Scholars and archivists have recently highlighted the role of slavery in university life.  In 2011, Emory University issued an official statement expressing regret for its historical involvement with slavery, and academic conversations about slavery have been the subject of fervent debate. We wondered how we might use archival materials to enrich conversations about slavery and race on campus.

The Project

Looking through the University Archives, we found African American history entwined throughout Emory’s past. While the precise words of slaves are usually absent from the historical record, their stories are hidden within the minutes of antebellum Board of Trustees meetings, the diaries of former students, and the speeches of notable Emory leaders. Our research yielded more questions than answers. Which voices, for instance, have been privileged in the study of history, and which are obscured? What kinds of people get left out of the scholarly conversations we conduct today? And finally, how might we engage history to actively shape the the intellectual and social fabric of our university?

We were inspired by materials exhibited during the  2011 Slavery and the University Conference held at Emory. We are grateful to Gabrielle Dudley in Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) and Erica Bruchko in Emory’s Woodruff Library for their assistance in identifying and analyzing sources. These pages represent the culmination of our  efforts. We hope they will aid future researchers interested in Emory’s racial history and encourage discussions about the university’s past.

– African American Studies/History 338  (Fall 2013)