ATLANTA — More than 30 schools from across the country met this weekend at Emory University to discuss the history and legacy of slavery’s role in higher education.
“Slavery and the University” conference organizer Leslie Harris says many of the country’s colleges were built and maintained for decades by slave labor. Those institutions, she says, were the places where arguments for and arguments against slavery were developed, discussed and debated.
“It is vital to recognize the foundational role of slavery and slave labor in the creation of institutions in the United States and around the world,” she says.
Last month, Emory declared its regret for the university’s involvement in slavery.
The school, founded in 1836 by a group of Methodists, is named for John Emory, a Maryland bishop who owned slaves. The founders and early leaders of Emory were largely supportive of slavery and helped bring about a split in the Methodist Episcopal Church as the Civil War neared. The conference was sponsored by the university’s Transforming Community Project.
Also participating in the conference were representatives from Brown University, Clemson University, Harvard, the University of Alabama, the University of South Carolina, the University of Texas and others. Brown University President Ruth Simmons delivered the keynote address.