BU releases review of school’s history, connection to slavery

BU releases review of school’s history, connection to slavery
The report calls for relocating the Rufus C. Burleson monument to a less prominent location. (Source: Baylor University)

WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Baylor University Tuesday released a 94-page report from its Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which as charged with reviewing the history of the school and its founders and early leaders, including connections to slavery and racial injustice; and proposing a plan for documenting that history, and evaluating monuments and buildings “within this complete historical context.”

The Baylor Board of Regents accepted the final report in February and directed the administration to develop an action plan.

The report does not call for renaming the school, but it does propose other steps to acknowledge that the school’s early leaders and supporters were slaveholders.

“As you will read in the commission’s report, Judge Baylor was not a perfect man,” board Chairman Mark Rountree said.

“As a slaveholder, he engaged in a practice we know to be sinful and abhorrent. We do not justify or downplay the evil of slavery,” he said.

“With our university, Judge Baylor established the foundation for hundreds of thousands of students — which now include all races and creeds — to receive a unique educational experience that combines academic excellence and a Christian commitment. We will continue to recognize Judge Baylor for the founding of Baylor University, just as we commit to presenting a more complete history of the university,”

“The resulting actions the Board and University ultimately will take and will be guided solely by our Christian mission, anchored singularly in the Gospel’s pattern for redemption and reconciliation, and directed at fostering an environment through which racial equality is inextricably linked to our mission and in which students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of color know they are valued and loved throughout the Baylor community,” Rountree said.

The university’s second president, Rufus Burleson, was a slaveholder and enlisted in the Confederate army, serving as a chaplain.

“As president of Baylor (1851-1861) and subsequently Waco University, he encouraged faculty and male students over 18 to join the fight against what he called “Abolition despotism.”

Among the proposals included in the report is changing the name of the university’s Burleson Quadrangle to “Baylor Family Quadrangle, University Quadrangle, Reconciliation Quadrangle, or another suitable name to create a space that is welcoming for all students at Baylor and will serve as a site for the continuation of existing traditions and a place to create new Baylor University traditions,” and relocating the Rufus C. Burleson monument to a less prominent location, such as the grounds of the Mayborn Museum Complex.”

“The Burleson monument should be re-contextualized in a manner that acknowledges his support of a dehumanizing and fundamentally unjust system like slavery and his standing as a prominent promoter of the “Lost Cause,” the concept of a divinely white Southern future that honored the memory of antebellum whiteness and Confederate heroes,” the report says.

Burleson, an Alabama native who was named pastor of the First Baptist Church in Houston in 1848 and then in 1851 was selected as the university’s second president serving until 1861 and then again from 1886 to 1897, when he was named president emeritus, a demotion Burleson attributed to a long-running feud with William Cowper Brann, the editor of Waco’s vitriolic “Iconoclast.” He died in 1901 in Waco.

Other proposals in the report include:

“Investigate the possibility of renaming Carroll Library due to its namesake’s ties to enslavement and his participation in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.”

“Create a new monument on Founders Mall in honor of the “unknown enslaved” who were instrumental in constructing the original campus where Baylor University began its journey.

“Incorporate the complete history of Baylor’s founders and first trustees, their ownership of enslaved people, and their role in the Confederacy on Baylor’s website, which currently describes these individuals in an incomplete manner.”

“Investigate submitting grants for the funding of new monuments, memorials, or historic storytelling spaces; ways to contextualize existing monuments to enhance research and education; and resources available through national organizations that would assist in the decision-making process surrounding the relocation of existing monuments or memorials on Baylor’s campus.”

“Relocate the bells from Independence and Waco University. These objects are attached to Baylor’s historical connection with enslavement in terms of their original locations and the manner in which they were likely used to signal the working day of enslaved people. Consider placing the bells in a new space where Baylor University openly and honestly details the history of the founders, board members, presidents, and other early leaders and acknowledges those attitudes and sinful behaviors.”

“Update other Texas Historical Markers in the Quadrangle, as well as in other areas of campus, to reflect Baylor’s recognition of injustice committed by its leaders, its repentance of these errors, and its restitution for them as appropriate.”

Baylor’s Board of Regents passed a resolution on June 26, 2020 acknowledging the school’s historic connections to slavery from the time the university was chartered on Feb. 1, 1845 and through its first decades of operation.

In July 2020, the university announced the 26 members of its Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which was charged with reviewing the history of the school and its founders and early leaders, including connections to slavery and racial injustice; and proposing a plan for documenting that history, and evaluating monuments and buildings “within this complete historical context.”

Alicia D.H. Monroe, provost and senior vice president for academic and faculty affairs at the Baylor College of Medicine and a member, Baylor Board of Regents; Gary Mortenson, professor and dean, Baylor University School of Music and Walter Abercrombie, associate athletics director for Baylor “B” Association were named to co-chair the commission.

The three discussed the process, findings and framework of the commission’s recommendations on March 16 as part of Baylor’s Conversation Series.

Commission members:

Katie Adair (Doctoral Candidate), President, Graduate Student Association

Joel Allison (B.A. ’70), retired President and CEO, Baylor Scott & White Health, and former Chair, Baylor Board of Regents

Jayson Baldridge, Senior, Student-Athlete, Track & Field

Lexy Bogney, Junior, Secretary and Community Coordination Chair, Baylor NAACP

Michael A. Evans Sr. (D.Min. ’09), Senior Pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Mansfield, Texas; member, Baylor Board of Regents; and President, Baptist General Convention of Texas

Malcolm Foley (Ph.D. Candidate), Special Advisor to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement

Cheryl Gochis (B.A. ’91, M.A. ’94), Vice President, Human Resources/Chief Human Resources Officer

Dominque Hill, Director of Wellness and Past-President, Black Faculty and Staff Association

Sutton Houser, Senior, Student Body President

Trent Hughes (B.A. ’98), Vice President of Sales, Curazene, and Vice President, Baylor Alumni Board of Advocates

Sher Isada, Junior, University Scholar, and Student Regent

Alan Lefever (B.A. ’84), Director, Texas Baptist Historical Collection, and member, Baylor Alumni Board of Advocates

Sandra Lené, Associate Vice President, Operations and Financial Services, Advancement

Mark Lovvorn (B.B.A. ’76, B.Acc. ’77), Chairman and CEO Providence Bancshares Corp., Dallas, Texas, and member, Baylor Board of Regents

Michael McFarland (B.B.A. ’93, Ed.D. ’05), Superintendent of Schools, Crowley Independent School District, and member, Baylor Board of Regents

Bill Neilson, M.D., (B.A. ’76), retired Associate Dean, Honors College and Clinical Professor, Medical Humanities

Michael Parrish, Ph.D. (B.A. ’74, M.A. ’76), Linden G. Bowers Professor of American History

Coretta Pittman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English and Chair-Elect, Faculty Senate

Mia Moody-Ramirez, Ph.D. (M.S.Ed. ’98, M.A. ’01), Professor and Chair, Journalism, Public Relations and New Media

Marcus Sedberry, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Development

Tyrha Lindsey-Warren, Ph.D., Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing

Doug Weaver, Ph.D., Professor of Religion, Undergraduate Program Director and Director of Church-State Studies

Mya Ellington-Williams, Senior, member, Black Student Union

Ex-officio commission members

Kristy Orr (J.D. ’03), Baylor University Board Professional

Todd Copeland, Ph.D. (B.A. ’90), Director, Advancement Marketing

Karen Kemp (B.B.A. ’84, M.B.A. ’85), Associate Vice President, University Marketing and Brand Strategy

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