It has been a distinct privilege to work on this project. The essays herein represent only the beginning of a project that promises to help us all live more fully into the potential of higher education to change lives and communities. We are grateful for all who have participated in the work of creating a more honest history of slavery and higher education in the United States and beyond over the last few decades.
The 2011 “Slavery and the University” conference from which most of these essays are drawn brought together for the first time many people who had been laboring alone within their institutions as researchers, teachers, and administrators. The three days over which we were able to share our joys, triumphs, and disappointments in doing this work were critical to the histories told in this volume. For helping to bring that conference to fruition, we’d like to thank Emory University, especially former president James Wagner and former provost Earl Lewis; Brown University, especially the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice and former president Ruth Simmons; and the Ford Foundation, especially the late Alison Bernstein, who as program officer of the Education, Creativity, and Free Expression Program provided critical financial and intellectual support through the Difficult Dialogues Initiative.
The staff of the Transforming Community Project of Emory University attended to details large and small in the creation of the conference and in particular provided Leslie Harris with the support necessary to launch the first stage of this volume. We thank JoNell Usher, codirector; Melissa Sexton and Andrew Urban, TCP postdoctoral research fellows; Jyotsna Vanapalli, associate program administrator; and Arlene Robie, administrative assistant, for their commitment to this work. Our program committee, including the editors of this volume, the staff of the Transforming Community Project, and Susan Ashmore and Mark Auslander, were critical in setting a strong intellectual path for the conference. We thank all conference participants and audience members for their respectful and constructive work throughout the weekend.
As we came to the final months of the volume, Alex Trapps-Chabala and Sarah McCabe provided critical research support on the introduction. We are most grateful that Utz McKnight stepped in to assist Al Brophy in completing the final edits on his essay as Al recovered from a traumatic illness.
At the University of Georgia Press, Lisa Bayer, Walter Biggins, Melissa Bugbee Buchanan, Mary M. Hill, and Christina Cotter patiently and persistently nudged us to conclusion. We thank all of our essayists for their patience in a process that took much longer than we originally imagined.
Finally, we dedicate this volume to all who helped to create, willingly and unwillingly, a higher education system unmatched in its variety and in its openness to not only the U.S. but the global population. Even as we discuss and debate its merits and faults in the past and present, colleges and universities in the twenty-first century continue to press forward in providing pathways to greater equity for individuals and communities. May acknowledging the full truth of our complex past strengthen us further for the tasks ahead.