February 2021 has proved to be an exciting month at Universities Studying Slavery (USS) Headquarters here at the University of Virginia. We’ve had quite a bit of interest in our work at UVA and in our leadership of the growing movement of schools committed to researching and understanding slavery and racism in institutional pasts. As a result, we have been quite busy in consulting and conversation regarding these projects. Today, Towson University in Maryland becomes the seventy-eighth school to sign on to USS, joining Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, the University of Maryland, Morgan State University, Allegany College of Maryland, and the Community College of Baltimore County as representatives of the consortium in the state of Maryland.
In the summer of 2019 a team of students, faculty members, and staff at Towson University launched the Unearthing Towson University’s History Project. With support from the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost this team has begun working to uncover, understand, and explain the history and experience of diversity at Towson University. Founded as the Maryland Normal School in 1866, Towson University was a product of Maryland’s segregated school system and remained racially segregated until after the United States Supreme Court struck down segregation of public schools in 1954. Even after the University began to integrate in 1955, African Americans at Towson University struggled to find full equality. Fighting against the structural racism and racial prejudice of the period, Black students, faculty, administrators, and their white allies, have worked exhaustively to make TU their own through the second half of the twentieth century and continue today.
Inspired by efforts at other American colleges and universities to come to terms with a legacy of racial inequality in American higher education, the Unearthing Towson University’s History Project is dedicated to investigating and publicizing Towson University’s exclusionist past and its ongoing efforts to diversify. Including faculty, staff and students from the History Department, Special Collections and University Archives at Cook Library, and the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity, the project is an interdisciplinary collaborative effort that centers students as researchers and interpreters and connects alumni and the wider community to the University.
The team’s goals are to (1) Investigate the history of intersectional diversity including not only race and male/ female gender but sexuality, complex gender, class, and ethnicity; (2) Gather the stories of current and past Towson students, faculty, and staff’s experience with diversity; (3) Digitize and make resources relating diversity at Towson University available to the wider community; (4) Share these stories with the University community and the wider public through online exhibits, blog posts, and other media. The Unearthing Towson’s History Project is interested in connecting with current and former students, faculty, and staff, archiving their stories through documents and oral histories, and partnering with area institutions to situate Towson University’s experience in the wider region.
As always, thrilled to have Towson University join this growing movement—we look forward to working together on research, education, acknowledgement, and atonement regarding our shared difficult pasts.