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Earlier this summer, Elizabeth Knapp, senior assistant to the president at Washington and Lee University; Ted DeLaney, W&L associate professor of history; and Tom Camden, head of Special Collections and Archives at W&L, attended the inaugural meeting of a new consortium, Virginia’s Colleges and Universities Studying Slavery.

Created by University of Virginia postdoctoral researcher Kelley Deetz, the consortium comprises 13 other institutions of higher learning in the commonwealth that are focused on providing more accurate historical information related to slavery and race relations at their respective universities. At this first meeting, held at U.Va.’s Morven Farms, the group discussed ways to collaborate on research and develop forums for presenting the historical relationship between slavery and its legacies at Virginia’s colleges and universities. You can read more about the group on U.Va.’s website.

Knapp said, “It was really worthwhile to have the chance to get together to share our stories, our goals, our strategies and to have an open discussion on some highly sensitive and complicated topics. We’re all grappling with similar questions, and it was great to think about how we can collaborate and help one another.” The group plans to meet semi-annually, and W&L plans to host it later this year.

W&L has already been doing work on this subject. Two years ago, President Ken Ruscio established a special working group to explore the role of African Americans in the history of the University. That group’s ongoing efforts include a timeline of African American history at W&L.

This summer, W&L received a $150,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, part of which will be used to study how the lessons of history help us interpret contemporary issues. Called History in the Public Sphere, the project will focus on the purpose and value of history in a democratic society. It will employ new courses, faculty-student research and presentations by nationally respected scholars to produce a road map to productive civic discussion