Another busy week here at Universities Studying Slavery (USS) headquarters. We continue to meet with and advise schools on how to do this work and on how to join the ever-growing movement of institutions collaborating on projects of research, education, acknowledgment, and atonement regarding their own pasts. As a result of those institutional programs and our shared work, we have so many new friends and colleagues from across the country and abroad. Today, we also welcome our friends from Danville, Kentucky, to the team.
Centre College is a national residential liberal arts college located in the culture-rich bluegrass region of Kentucky. Founded by Presbyterian leaders and officially chartered by the Kentucky Legislature on January 21, 1819, the school’s name reflects Centre College’s location in the geographic center of Kentucky (British spellings were common at the time). Over two hundred years later, Centre College provides a rigorous and transformative educational experience.
Centre’s bicentennial celebrations in 2018 led to many fruitful conversations about the school’s history and legacy. As students, faculty, staff, and alumni discussed the role Centre has played in state and federal politics, including the contributions of our esteemed alumnus John Marshall Harlan, they also recognized that they had not yet sought to understand the college’s role in the system of slavery. This renewed interest in Centre’s history, along with the college’s commitment to creating a welcoming residential campus for all students, led students and College officials to work with a neighboring church to speed its removal of a Confederate monument located on the church’s property adjacent to the college.
Centre College faculty and students have begun to investigate the relationships between the College, slaveowners, and enslaved people as well as the economic, religious, and other ties between Centre and slavery over Centre’s 200-year history.
“As we work to build a community of inclusive excellence, I am grateful to the faculty and students who are engaged in this important research,” noted Centre’s president, Milton C. Moreland. “We are driven by our belief that deep knowledge of our history and the open exchange of ideas promotes a more just and inclusive society.”
In keeping with Centre’s focus on teaching, much of the early work of exploring and understanding the college’s past has happened within the classroom. Faculty in history, anthropology and sociology, and also art history have made Centre’s history a part of their coursework. Working with the Centre College archives as well as groups outside the college such as the Danville/Boyle County African American historical society, these faculty have encouraged their students to investigate the institution’s past, listen to diverse communities in our present, and work together to build a better future.
By joining Universities Studying Slavery, Centre College continues its commitment to creating a welcoming environment for reflective learning both about ourselves and about the world. The Centre College team looks forward to this shared process of discovery at home and in concert with the Universities Studying Slavery consortium. It also eagerly anticipates finding new opportunities to discuss the school’s past as well as its plans for the future. The USS team, and the broader consortium agree—glad to have Centre College setting an example of how to come to terms with the sometimes difficult past while educating today’s students