Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L

In August 2013 Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio established a working group to examine the role of African Americans in the history of the University. In his instructions to the group, President Ruscio emphasized that its work should include a straightforward look at the history of enslaved people at the institution and should also identify themes, trends and important moments up to the present time.

The Working Group began by creating a web-based Timeline of the History of African Americans at W&L, beginning with John Chavis, the first known African American to receive a college education in the United States  in the 18th century, and continuing through the current day.

Although the charge of the Working Group was broader than an examination of the institution's history with slavery, the group has spent considerable time examining this issue and, in April 2016, unveiled a historical marker to memorialize the names and the story of the enslaved women and men who were bequeathed to Washington College by John Robinson and then sold by the college trustees.

Through the Working Group, W&L was one of the earliest members of the Universities Studying Slavery, a 52-member, international organization dedicated to organizing multi-institutional collaboration as part of an effort to facilitate mutual support in the pursuit of common goals regarding the relationships that colleges and universities have historically had with slavery.

The Working Group is composed of members of the faculty, administration, staff, and student body:

Michael Hill, Professor of Africana Studies, chair

Rebecca Benefiel, Professor of Classics

Tom Camden, Associate Professor, Head of Special Collections & Archives

Ted DeLaney, Associate Professor of History

Donald Gaylord, Research Archaeologist and Instructor

MaKayla Lorick, Class of 2020

Drewry Sackett, Associate Director of Communications and Public Affairs

Tammi Simpson, Associate Dean of Students