Furman University has established a task force that will explore the Greenville school’s historical connections to slavery, the university announced this week.
The Task Force on Slavery and Justice will help Furman and the larger community understand the role slaves may have played in the university’s early history, according to a news release.
“The Furman community has a deep respect for its founders and we are looking for proactive ways to connect their legacies with our vision for the future, which is to prepare students for lives of purpose, fulfillment and community impact in a diverse and global world,” Furman Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs George Shields said in a statement.
Furman’s initiative is similar to recent efforts by Clemson University, which has sought to shine a light on its connections to slavery and prison labor.
The Furman group will bring a series of speakers and experts to the campus throughout the year. Furman history professor Steve O’Neill will conduct full-time research for the project.
The task force will recommend ways to recognize the contribution of slaves to Furman’s early history.
Furman was founded in 1826 in Edgefield as the Furman Academy and Theological Institution, more than three decades before the start of the Civil War. It was named for Richard Furman, a prominent Baptist minister and outspoken supporter of slavery, according to the South Carolina Encyclopedia.
The college moved to Sumter County and then to Winnsboro before finally settling in downtown Greenville in 1850, where it was chartered as Furman University. The school moved to its present campus north of Greenville in the early 1960s.
The task force will include Furman historians, social scientists, staff members, and student writers and leaders. It will be chaired by Brandon Inabinet, associate professor of communication studies at Furman.
“This is a step taken by many universities and it’s in line with our principles as an academic institution that holds human value, reflection and innovation in high regard,” Shields said.
As part of this effort, Furman has joined the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium headquartered at the University of Virginia.
The consortium consists of 26 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. Other participating schools in the consortium include Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, Wake Forest University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Mississippi.
Paul Hyde covers education and everything else under the South Carolina sun. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.
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