exhibit recognizes contributions of local
African-American families to the University
quilts, family photos, a small wooden ironing board, and documents
listing slaves owned by Emory Colleges early faculty and
administrators are all part of the exhibit A Dream Deferred:
African Americans at Emory and Oxford Colleges, 1836-1968,
on view in the Special Collections department of the Robert
W. Woodruff Library.
stories told are those of Oxfords African-American families
who worked in service to Emory during the years before it was
knew that Emory College had been founded at Oxford in 1836,
during the time of slavery, and that the school had benefited
from African-American labor throughout its history, during many
generations, says Oxford Assistant Professor Mark Auslander.
Yet, who precisely were these persons, in slavery and
freedom, who raised the colleges buildings and who cared
for the students, faculty, and college grounds for so many decades?
in Auslanders fall 2000 anthropology class Cultures
of the African Diaspora, did extensive archival and oral
history research in Oxford, searching through fragile records
in the county courthouse, University collections, state archives,
and private family papers. They also interviewed older men and
women in the community, black and white, about slavery, employment,
and the early years of the college. The result was this exhibition,
named for a line from Harlem poet Langston Hughes Montage
of a Dream Deferred.
class discovered that many of Emorys early professors,
trustees, and presidents were slaveowners, from James Osgood
Andrew to Bishop George Pierce. Oxfords slaves were liberated
in 1864, with the arrival of General William T. Shermans
troops. Although this history was deeply disturbing to
many of us, the class felt it was important to tell it honestly
and without flinching, Auslander says.
exhibit includes some proud moments from Emorys racial
history as well, such as a copy of Emory President Atticus G.
Haygoods book, Our Brother in Black: His Freedom and His
Future, and artifacts from the Sledd affair of 1902, when Emory
Professor of Latin Andrew Sledd published an article in Atlantic
Monthly denouncing lynching.
wonderful thing about this exhibit is that it really did originate
from student research, says Virginia J. H. Cain, University
archivist. And so many families lent special items that
personalize the stories.
exhibits opening on the Atlanta campus was marked with
a January ceremony in Cannon Chapel, which also paid tribute
to Martin Luther King Jr.s birthday. As the Martin Luther
King Jr. Interdenominational Choir of Newton County sang lively
gospel music, speakers including Oxford Dean Dana K. Greene
and President William M. Chace recognized the Godfreys, the
Gaithers, the Mitchells, the Thompsons, the Joiners, the Williams,
and many other local African-American families who contributed
to the campus in innumerable ways . . . despite unjust exclusion
and discrimination. Generations labored with the knowledge that
neither they nor their children would be able to attend Emory
Psychology Professor Eugene Emory, who has traced his family
lineage back to slaves owned by Emorys namesake Bishop
John T. Emory, spoke of making reparations by granting scholarships
to descendants of these former employees. There is value
in dialogue, Emory says, but reconciliation means
you are actually going to do something.M.J.L.