Roanoke College will be part of a nationwide initiative designed to help institutions, their students and their communities explore the continuing impact of slavery on American life and culture.
The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) announced earlier this month that 19 colleges and universities will be either Partners or Institutional Affiliates in a multiyear project called “Legacies of American Slavery: Reckoning with the Past.” Roanoke was named as an Institutional Affiliate.
The initiative will help institutions explore the impact of slavery through support of campus-based research, teaching, and learning as well as community-based programs about the legacies of slavery. There are various themes to the initiative, and Roanoke will help examine the theme of Commemoration and Memory.
In June 2020, Roanoke College unveiled the Center for Studying Structures of Race. The center, located in the renovated slave quarters on the College-owned Monterey property, serves as a venue for teaching, research and community engagement about issues of race, and emphasizes the examination of forms of institutional racism at local, national and international levels.
Dr. Jesse Bucher, associate professor of history at Roanoke College, is the director of the Center. He said Roanoke College has been studying the history of slavery for almost a decade, and that over those years he’s learned that the history of slavery at Roanoke College is inextricably linked to the social, political and economic history of the entire region.
“We are planning to use support from the CIC to further develop our understanding of our own institution’s history,” Bucher said. “But we are also planning to extend and expand our relationships with local history organizations, libraries, archives and historic sites that are also finding ways to better understand the history of slavery in southwestern Virginia.”
“We are also planning to extend and expand our relationships with local history organizations, libraries, archives and historic sites that are also finding ways to better understand the history of slavery in southwestern Virginia.”
Dr. Jesse Bucher, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Studying Structures of Race
The Center leads Roanoke College’s efforts to address the legacies of slavery and institutional — or “structural” — racism at Roanoke College, and inform the College’s plans for a campus memorial to honor the enslaved workers who built the Administration Building and Miller Hall.
Legacies of American Slavery is directed by Pulitzer-Prize winning historian David W. Blight. The entire project is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with supplemental funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Programs and activities will begin this spring and build toward a series of regional conferences hosted by the Regional Collaboration Partners during the 2021–2022 academic year.
Roanoke College is also a founding member of the Universities Studying Slavery project, a collaboration of nearly 65 U.S. and international colleges and universities that work together to address historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities.