Last spring Southwestern University joined an international consortium of colleges and universities that collaborate in exploring the role and impact of slavery and racism in their individual histories.

Through the Southwestern Racial History Project, faculty and students are sharing their knowledge and expertise with colleagues through the Universities Studying Slavery consortium (USS), which was organized in 2018 by the University of Virginia and includes more than 75 institutions in North and South America as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom.

SU recently sent representatives to the USS Conference: “Legacies of Slavery, Landscapes of Segregation,” in Charlottesville, Virginia. At the conference Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson and three students conducted a panel discussion titled “Revealing Race and Exploring White Dominance at a Small Liberal Arts School: How Southwestern University Confronts (Ignores?) Its White Supremacist Foundations.” The students were mentored by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Naomi Reed over the summer through the Summer Collaborative Opportunities and Experiences program (SCOPE).

Presentations at the conference included a paper coauthored by Johnson and Reed titled “An Overview of the Southwestern University Racial History Project.” Student paper presentations included Maria (Cony) Cameron ’24, “Exploring Policy and Racial Climate”; Aspen Coriz-Romero ’24, “Building Communities of Care and Organizing Resistance at Southwestern University”; and Kellie Henderson ’23, “Early Life of Black Students and Faculty on Southwestern University Campus.”

Johnson initiated the Southwestern Racial History Project in 2020, challenging students to examine and document how scientific racism and other racist assumptions have been woven into the historic fabric of higher education institutions.