015 after 24 years on the job and the university honored her by establishing the Dr. Caryl Sheffield Faculty Excellence Award for faculty who exemplify excellence in teaching and mentoring students.
Today, at 71, Sheffield continues her decades of collecting African and African American art with her husband, Dr. James Stewart. She is also the past president of the Masala Giving Circle, an active member of the Manasota branch of the Association of the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and a professor emerita with Pennsylvania Western University. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You can continue reading the full article on Sarasota Magazine, where it was originally published and written by Heather Dunhill.