Even though the path to racial reconciliation is a difficult and arduous journey, The University of Alabama is taking steps in the right direction. The University is beginning to see the error of past mistakes and take action to right its wrongs.
Throughout history, the University has been an environment where race holds significance. The Faculty and administrators at the University were known to have owned and rented enslaved people during the 1800s. The University was also slow to adhere to integration methods in the 1960s, and its first black students faced many hardships as trailblazers. Despite this, the University is now working to overcome its past ways of thinking and is transforming into a more diverse and welcoming college.
In 2004, The University took the first step toward racial reconciliation by formally apologizing for its involvement in the institution of slavery. The apology is written on a plaque near the Biology Building next to the graves of Jack Rudolph and William “Boysey” Brown, two enslaved people who worked on campus. The marker recognizes the past involvements of UA faculty and staff in slavery. This apology was one of the first of its kind, especially being from a Southern school.
In 2010, The University dedicated a clock tower and the surrounding plaza to Autherine Lucy Foster, Vivian Malone and James Hood. These students were the first African-Americans to enroll at the University; however, Malone was the only one to successfully graduate. These students faced racial persecution and discrimination when the University opened its doors to them. The University erecting monuments to honor their suffering is yet another step toward on-campus racial reconciliation.
Just this past year, our Faculty Senate voted to establish a commission to study slavery at the University. This commission aims to make difficult conversations about race easier. The commission will be a crucial part of racial reconciliation at the University, as it hopes to educate and encourage students.
Earlier this month, the University took another step toward racial reconciliation. The new freshman dorms were named after the Honorable John H. England Jr., the Tuscaloosa Circuit Judge. The residence hall is the first building to be named after an African-American on the University’s campus. Many buildings on the campus are named after problematic white men, but it is promising to know that new buildings are being named to honor people of color. This is a crucial aspect of moving forward, as the naming of the dorm serves as representation for the 23 percent of non-white students on campus.
Although more progress is essential to achieving racial reconciliation, the University seems to be striving for change. History serves as a tool for knowledge and growth, but the University must acknowledge its past shortcomings in order to move forward. The apology, the monuments and buildings and the commission are all important tools that showcase the University’s will to promote diversity and equality.
The journey for racial reconciliation at the University is no easy one. This university’s history of abuse toward people of color is not pretty, but that does not mean it should be glossed over. We must overcome our past to head in a different, more promising direction for the future. The University of Alabama seems to be on the right track.