Teaching about Anti-Black Racism from Elon’s History

Historical inquiry into the nature and origins of white supremacy is a subset of diversity, equity, and inclusion work and a part of Elon’s broader efforts to achieve inclusive excellence.

This project has its origins in the Committee on Elon History and Memory. In August 2018, President Connie Ledoux Book announced the launch of the committee and tasked it with exploring questions related to historical memory and collective identity at Elon University. Then-Provost Steven House charged the committee to examine our institutional history in a transparent, participatory and intellectually rigorous manner, and to help Elon tell its story in a manner consistent with its values. Truth-telling about difficult aspects of the past is a part of the work

The committee affiliated with Universities Studying Slavery, an international consortium equipping its members to address “human bondage and racism in institutional histories.”  Moreover, anticipating the ongoing need to study anti-Black racism in Elon’s history, the committee also urged the formation of the Black Lumen Project (BLP), an equity initiative aimed at amplifying, advocating for the betterment of, and sustaining the Black experience at Elon. Dr. Buffie Longmire-Avital became the inaugural director of the BLP in June 2021.

The idea for a website to accompany the committee’s work and support of the BLP surfaced early on, but the specific format of this project is the fruit of student research conducted in spring 2020. Rachel Feld ’20, a history major with experience working in the University Archives, had the idea to make available primary and secondary sources related to Elon’s history so that other students could experience for themselves the complexity of the past. Her remarkable work served as the foundation for this project.

Damion Blake and Charles Irons came to this work from different angles—Professor Blake as Faculty Fellow from the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education and Professor Irons as Chair of the Committee on Elon History and Memory. Both were eager to find ways to make the study of anti-Black racism at Elon more specific and concrete, and were grateful for a Diversity and Inclusion Grant from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning to help make the site a reality.

Committee on Elon History and Memory

In fall 2018, Provost Steven House charged the committee to examine Elon’s institutional history in a transparent, participatory and intellectually rigorous manner. He asked the committee not to serve as gatekeepers of Elon’s complex and dynamic history or produce an “authorized version” of events but rather to:

  • engage the broader community in important conversations about our shared past;
  • inspire those with relevant training and expertise to uncover hidden stories;
  • advise those seeking to tell a more democratic and rigorous version of our history; and
  • share more broadly the excellent work students, faculty and staff are already doing.

Learn more about the committee.

The committee submitted a report to Provost Aswani Volety in fulfillment of its charge in October 2020. Please see the full report here.