Building momentum, sustaining commitment: Checking in with the Slavery, Race and Memory Project

What can we learn from the past? Wake Forest University legal scholar and Associate Provost Kami Chavis explains, “If you want to have a transformative institutional change, you have to begin examining the past and the root causes of underlying issues to know what you need to do in the future.” Chavis is also co-chair of the Steering Committee of Wake Forest’s Slavery, Race and Memory Project.

The Slavery, Race and Memory Project evolved from Wake Forest’s collaboration with the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium (USS), which it joined in 2017. The Office of the Provost formally established the Project in the spring of 2019 to provide clear structure for both understanding the past and addressing inequities in our community going forward. A website for the Slavery, Race and Memory Project was launched in the summer of 2019.

The Project’s Steering Committee is in the process of making formal recommendations, which will be published later this year, but its influence can already be felt across conversations, events and activities taking place on campus this semester. The Project has co-sponsored several events that align with its vision statement, including scholarly speakers such as Vanderbilt University Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies David Ikard, and a public conversation between alumni and current students. Through campus-wide engagement grants, students are also able to design their own programs and apply for funding.

“I think it is indeed courageous for an institution like Wake Forest University to undertake this type of work,” said Corey D.B. Walker, a visiting professor of leadership studies and the humanities at the University of Richmond and a former dean at Winston-Salem State University.

The Slavery, Race and Memory Project at Wake Forest is significant, Walker said, “because of the ways in which it involves the entire University community and raises new and profound questions about deeply held beliefs about the University and its core historical narrative.”

More information is available here.