Queens University Becomes Eighth School in North Carolina to Join Universities Studying Slavery (USS)!
January 2022 continues to be action-packed here in Charlottesville, Virginia. After having our Universities Studying Slavery (USS) team take a much-needed break in December, we continue to catch up on all the exciting developments in the world of schools coming to terms with slavery and racism in institutional pasts. We’re thrilled to share with everyone today that Queens University of Charlotte officially signed on in late 2021. Queens University is the eighth school in North Carolina to become a member of the consortium, joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Salem Academy & College, Elon University, Davidson College, Appalachian State University, Guilford College, and Meredith College. We welcome Queens University of Charlotte to the consortium here in the new year!
Founded in 1857 as Charlotte Female Institute, Queens University, a private coeducational university located in Charlotte, North Carolina, today serves nearly 2,500 students who represent 44 states and 70 foreign countries.
How the Queens University community understands, shares, and represents its history is essential to its ability to live out its institutional values. Among those values are integrity and respect – emphasizing a sense of caring and community by promoting diversity and respect for all people while recognizing the importance of personal integrity and ethical action – and the value of stewardship – a commitment to responsibly managing its heritage, its resources and its reputation in the community to ensure that it remains a source of pride for our students, faculty, staff, donors, and alumni. That is why in March 2020, after library staff members shared concerns about a documented history of slavery connections, Queens President Daniel Lugo commissioned a task force consisting of faculty, staff, students, and alumni to examine and report on the university’s historical relationship with slavery and its legacies.
Guided by its charge, resources from the USS consortium, as well as primary and secondary source research, the task force initially focused primarily on two key areas; examining named campus buildings and entities, and the university’s public digitized historical materials. The group’s findings showed that four out of five initial directors of the Charlotte Female Institute (Queens University’s original name) were enslavers. The group also documented connections between founders Robert and Margaret Anna Burwell and slavery, including the ownership and brutal treatment of enslaved persons. While the group confirmed that documentary evidence does not directly link the namesake of twenty-seven other campus spaces and entities with slavery or white supremacy, they found that the public digitized yearbook collection contains numerous instances of images, textual items, and campus activities that depict racial and racist perspectives and prejudices.
Recognizing that there is significant work to be done to examine and reconstruct the institution’s post-nineteenth century history, the mission of Queens University’s task force is to make an ongoing commitment to the work of understanding, sharing and growing from the knowledge of the institution’s past to inform and shape the university’s present and future.
Their team is confident that Queens University of Charlotte’s participation in this growing and worthwhile collaboration—the movement of Universities Studying Slavery—will be of mutual benefit as we all work together to educate our communities and atone our common pasts.