The Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation at the University of the South condemns the racist behavior and language that some of our students directed at the players of Emmanuel College in the recent lacrosse match on our campus.

In the course of their examination of the University’s 150-plus years of history, the Roberson Project’s researchers have uncovered many words and racist incidents in our past that have much in common with the deplorable conduct of some of our undergraduate students at the lacrosse match on Saturday, March 13. Whether we are talking about the era of slavery when the University was founded, or the many decades after 1870 when the University’s staunchest patrons promoted the white supremacist “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy in word and deed, or the years after 1945 when many — though not all — in its administration and student population resisted efforts to break the “color line” at Sewanee, many at this University have taken positions and acted in ways that denied the full and equal humanity of African Americans in Sewanee and across this nation. 

The robust public demonstrations this past week by hundreds of students, joined by others in this community, mark the ways in which the Sewanee of the present differs from the Sewanee of the past, when official and unofficial responses to racist attacks on Black students and others in this community often were muted and shielded from public awareness. The Roberson Project applauds this historical break with past practices and joins with the many others on this campus and in its alumni community in recognizing that we cannot be quiet in the face of such events or dismiss them as isolated incidents. That is why the Project supports the most recent student demonstrations, which openly denounced the racist attacks on the students of color on Emmanuel College’s lacrosse team. We also stand with our students, alumni, staff, and faculty of color who heard in the racist epithets shouted at Emmanuel’s players a direct expression of hostility against them.

The Roberson Project pledges to continue to follow its core mission: to tell a more complete history of Sewanee by bringing Sewanee’s history with slavery and its legacies fully into the open and to work tirelessly to make known the contributions of African Americans to the life of this university and community. Publishing such truths is an act of overdue justice, and one that is essential if we are to build a more just and inclusive Sewanee.