OXFORD, Georgia. – Work has started to develop two memorials to honor the lives of enslaved people who helped build the original campus of Emory University in Oxford and others who have historical ties to the community.
The Twin Memorials task force is committed to finding “inspired ways to articulate and connect the shared stories of the two Emory campuses” in Oxford and Atlanta, according to a press release.
Co-chaired by Dean of Oxford College Douglas Hicks; William R. Kenan Jr., professor of religion; and Gregory C. Ellison II, associate professor of pastoral and counseling at the Candler School of Theology, the task force “brings together faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni to catalyze the engagement of the university to recognize the work of the enslaved people who built Emory’s home campus, ”Hicks said.
“We will be seeking input from the Emory community on the Atlanta and Oxford campuses as well as members of the downline community,” he said.
“We are motivated to honor the people who deserve to be recognized and, most importantly, to educate current and future generations on Emory’s quest to become an even more equitable and inclusive institution. “
The idea of memorials was first included in the recommendations of the Task Force on Untold Stories and Disabled Populations, which sent its report to Emory President Gregory Fenves on April 1.
In a letter to the Emory community on June 28, Fenves announced the creation of the Twin Memorials Task Force, which he has tasked with implementing a plan for memorials and associated programming.
Ellison – who like Hicks was on the task force – recently convened the task force for the first time and observed that they saw the group as “the dream team.”
More than a playful nod to the 1996 US Olympic men’s basketball team, the task force spent its early hours sharing “dreams” of what their work can achieve.
According to Ellison and Hicks, these dreams include telling the fuller story and genuinely honoring those who will be recognized; integrate the resulting memorials into the curriculum; establish even deeper links between the two campuses; demonstrate that Emory is a welcoming and safe space for residents and students of the neighborhood beyond its walls; help Emory students gain a better understanding of the university’s past; bring deserved attention to current campus workers, especially hourly staff; and not only creating it as a living memorial, but making the most of the shared experience of doing it together.
By leveraging relevant knowledge, learning more about similar initiatives at peer institutions, and building on the goals set out in the Task Force report, the Twin Memorials Task Force will draft Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for that architectural firms design and build the twin memorials.
In addition, the group will develop plans for annual events, college-wide programming, and orientation for new students – all designed not only to commemorate slave workers and their descendants, but also to recognize those who continued to work on both campuses after emancipation.
A key part of the task force’s ambitious agenda is to coordinate community contributions to ensure that what is created, both for the memorials themselves and the related programming, reflects the diverse stakeholders who are involved. ‘will engage in it.
“We look forward to showcasing the stories and legacies of these people who are so central to our history,” said Ellison. “Our job is to dream together and bring together the collective dreams of our community – and that doesn’t just mean Emory, but the larger Atlanta metro community.
“Once the memorials are established, we want our own community, as well as visitors to our Atlanta and Oxford campuses, to learn more not only about Emory, but also about themselves.”
In related action, Fenves said in a statement on Sept. 27 that Emory’s board of trustees approved a formal “land recognition” for Emory University.
“This statement is a recognition of the Muscogee (Creek) and other Indigenous nations who were displaced in the years leading up to Emory’s founding,” Fenves said.
Fenves said a group of Emory leaders, historians and experts from across the university composed the Land Reconnaissance “building on years of work undertaken by faculty, staff and scholars. students to recognize the legacy of native and native dispossession on Emory campus lands.
“This statement is as much about responsibility as it is about understanding our past. And I hope it inspires powerful conversations on our campuses as well as action and engagement.
He announced the formation of a task force to plan the development of a language pathway on Emory campuses to honor the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and showcase the Muscogee language and culture.
“The university has also started to take steps to build a stronger connection with the Muscogee Nation. We are linked by our history, and I hope we can work together and be part of each other’s present and future for the benefit of our communities.