University News

With new director, slavery center plans events

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The newly formed Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice has begun planning several campus community efforts this year under the leadership of Anthony Bogues, professor of Africana Studies, who was named the center’s director in May.  

Former University President Ruth Simmons will serve as the chair of the center’s external committee, Bogues said. Simmons created the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, whose 2006 report recommended the center’s creation. But the plan stalled for six years as two external candidates for director of the center turned down the University’s offer.

Since Bogues assumed his role July 1, the center has focused on creating a foundation for future initiatives. 

“Basically we’re trying to lay down the institutional infrastructure for the center,” Bogues said. Planning efforts will likely accelerate when the center moves into a temporary location in Alumnae Hall Oct. 1, and the center’s manager – set to be officially approved this week – begins work next month, he added. 

The center will probably remain in Alumnae Hall until 2014 while the permanent location undergoes major renovation. Bogues said the permanent location has been chosen but declined to identify it.

The first major event the center will host is an international conference this spring on slavery and the making of the modern world, Bogues said. The center will also sponsor a slavery and justice lecture this year. Bogues said he also hopes the center will add one or two fellows by the end of the year.

Looking to the future, Bogues envisioned work in curricular development, connections with undergraduate and graduate students and research across a wide variety of subject matters, bringing to bear “all the traditional things of higher education around questions of slavery and the meaning of slavery,” he said.

Bogues said he has been in contact with Roger Nozaki, director of the Swearer Center for Public Service, to discuss ways the two organizations can collaborate on issues of social justice in Providence and Rhode Island. Bogues said the center will have a scope broader than just slavery in the United States.  

“It will also be attentive to other forms of historical injustices and contemporary injustices,” Bogues said, “which means that the center will have a public profile in trying to address or speak to some of those larger injustices.”

“If we want to think about issues, we have to think about issues in the framework of a certain kind of globality,” he said.

The center will also be looking to develop some course offerings for undergraduate students, and Bogues said he is meeting this week with Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron to discuss “ways in which the undergraduate education and the center can have synergies.”

Though the internal faculty committee has yet to meet or set its schedule, its members expressed excitement and enthusiasm for the center’s long-awaited opening when Bogues was named director in May.

The center will boost Brown’s reputation as a site of scholarship on slavery and justice, taking advantage of the University’s interdisciplinary strengths to examine these issues, said Professor of English Philip Gould ’83, who will serve on the center’s faculty board. “(The center) has large historical breadth, and it really is germane to the politics of slavery and the problems of enslavement globally today,” Gould told The Herald last May. 

Matthew Guterl, a professor of Africana studies and American Studies who will serve on the faculty board this year, praised the University for using the center to “aspire to a higher ethics” in an email to The Herald.

“This should be a part of university life,” he wrote in May. “And I’m impressed at Brown’s eagerness to take a leadership role in this critical work.”

The faculty board was chosen by Simmons, Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12 and Provost Mark Schlissel P’15. Associate Professor of History Seth Rockman voiced enthusiasm about its potential. “I think we’re going to bring a lot of disciplinary perspectives and a lot of different kinds of political commitments to the table,” he said.

Schlissel said the center’s development will be a major boon for the Brown community. 

“We think it will really be a stimulus to fantastic research and teaching that will help us better understand these important issues,” he said.


One Comment

  1. I wonder who the new director is? Any ties to the KKK? And I suppose that this center will now show us what we have to look forward to and even where to buy the shackles (WalMart I suspect) and how to properly put them on so it’s easier for our corporate masters.

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