It has been another eventful week for the growing Universities Studying Slavery (USS) movement! We are happy to announce that Elon University in North Carolina has joined the consortium.
In August 2018, Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book announced an initiative to “examine Elon University’s institutional history in a transparent, participatory, and intellectually rigorous manner and to guarantee that we tell Elon’s story in a manner consistent with our values.” Provost Steven House subsequently convened the Committee on Elon History and Memory to begin this work. He charged the committee “to engage the broader community in important conversations about our shared past; inspire those with relevant training and expertise to uncover hidden stories; advise those seeking to tell a more democratic and rigorous version of our history; and share more broadly the excellent work students, faculty and staff are already doing.”
The Committee on Elon History and Memory is committed to uncovering new narratives related to race, labor, gender, sexuality, religious commitment, and other aspects of the human experience. In order to balance this broad commitment with the more immediate need to address historic white privilege and anti-Black racism, and with agreement from the administration, the Committee on Elon History and Memory formed a subcommittee of the group in January 2019 to focus exclusively on questions related to racial justice and affiliate with Universities Studying Slavery. We here at UVA know that we speak for the dozens of other universities already doing this work that we know we will continue to learn from one another as we address difficult pasts and seek a more inclusive present.
At Elon, representatives from the Center for Race, Ethnicity, & Diversity Education (CREDE) and African/African-American Studies at Elon (AAASE) will help lead this study in the pursuit of racial equity. The CREDE educates the university community on issues of diversity and intercultural competence, with a particular focus on race. Since its inception in 1993, the CREDE has served as an anchor for African-Americans and has worked to uphold the legacy of the Black experience at Elon. This sensitivity to the needs of community members will be a great asset to USS. AAASE brings an essential scholarly perspective to the group. The mission of the minor is to provide a rigorous course of study that spans multiple fields for students through collaborative research, curriculum, and immersive experiential opportunities that critically centers the African diaspora. Moreover, AAASE has created and maintains links with other institutions, centers, and consortiums working to recognize the history and lived experience of persons connected to this diaspora.
The Southern Christian Convention founded Elon in Alamance County in 1889, after slavery but at the peak of political violence against people of color. The school participated in the system of racial segregation then taking root across the South and did not accept its first Black student until 1963. Some of Elon’s founders were connected by kinship to a local network of white supremacists. Today, Elon is proud to boast a much more diverse and inclusive campus and desires a courageous understanding of its past in order to become a more fully welcoming institution. The USS group at Elon will both develop recommendations that will illuminate and honor the experiences and contributions of African-Americans in the local area and move Elon toward being a more equitable institution.
Charles Irons (Co-Chair) – Professor of History and Chair, Department of History and Geography
Tyrone Jean (Co-Chair) – Asst. Dean of Students and Director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity
Buffie Longmire-Avital – Assoc. Professor of Psychology and Coordinator of African and African-American Studies at Elon
Randy Williams – Assoc. Vice President for Campus Engagement and Asst. Professor of Education
Cherrel Miller Dyce – Assoc. Professor of Education and Faculty Fellow at the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity
Sandra Lawson – Assoc. Chaplain for Jewish Life and Jewish Educator
Libby Coyner – Archivist and Assistant Librarian
We look forward to meeting the Elon team at the March 14-16 USS meeting at the College of William and Mary in conjunction with the Lemon Project’s symposium. Again, we are so glad to have Elon University participate in our important collective work.