Commemoration Project Moves Forward With Support and Invitation to Meet Finalists
The unacknowledged contributions of enslaved Black people are everywhere on campus. But now, a special committee tasked with creating a public commemoration to those whose labor was stolen will help to fulfill the promises the college has made to itself and to the world.
Cintra Pollack ’99 believes that an institution must take an unvarnished look at the past in order to reckon with its most troubling history. This is a primary reason Pollack decided to support the commemoration project, an idea that grew from the college’s Commission on Race and Slavery.
Pollack is a member of Davidson’s Board of Trustees and also serves as a member of the Commemoration Committee. The committee’s charge is to engage broadly with the Davidson College community to recommend a visible and appropriate commemoration, including the possibility of commissioning a work of art, to honor the contributions of enslaved people and others whose labor was exploited.
“It is a hopeful thing to think about—a space or ideas that spark feelings and bring people together the way this commemoration project will,” she said. “In Judaism, memory and acknowledgment, including sculptures and abstractions that prompt people to think, feel and discuss, are very important. To the best of our ability, we can acknowledge all the people who contributed to Davidson in the past—who were exploited, unnamed—and we give back as much as we can. If we can’t directly reclaim the stories and teach them, at least we can acknowledge and imagine them.”
Pollack’s student experiences on campus play a large role in her passion for this project, too. She was one of very few Jewish students at a time when the college did not offer as many avenues for students to find their place. She was involved on campus and developed meaningful friendships while getting an excellent education, but she realizes now how much of an “other” she really was. She says the Davidson of today provides far more guidance for those historically excluded from the student body to find their way as students and to serve alma mater as alums.
Anthony Foxx ’93 chaired the Commission on Race and Slavery and has contributed early support to the commemoration project.
“This project is a reflection of our college and our country becoming more self-examined,” he said. “We can be proud of our college and recognize its imperfections at the same time. Slaves were not considered as equals in any way to the white [people] who enslaved them. Through the lens of history, we can look back and see the inhumanity of it. But it is easy to do that in retrospect; it’s harder to think about how it might still echo in our lives or what other aspects of our culture require repair. By reminding ourselves of this painful legacy, we can use it to build a stronger consciousness now and in the future.”
Foxx is inspired by Pollack’s leadership, and he says it demonstrates a deep understanding of her own humanity.
“Black people certainly had an experience but so did everyone who touched the institution of slavery,” he said. “We’re still unpacking it as a society. Cintra’s gift is a tangible expression of the fact that this experience and the need for us to face it is a universal struggle. Her gift is an expression of her own humanity.”
Opportunities to Engage with Finalists
Five artist teams have been selected as finalists by the Commemoration Committee and additional members of a jury, following a competitive application process. Members of the Davidson campus and community will have the opportunity to meet with each finalist team, answer their questions and learn more about what’s to come.
To attend some or all of the following interactions with the creative teams, to be held via the Zoom platform, please visit this registration page.
- Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, 7 p.m.: Studio Zewde
- Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, 7 p.m.: Hood Design
- Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, 6:30 p.m.: Hank Willis Thomas & Perkins&Will
- Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, 7 p.m.: Radcliffe Bailey
- Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, 7 p.m.: Bethany Collins & Torkwase Dyson
Pollack and Foxx share enthusiasm for the finalists and the ways this project will remain a valued and valuable part of campus for years to come.
“We worked hard as a committee to frame this project so it was inclusive in many ways,” Pollack said. “Each finalist—some very celebrated in the things they have done—has something different to bring, and I’m excited to see how the teams will open up through their vision and experience things we haven’t yet thought about.”
Foxx hopes the project will be a place for reflection and inspiration.
“As human beings, we’ve made a lot of progress, but the effort to root out our worst instincts remains a challenge,” Foxx said. “That’s why this project will be forever relevant. Hopefully, it will give us a centering place that appeals, in the words of Lincoln, to the better angels of our nature.”
If you are interested in supporting the Davidson College commemoration project, contact Jeff Prince, director of major gifts, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-894-2137.