Even as the ongoing pandemic has confined Universities Studying Slavery (USS) work to individual campuses and entirely remote meetings and conferences, the movement continues. We start the fall 2021 semester with wonderful news—Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, joins Rice University, Texas Christian University, and Trinity University as the fourth school in Texas to become a USS member institution.
Abilene Christian University (ACU), originally founded in 1906 as the Childers Classical Institute and then after 1914 becoming Abilene Christian College, adopted its current name in 1976. Today, Abilene Christian University has embarked on its second century of growth, now with 7 schools and colleges comprising the university and offering 79 baccalaureate majors, 35 Master’s programs, and 3 doctoral programs. Over the past several years, the school has recommitted itself in signal ways to fostering diversity and inclusion at the school and within the Churches of Christ. The focal point for that work is housed in the Carl Spain Center for Race Studies and Spiritual Action at Abilene Christian University.
The Carl Spain Center for Race Studies and Spiritual Action was founded in 2018 by Dr. Jerry Taylor. The Center is named after an Abilene Christian University professor who was a catalyst for change at the school in the early-1960s. The Center sponsors research on the role of race and racism in Christianity in the United States and in institutions like ACU. It also conducts workshops and seminars with racially inclusive groups of church and civic leaders to equip them to work toward racial unity.
In 2019, Dr. Douglas Foster and others in the Spain Center began organizing a project to research and write the history of race and racism at ACU and other institutions of higher learning operated by members of Churches of Christ. While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the initial work, it has progressed and has resulted in a massive database of information regarding race found in ACU publications since the school’s beginning in 1906. Several short papers have been written that focus on specific events and people in ACU’s history.
We know ACU will benefit greatly from collaboration with scholars in other universities conducting similar research. Please welcome Abilene Christian University to Universities Studying Slavery!