Sullivan Foundation partner school Mercer University has joined Universities Studying Slavery (USS), a consortium of more than 70 institutions created and led by the University of Virginia, also a Sullivan partner school, to collaborate in sharing best practices and guiding principles about truth-telling projects addressing human bondage and racism in institutional histories.
Mercer will be joining more than a dozen Sullivan partner schools that are already USS members. These include Clemson University, The Citadel, the College of William and Mary, Elon University, Furman University, George Mason University, Guilford College, Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Mississippi, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of South Carolina, Washington and Lee University and Wesleyan College.
All USS member schools have committed to research, acknowledgment and atonement regarding institutional ties to the slave trade, to enslavement on campus or abroad, and to enduring racism in school history and practice.
USS hosts semi-annual meetings to allow member institutions to work together to address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities. Members seek to address the complicated legacies of slavery in the modern world and develop ways for institutions to address equity in the 21st century.
“With 28% of the current student body identifying as African-Americans, Mercer has done a remarkable job at recruiting and retaining students whose experience varies greatly from Mercer students of an earlier era,” said Dr. Douglas E. Thompson, professor of history and Southern studies and director of Mercer’s Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies. “We recognize that a fuller accounting of the university’s history will affirm for those students the university’s commitment to a better understanding of its past.”
The Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies will lead the work of examining the historical record to narrate with greater clarity Mercer University’s engagement with slavery. It will also draw upon models established by student research projects in Mercer’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Africana Studies and History departments.
The Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies fosters critical discussions about the many meanings of the South. As the only center for southern studies in the United States dedicated to the education and enrichment of undergraduate students, the Center’s primary purpose is to examine the region’s complex history and culture through courses, conversations and events that are open, honest and accessible.
This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Mercer University website.