Since its creation this fall, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice has planned multiple outreach events to begin in the spring. But the center, established to further the study of the transatlantic slave trade, is still developing a mission to guide it past its inaugural year.
“The first thing was to find a place,” said Anthony Bogues, director of the center. “The second thing was to find a staff, so we did all of that right up until October.”
The center has also set up an external board and contacted different campus organizations “to know what we should be talking about,” Bogues said, adding that they hope to have a long term plan by the end of the academic year.
The Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, formed under former president Ruth Simmons’ tenure, released a report in 2006 analyzing the University’s relationship with the slave trade and proposing recommendations to preserve this part of the University’s institutional history. The creation of the center was among those recommendations.
“Right now we’re finding ways to spark dialogue and make the center accessible to the campus,” said Brian Kundinger ’14, a member of a student advisory council established this semester to further the center’s outreach efforts. Five students are actively involved in planning upcoming events for the center, which include an open house Dec. 11, a film festival set to take place in late February or March and campus lectures to be hosted later next semester.
The council is also considering hosting an arts and writing contest to engage the student body and holding teach-ins that will address ways the center can connect with campus and Providence organizations, he said.
These events are intended to “get our name out there and produce hype,” Kundinger added. But plans are still developing as the council “is still kind of in its nascent form,” he said. Kundinger highlighted the center’s dual interests in research and public education as contributing to the development of upcoming events.
“It’s very much trying to link Brown with the community,” he said.
Bogues stressed that part of the outreach was also “reconnecting” the findings of the 2006 report to the Brown community.
“There’s a new crop of students who have not been part of the initial conversations around the report,” Bogues said. “I wouldn’t want to say that people don’t know about the report, (but) we’re at a particular stage in the process where it is advisable to reconnect.”
In its recommendations for a research center, the 2006 report included suggestions that the center sponsor fellowships for postgraduate students and scholars, provide opportunities for students to research and conduct internships, develop “public programming aimed at both the University and the wider community” and include “a significant educational outreach component … to help teachers integrate topics related to slavery and justice into their classrooms,” some of which the center has begun to address. The center currently has an American Studies graduate student working as a research fellow, and Kundinger expressed hope that the center would develop research opportunities for undergraduates in the next few years.
The center is “really a place where serious intellectual and worldly discussions can take place,” Bogues said, adding that they hope to build public outreach as well.
The center should also become a forum for discussion on a national and international level, he said, and its future remains open to growth. “All of that we have to craft as we go along,” he said.