Please Welcome Ohio’s University of Cincinnati as the Newest Member of Universities Studying Slavery (USS).

Spring 2018 has been a busy one for the growing Universities Studying Slavery (USS) movement. Over the past month, several institutions have joined and more have inquired about how to participate in the consortium. We are thrilled to announce that the University of Cincinnati (in Cincinnati, Ohio) has signed on.

The University of Cincinnati dates to 1870, when the state of Ohio granted the city of Cincinnati the authority to create a municipally owned university.  The university grew slowly until the late 1800s, when it added the Medical College of Ohio, founded in 1819, and the Cincinnati Law School, which dated to 1833.  In the early 1900s, UC created a number of new colleges, including Engineering, the first in the world to offer a cooperative education, Teaching, and Business.  Through much of its history, the university offered a tax-supported, free education to residents of the city of Cincinnati.

UC remained a municipal university – one of the nation’s most successful – until 1977, when the demands for growth and new facilities forced the university to join the state system of higher education.  Since then, Cincinnati has been Ohio’s second largest comprehensive public university.  It currently enrolls more than 45,000 students.

Although the University of Cincinnati postdates the institution of slavery, the school’s history is very much entangled in the history of unfree labor.  The University of Cincinnati owes its existence to a slaveholder, Charles McMicken, who in 1858 bequeathed much of his landed property to the city, instructing it to create a college for “white boys and girls.”  McMicken had made a fortune trading goods along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, translating commercial success into substantial real estate holdings in the city of Cincinnati, the state of Louisiana, and elsewhere.  For much of his life, McMicken spent the winter months in Louisiana, where he owned several plantations and town lots in New Orleans.  McMicken owned slaves, which he freed upon his death.  The university his wealth created never officially barred African Americans from admission, as his will suggested, but it took sixteen years before an African American, Henry Malachi Griffin, graduated.

In 2019, the university will mark its bicentennial, celebrating the 1819 creation of the Medical College of Ohio and Cincinnati College, which became part of UC in 1896.  During the bicentennial year – and undoubtedly after – a committee chaired by Associate Dean for the Humanities David Stradling will direct a study of the university’s engagement with the community over the course of its history, in the present, and into the future.  Of particular interest will be the ways the university has served the African American community, which has always constituted a much larger percentage of the city’s population than the university’s student body or faculty.

The University of Cincinnati Committee includes:

David Stradling, Associate Dean for Humanities,, Chair

Vanessa Allen-Brown, Professor of Education,

Wayne Durrill, Professor of History,

Kevin Grace, UC Archivist,

Greg Hand, affiliate,

Lori Harris, Associate Director, Health Science Library,

Emily Houh, Professor of Law,

Holly McGee, Professor of History,

Ewaniki Moore-Hawkins, Director African American Cultural Resource Center,

Gino Pasi, Archivist/Curator, Winkler Center,

Christopher Phillips, Professor of History,

Joseph Takougang, Professor of Africana Studies,

Tracy Teslow, Professor of History,

Earl Wright, Professor of Sociology,

Paul Eric Abercrumbie, Executive Director for Special Initiatives for Student Affairs,