Please Welcome Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to the Universities Studying Slavery (USS) consortium!

At the start of the second full month of 2020, Universities Studying Slavery (USS) headquarters here in Charlottesville continues to be busy consulting with schools globally and onboarding new member institutions. Today, we share the news that Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) has become the fifty-ninth school internationally to join us in this important work. In this moment, we are once again reminded that slavery and its continuing legacies in shaping modern inequality are realities that cross regional and national boundaries.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is the first university in Illinois to join the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium. SIUE is located near the Mississippi River and less than 25 miles from St. Louis, Missouri, in a region much in need of the study of slavery and its legacy of inequality. The Universities Studying Slavery working group at SIUE will study the history of slavery and race-based unfree labor and their long-lasting impact on the university and the local community, as well as the larger Southern Illinois/St. Louis, Missouri region. SIUE represents the second school in the central Mississippi River Valley, joining St. Louis University as part of USS expansion in that region.

Although SIUE was founded in 1957, well after slavery’s end, slavery and its legacies are still woven into the history of the university and the region. The land that now comprises the campus was, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, owned by the Whiteside family, who were enslavers and also practitioners of an indenture system used to hold African Americans in long-term bondage within the “free” state of Illinois. An obelisk marking the family gravesite of the Whiteside family currently sits on SIUE’s campus, near a campus road bearing the family name. Building on existing Whiteside research conducted at SIUE, the SIUE working group will explore these and other connections to slavery on the campus and in the region.

In addition to benefitting economically from slavery, the St. Louis region also has a long history of residential and educational segregation. SIUE is working on many fronts to address this history and be a leader in implementing change. In January 2020, The Association of American Colleges and Universities named SIUE as a host to its Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers. Organized around the five pillars of the TRHT framework—narrative change, racial healing and relationship building, separation, law, and economy—the Centers seek to prepare the next generation of leaders to confront racism and to dismantle the belief in a hierarchy of human value. SIUE’s Universities Studying Slavery working group will collaborate with the TRHT campus center on projects designed to uncover the history of slavery and racism in the region.

Please join us in welcoming Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) to the USS movement!