ACU has become the fourth Texas member of Universities Studying Slavery.
USS comes out of the President’s office of the University of Virginia and provides resources and conferences for universities to take part in. The USS allows universities to discuss how to handle the issue of race and racism deeply rooted within their universities’ histories. Over 80 universities are a part of USS.
“I contacted the logistical person in charge of the project and asked what it would take for us to be a part of that,” said Dr. Douglas Foster, scholar in residence. “She then responded and said we’d love to have ACU as a part of that.”
Foster said he was starting to work with other Church of Christ-affiliated scholars before COVID-19 hit. He said they were also going to have a conference to discuss how slavery and segregation impacted their universities, but COVID-19 sidelined the conference.
“My graduate assistant was doing research while I began researching Texas’ segregation laws and Abilene city ordinances for the years it took place in ACU’s existence up to that point,” Foster said. “We discovered the USS project found while doing research.”
Foster and his team worked with university leadership to become included in this project. Foster said he wanted to receive the resources from the USS to better understand ACU’s history. Foster worked with Dr. Robert Rhodes, provost, Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, and others to make this inclusion possible.
“The ACU officials approved,” Foster said. “They then accepted us and we were included in a list of high profile schools such as Columbia, Harvard and Yale in this project.”
Other Texas Universities involved in USS include Rice University, Texas Christian University and Trinity University. TCU said it’s been beneficial to have colleagues to lean on for ideas and resources.
“We felt it would be appropriate to align ourselves with other universities who have been discussing how to go about telling the full story of race and racism on their campuses before we started in earnest,” said Dr. Frederick W. Gooding, chair of TCU’s Race & Reconciliation Initiative. “There’s a lot of good work that still needs to be done.”
Rice said they are hopeful the work only continues to build and grow within the USS.
“I think it’s very important that Rice is a member,” Dr. Daniel Domingues, Rice’s Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Center in African American Studies said. “It’s important for Texas to recognize its history and involvement in slavery and segregation.”
Rev. Andrew Penns is the Curator of the Curtis House Cultural Center in Abilene. He was the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter in Abilene for 12 years. He said his goal has always been to make Abilene a better place for all people.
“I’m excited to hear and to know that ACU has been chosen to be a part of this,” Penns said. “I think it’s long overdue. With the Carl Spain Center there on campus that’s an extra added incentive to announcing that ACU is very inclusive.”