Dateline: March 24, 2020
Athens State University is pleased to announce its membership in the Universities Studying Slavery (USS) consortium. The association works collaboratively with other universities to empower them to actively address their ties to slavery and express a commitment to truth-telling, education, and diversity in the twenty-first century. Athens State is the second school in Alabama, after Stillman College, to join the USS.
As the oldest continuously operating university in the state of Alabama, Athens State’s story began in 1822 when enslaved African-Americans built the first building on its campus. As we grow as an institution of higher education, we would like to further acknowledge, understand, and honor members of our community who have not always been included in our historical narrative – but who are integral to our institution’s success.
In order to build an inclusive, welcoming environment that offers rich academic opportunities, Athens State will conduct historical research to identify enslaved individuals who have remained unnamed and unacknowledged. This work begins with the existing Archives Equity Initiative at Athens State which is composed of the archives staff as well as faculty, staff, students, and community members. The Archives Equity Initiative prioritizes transparency as it practices empathy to recognize trauma and absence in the historical record. Membership in the USS consortium provides a support structure to learn from the work of our peer institutions and develop opportunities to grow and expand.
Athens State is committed to working together to bring an authentic meaning of diversity and inclusion to our school and carry it out via academic research and campus involvement, Athens State University will demonstrate its support of historically marginalized and culturally diverse communities by building relationships based on responsibility, equity, and respect. By initiating these important conversations internally and externally, we will create a more welcoming and inclusive environment on our campus.
The USS additionally allows participating institutions to work together as they address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities as well as the complicated legacies of slavery in modern American society.