We are honored to share with the world the news that yet another school has joined the growing movement of universities studying their past involvement in slavery and histories of racism. Today, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, becomes the newest member of the Universities Studying Slavery team.
James Madison University President Alger created the school’s Task Force on Inclusion at James Madison University in September, 2017. The group was charged with considering inclusion-related concerns in multiple contexts. It is divided into four working groups: student climate, employee climate, classroom inclusivity, and history/context. The history/context group is charged with reviewing the history of the institution and considering how best to address that history going forward.
Established as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women in 1908, James Madison University opened at a time when de jure and de facto segregation were rapidly becoming the nation’s dominant ethos. From those origins through the decades of ‘massive resistance’ to federal desegregation mandates, the institution evolved into a diverse, co-educational, comprehensive university. Although it has no actual ties to slavery, James Madison University has had a powerful connection to Lost Cause narratives of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Old South, and it was twice named for a slaveholder (first in 1938 and again 1977). Today, the Lost Cause is manifest only in campus buildings named for Confederate heroes, however, the segregated past casts a much longer shadow.
The history/context group has been exploring best practices utilized by other institutions, including members of Universities Studying Slavery, and anticipates hosting multiple community-wide conversations. Its work is intended to inform that of the broader Task Force on Inclusion.
- Eric Fife, Professor and Director of the School of Communication Studies
- David Owusu-Ansah, Professor of History and Executive Director for Faculty Access & Inclusion, Office of Access and Inclusion
- Abe Goldberg, Associate Professor of Political Science and Executive Director, James Madison Center for Civic Engagement
- Yvonne Harris, Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship
- Weston Hatfield, Associate Vice President of Principal Relationship Development
- Matthew Hershberger, Undergraduate Student
- Amanda Johnson, Undergraduate Student
- Jack Knight, University Legal Services
- Kate Morris, Head, Special Collections, Libraries and Educational Technologies
- Meg Mulrooney, Professor of History and Associate Vice Provost for University Programs
- Steve Reich, Professor of History
- Misty Tippets, Graduate Student
- Colleen Waller, Graduate Student