Queens University of Charlotte Joins Consortium of Universities Studying Slavery
Queens University of Charlotte has joined the Universities Studying Slavery (USS), a consortium created and led by the University of Virginia that has grown to more than 80 schools in five countries.
The multi-institutional collaboration focuses on sharing best practices about truth-telling projects that address each institution's historical ties to human bondage and racism. Each member school is committed to research, acknowledgment, and atonement concerning institutional connections to the slave trade, enslavement on campus or abroad, and to enduring racism in school history and practice.
How the Queens University community understands, shares, and represents its history is essential to its ability to live out its institutional values. That is why in March of 2020, after library staff members shared concerns about a documented history of slavery connections, Queens President Daniel Lugo commissioned a taskforce consisting of faculty, staff, students, and alumni to examine and report on the university's historical relationship with slavery and its legacies.
Guided by its charge, resources from the USS consortium, as well as primary and secondary source research, the taskforce initially focused primarily on two areas; examining named campus buildings and entities, and the university's public digitized historical materials. The group’s findings showed that four out of five initial directors of the Charlotte Female Institute (Queens University’s original name) were slaveowners. The group also documented connections between founders Robert and Margaret Anna Burwell and slavery, including the ownership and brutal treatment of enslaved persons. While the group confirmed that documentary evidences do not directly link the namesake of twenty-seven other campus spaces and entities with slavery or white supremacy, they found that the public digitized yearbook collection contains numerous instances of images, textual items, and campus activities that depict racial and racist perspectives and prejudices.
The taskforce was commissioned just days before the onset of the global pandemic, which altered the anticipated timeframe and mode for the group to begin and complete its work. However, the group has prepared a series of initial and future recommendations including but are not limited to:
· Leveraging the nation's renewed focus on race and equity by developing a communication strategy to ensure that the recovered history of Queens is broadly shared.
· Creating opportunities for campus and community constituents to learn and discuss taskforce findings and recommendations.
· Partnering with the Charlotte Racial Justice Consortium (CRJC) to conduct further research on key aspects of the university's history.
· Examining Charlotte's history and how key leaders of the community were connected to the University.
· Establishing an initiative that explores the twentieth and twenty-first-century racial history of Queens.
· Launching a project focused on researching the persons of color who worked at Queens during its first century and their impact.
· Integrating an understanding of the university's history into student and employee orientation experiences.
· Creating mechanisms for campus and local community members to engage in dialogues about the complex histories of inherited wealth in Charlotte.
· Supporting the History Department, along with other interested units, in creating opportunities for student research and collaborative work about the university's past.
· Hosting a conversation with presidents of local higher education institutions to engage in conversations about recovering institutional pasts and their impact on the Charlotte community.
Recognizing that there is significant work to be done in terms of examining and reconstructing the institution's post-nineteenth century history, the taskforce recommends the institution make an ongoing commitment to the work of understanding, sharing and growing from the knowledge of the institution's past to inform and shape the university's present and future. Read more in the Queens Taskforce on the History of Slavery and Its Legacies website.