Although the Task Force for Studying Race, Slavery, and Civil Rights at The University of Alabama was not established until 2019, scholars at UA and beyond have been working on these subjects for some time. In the 1950s, James B. Sellers produced a history of The University of Alabama that included information about enslaved people on campus. It was not, however, until the early 2000s that faculty began more concerted efforts to engage UA’s relationship to slavery and its legacies. In 2003, Dr. Alfred Brophy, a professor in the Law School, led a campaign in conjunction with Dr. Joshua Rothman, History, and other Faculty Senate members, that culminated in April 2004 with the Faculty Senate formally acknowledging and apologizing for faculty involvement in the institution of enslavement at UA. The resolution recognized “those whose labor and legacy of perseverance helped to build The University of Alabama community since its founding.”

Coinciding with the resolution, UA President Robert Witt announced eight further initiatives. Three of these included placing a commemorative marker honoring two enslaved individuals at the burial ground next to the Old Biology Building on campus in 2004; recognizing the integration of UA by establishing Vivian Malone and James Hood Plaza outside Foster’s Auditorium in 2010; and creating the Crossroads Civic Engagement Center dedicated to cultural programming, diversity education, and student involvement in 2005.

Faculty and students have continued to work on race, slavery and civil rights on campus. Shortly after her arrival at UA in 2010, Dr. Meredith Bagley, Communications Studies, began researching the story of Autherine Lucy, the first person to attempt to integrate UA in the 1950s. Meanwhile, in 2015 Dr. Hilary Green, Gender & Race Studies, established UA’s “Hallowed Grounds” project, an alternative campus tour and research project focusing on slavery at UA and its legacies. In 2017, UA established the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, under the leadership of Dr. G. Christine Taylor, Vice-President and Associate Provost of DEI.

In the fall of 2018, the Faculty Senate of The University of Alabama unanimously passed a resolution calling for the University to “establish a formal commission to investigate the history of race, slavery, and civil rights on our campus, to publicize and to share the results, and to make recommendations for a comprehensive and responsible plan for curating, teaching, and promoting sustained dialogue on the history of The University of Alabama.”

Task Force Goals as set by the Faculty Senate Resolution

  • Explore the role of slavery and its legacy at The University of Alabama
  • Promote scholarly research using manuscript collections, conferences, and symposia
  • Create the necessary infrastructure for institutionalizing alternative campus tours (guided and self-guided);
  • Update current campus tours to include more accurate and inclusive historical information about the university
  • Examine the commemorative landscape for potential additional markers and signage that will better represent university history
  • Create permanent museum displays, library displays, and digital exhibitions on slavery and civil rights at the University
  • Make recommendations for the undergraduate curriculum and/or orientation programs (Bama Bound) regarding possible inclusion of the University history
  • Create strategic co-curricular activities for students
  • Coordinate with other community groups and institutions doing similar work
  • Secure federal, state, and private funding for supporting proposed efforts

Current Task Force Members

G. Christine Taylor, Vice-President and Associate Provost, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Convener
George Daniels, Associate Professor, Department of Journalism and Creative Media
John Giggie, Associate Professor, Department of History and Director of the Summersell Center for the Study of the South

Martha Griffith, Director of Special Projects, Office of the President

Joshua Rothman, Professor, Department of History
Jenny Shaw, Associate Professor, Department of History

Cassander L. Smith, Associate Professor, Department of English and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Honors College

Cresandra Smothers, Executive Director, External Engagement, Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Jasmine Stansberry, Postdoctoral Associate, Task Force and Department of History

Rachel Stephens, Associate Professor of Art History, American Art and Architecture

Nana Afia Tenkoramaa, MA Student, College of Communications

Luke Voyles, PhD Candidate, Department of History

Lauren Whately, PhD Candidate, Instructional Leadership, School of Education

Former Task Force Members

Katharine Buckley, MA Student, School of Library and Information Studies (2020-2022)

Hilary N. Green, Associate Professor, Department of Gender & Race Studies (2019-2022)

Kathryn Matheny, Assistant Professor/Outreach Coordinator, University Libraries Special Collections (2019-2022)

LeNá Powe McDonald, Project Coordinator in the President’s Office (2020-2023)

Utz McKnight, Professor and Chair, Gender & Race Studies, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, College of Arts & Sciences (2019-2020)

Ellen Griffith Spears, Professor, New College/American Studies (2019-2023)

Eliana Watson, Undergraduate History Major (2022-2023)

Briana Weaver, PhD Student, Department of History (2021-2023)

Valery West, MA Student, Department of Gender and Race Studies (2021-2022)