Elon joins ‘Universities Studying Slavery’

The collaboration includes 49 member institutions that are working together as they address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education.

Elon University has joined Universities Studying Slavery, a collaboration including 49 member institutions that work together as they address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities as well as the complicated legacies of slavery in modern American society.

USS hosts semi-annual meetings to discuss strategies, collaborate on research, and learn from one another. Other member institutions in North Carolina include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University, Davidson College and Guilford College.

In August 2018, Elon President Connie Ledoux Book announced an initiative to “examine Elon University’s institutional history in a transparent, participatory, and intellectually rigorous manner and to guarantee that we tell Elon’s story in a manner consistent with our values.” Provost Steven House subsequently convened the Committee on Elon History and Memory to begin this work. He charged the committee “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.”

The Committee on Elon History and Memory is committed to uncovering new narratives related to race, labor, gender, sexuality, religious commitment, and other aspects of the human experience. In order to balance this broad commitment with the more immediate need to address historic white privilege and anti-Black racism, and with agreement from the administration, the Committee on Elon History and Memory formed a subcommittee of the group in January 2019 to focus exclusively on questions related to racial justice and affiliate with Universities Studying Slavery. The seven-member subcommittee is co-chaired by Charles Irons, professor of history and chair of the department of history and geography, and Tyrone Jean, assistant dean of students and director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education.

Representatives from the Center for Race, Ethnicity, & Diversity Education (CREDE) and African/African-American Studies at Elon (AAASE) will help lead this study in the pursuit of racial equity. The CREDE educates the university community on issues of diversity and intercultural competence, with a particular focus on race. AAASE brings an essential scholarly perspective to the group. The USS group at Elon will both develop recommendations that will illuminate and honor the experiences and contributions of African-Americans in the local area and move Elon toward being a more equitable institution.