The College of William and Mary formally apologized for its role in slavery and Jim Crow at the Board of Visitors meeting Friday.
The board adopted a resolution of apology for William and Mary’s history in exploiting slave labor and racial discrimination, while saluting the hard work of all those involved in the Lemon Project. The resolution also extends the Lemon Project.
Taylor Reveley, president of William and Mary, read the resolution to the board at the meeting.
“The board profoundly regrets these activities, apologizes for them, expresses its deep appreciation for the contributions made by the African-American members of its community to the vitality of William and Mary then, now and for all time coming, and commits to continue our efforts to remedy the lingering effects of past injustices,” the resolution said.
Board member Warren Buck III appeared to hold back tears as he commented on the resolution.
“It warms my heart and my soul,” Buck said. “It is a journey. It's not over but this sends a signal to everyone in not only the country but the world that we are serious about this.”
Todd Stottlemyer, William and Mary rector, added, “Actions are even more important and there's more to do.”
Elijah Levine, president of the Student Assembly, said at first he was taken aback by the frankness of the board’s statement on how the institution had benefited from slavery. Levine said the statement was important for him to hear as a black student.
“I felt hopeful, at least if we can begin a conversation like this on a board level, it will lead to calling white supremacy what it is and the effect it has," Levine said. “To me, that’s the only way we’re going to break any ground on inclusivity … While it's certainly a meaningful step to put this down on paper, it needs to be backed up with action.”
In 2005 when Terry Meyers, professor of English emeritus, was researching a campus building, he came across Fanny and Adam, two children who had been enslaved by the college. As a result, in 2007 the Student Assembly passed a resolution asking the college to conduct research on its history of slavery, to make those findings public and to erect a memorial to the enslaved. This was the start of the Lemon Project.
Since then, the project has taken multiple steps to address and correct the college’s legacy of racism and discrimination. Some of these include classes and recurring events such as the “Porch Talk.” Porch talks are public events that range from discussions on how to navigate conversations and issues about race to drum circles that celebrate African-American culture. The college is also planning to create a memorial to honor those who were enslaved by the university.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about the Lemon Project, visit wm.edu/sites/lemonproject.
Read the Board of Visitor’s resolution in full at wm.edu/news/documents/2018/apology-resolution.pdf.
Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.