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A message from the Honorable Anthony R. Foxx

Headshot of The Honorable Anthony R. FoxxI wish to thank all who expressed interest in serving on the Davidson College Commission on Race and Slavery. After careful consideration, we announce today the members of the commission and provide a brief forecast of the work ahead. This distinguished group of students, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees and members of the Town of Davidson community is well-equipped to help lead us forward in this important initiative.

Within the larger mission of this effort, in which President Carol Quillen charged our institution with building "a comprehensive understanding of the college's own history, which is intertwined with the institution and legacies of slavery and the lives of enslaved persons," the commission will play a critical but not solitary role. The goal of the commission is not to answer critical questions of history; rather, it is to establish a framework and process by which the College and its larger community can best conduct this inquiry.

One particularly difficult but energizing aspect of this inquiry is that it takes us beyond abstract and theoretical discussions of race and slavery. It is difficult because we will attach thoughts and feelings to findings based on our own experiences, unique histories and backgrounds. That is to be expected and embraced. The objective is neither guilt nor shame; it is to live up to our stated values as an institution that "dedicates itself to the quest for the truth and encourages teachers and students to explore the whole of reality, whether physical or spiritual, with unlimited employment of their intellectual powers."

As an institution that purports and practices self-examination, this inquiry is yet another important step towards understanding who we were, who we are and who we want to be, individually as people and collectively as an institution. This effort stands, brightly lit, as an example of the college's mission of assisting students in cultivating humane instincts and disciplined, creative minds for lives of leadership and service.

As a part of our effort to understand our past and its persistent legacies, we seek to encourage independent scholarly research on Davidson, slavery and race. The President's Office will allocate $25,000 per year for the next two years to this purpose. The Africana Studies Department will oversee this fund, which can support faculty, staff or student research.

Over the coming weeks and months, the commission will tackle the initial work of researching past efforts of other institutions of higher education and applying our learnings to the unique context of Davidson. While the commission is not undertaking fact-finding itself, we do want to extend to the campus community opportunities to see and hear what we do. One book I highly commend to those of you so interested is Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery and the Troubled History of America's Universities by Craig Steven Wilder. Other distinguished institutions have launched efforts towards similar goals. We will invite some of their leaders to talk with us and visit campus, along with scholars in this field. Their travels on this path reinforce that we are not in this endeavor alone, and we share in each other's work and successes.

As the framing is completed, we expect to ask the Davidson College community to conduct the research, prepare the exhibits and develop the curriculum or other valuable work product that will likely follow.

I am extremely proud of Davidson College for compelling this exploration. It not only enriches our campus, brings us greater awareness and clarity and makes us stronger as an institution; it sets an example for other American institutions to be self-examined, too.