The following message was emailed by President Hatch to students, faculty and staff on Feb. 20:
Dear Wake Forest community,
As you know, Wake Forest University continues efforts to examine its history and reconcile its implications for our present and our future. During Founders’ Day Convocation later this afternoon, I will acknowledge the University’s participation in the institution of slavery and offer an apology for how Wake Forest benefitted from the labor and sale of enslaved people. This moment will be another step in our efforts to confront our past.
In 2017, Wake Forest joined the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium to learn alongside other institutions of higher education how best to address historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality among our communities. Last May, in a moving moment of remembrance, faculty, staff and students read the names of enslaved individuals sold to benefit the University endowment in 1860. In July, I established the President’s Commission on Race, Equity and Community and affirmed the continuing efforts of the Slavery, Race and Memory Project. These working groups are part of a larger institutional effort to illuminate our history, address our present and reaffirm our commitments for the future. As a society, we continue to wrestle with racism and white supremacy. As an educational community, we must challenge these dual plagues head on.
Founders’ Day Convocation provides an opportunity to acknowledge our past and recognize individuals who model what we aspire to be. The infrastructure established by the Slavery, Race and Memory Project will empower us to take the action necessary for an apology to have meaning. In the next few months, Wake Forest will publish the first volume in a series of collected works that capture the scope of activity taking place. Project findings and eventual recommendations will help guide the actions we take to address past and present inequities in our community.
I look forward to seeing you at 4 p.m. in Wait Chapel for this important event. If you cannot attend in person, live streaming is available.
Nathan O. Hatch
Over the past few years, Wake Forest University has been committed to acknowledging and understanding the role slavery played in its past. In 2016, Wake began taking a deep dive into its history, and in 2017 it joined Universities Studying Slavery (USS), a consortium of colleges and universities that are examining the role slavery played on their campuses. Out of that work came the Slavery, Race and Memory Project, for which a website was unveiled this summer.
“There are many universities that have, over the past couple of decades, begun grappling with their relationship and connections to slavery,” said Kami Chavis, associate provost for academic initiatives and co-chair of the Steering Committee for the Project. “It’s important to understand those relationships because they can and do have implications for today.”
The Steering Committee has identified several core elements to this multi-year project, including:
- Creating a lecture series to broaden awareness about topics related to the Project’s mission.
- Developing or enhancing courses that incorporate the role of slavery in higher education.
- Supporting student and faculty research on related topics.
- Examining how to transform some of Wake’s traditions to better reflect a more comprehensive history.
“It is critical for this Project to be imbued with the principles of truth, integrity, legitimacy and transparency, around which we’ve agreed to work,” said Chavis.
Visit the University news page to read more about “Understanding Wake Forest’s history with slavery.”
Categories: University Announcement